The U.S. economy added jobs in October for the first time since last spring due to hiring in the private sector.
The private sector hired 159,000 employees last month. That is the tenth consecutive month of job gains for the nation’s businesses. Since the start of the year, private sector employers have hired 1.1 million employees.
In a separate survey, the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.6 percent.
President Barack Obama described the report as “encouraging news” though he acknowledged that the “unemployment rate is still unacceptably high.”
Stock markets reacted positively and traded up on the news.
And economists reacted positively as well.
“This was an excellent report that shows the economy is moving on a slow and steady pathway toward full recovery,” said Joel Naroff, President of Naroff Economic Advisors.
The Department of Labor reports that the nation’s payroll increased by 151,000 jobs. Forecasters had expected 60,000 jobs created in October.
“We still need lots more jobs created to get the unemployment rate down sharply and improve consumer confidence,” said Naroff. “But the acceleration in payroll gains is occurring.”
Economists say that 150,000 jobs need to be created each month to keep unemployment from rising. To bring down unemployment, businesses will need to begin hiring significantly more employees.
But the report is good news for an economy where more than 14.8 million Americans are currently unemployed. In addition to the job growth in October, the government revised upwards the total jobs lost in August and September: only 42,000 jobs were lost during those two months compared to a previous estimate of 152,000 jobs cut.
The report also has other positive signals that employers could begin hiring. Over the past year, both pay and hours worked have increased 1.7 percent. These two measures often increase as employers receive more orders and ask current employees to work more before deciding to hire additional employees.
Furthermore, there were 35,000 temporary workers hired in October, another sign that employers have a need for more help, but are hesitant to hire.
While today’s news is good, there are still millions of Americans looking for work. A broader measure of unemployment that includes people who want to work full time but could only find part-time jobs fell slightly to 17 percent.
For those out of work, finding a job continues to be a challenge. More than 6 million of those out of work have been without a job for more than 27 weeks. And while attention has focused on whether Congress will extend the Bush tax cuts when they expire in December, legislators will also have to decide if they will approve extended unemployment benefits that expire at the end of November.
Employers hired in the health care sector (+24,000), retail (+28,000). Jobs were lost in arts and entertainment (-26,000) while they increased at food services and drinking establishments (+24,000). Manufacturing cut jobs (-7,000) and local government jobs, including education, decreased by 14,000.
The next jobs report is scheduled to be released on December 3.