The Washington Post
October 5, 2012

By Neil Irwin and Nia-Malika Henderson

The job market is finally showing some juice.

The unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in September, the Labor Department said Friday, from 8.1 percent in July, its lowest since January 2009. It is a surprising show of improvement in a job market that had seemed listless in recent months. Unlike in August, the number improved for the right reasons: Not because people gave up looking for jobs, but because far more people reported having one.

Employers reported creating 114,000 jobs in September, almost identical to analysts’ forecasts, but revisions to data from July and August brought improvement of that measure of the job market as well.

Add it up, and what had seemed to be a summer lull in employment increasingly appears not to have been much of a lull at all.

While it is that headline number — the drop in the unemployment rate — that will surely capture the most attention in the final weeks of a hard-fought presidential campaign, if anything the inner details of the survey on which it is based reveal an even rosier picture.

The unemployment rate fell despite more people — 418,000 of them — entering the labor force. That brought the ratio of the American population with a job to its highest level since May 2010. Some 873,000 more Americans reported having jobs in the survey of households, and 456,000 fewer reported not having a job but wanting one.

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