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Job growth beat expectations in October, jobless rate improves

Expectations showed projections of about 530,000 new jobs added October. As it turns out, we did even better than that.


Expectations headed into this morning showed projections of about 530,000 new jobs added in the United States in October. As it turns out, according to this new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we did even better than that.

The U.S. economy added 638,000 jobs in October, far more than the 530,000 that analysts predicted, but still an indication of the challenges the next president faces in rebuilding the labor market. The unemployment rate fell to 6.9 percent, from 7.9 percent, according to data released Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As we've discussed more than once in recent months, the point is not that adding 638,000 jobs is some kind of disaster. It's not. In fact, under normal circumstances, it'd be great news.

But therein lies the point: these aren't normal circumstances. Given the severity of the job losses from the spring, we need to see even more robust growth now to climb back to where we were.

The arithmetic is straightforward: in March and April, the economy shed over 22 million jobs. The United States has been adding jobs back since May, but we're only about halfway toward getting us back to where we were, and monthly totals have gradually decreased in each of the last several months.

Indeed, it's against this backdrop that Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell once again pressed federal policymakers yesterday to invest in the economy.

The Federal Reserve will make no change to its benchmark interest rate, the central bank announced Thursday at the conclusion of its two-day monetary policymaking meeting. In response to reporters' questions in a Thursday press conference, Powell praised lawmakers for their initial fiscal response, and again stressed the need for Congress to take further steps.

The Trump-appointed Fed chair specifically said, "The support provided by the CARES Act was absolutely essential." He added "Further support is likely to be needed."

As for the image above, the chart shows GDP numbers by quarter since the Great Recession began. The red columns show the economy under the Bush and Trump administrations; the blue columns show the economy under the Obama administration.