Economy Adds A Mere 80,000 Jobs In October

Another month, another jobs report that makes you go "meh."

Even after a GDP report that seemed to show that the economy was moving in the right direction, job growth in October was as anemic as it has been for the past several months:

The United States had another month of mediocre job growth in October, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Employers added 80,000 jobs on net, slightly less than what economists had expected. That compares to 158,000 jobs in September, a month when the figure was helped by the return of 45,000 Verizon workers who had been on strike.

While job growth is certainly better than job losses, a gain of 80,000 jobs is hardly worth celebrating. That was just about enough to keep up with population growth, so it did not significantly reduce the backlog of 14 million unemployed workers.

As a result, the unemployment rate barely budged, dropping to 9 percent from 9.1 percent in September. The rate has not fallen below 9 percent in seven months. In the year before the recession began in December 2007, the jobless rate averaged about half that, at 4.6 percent.

Economists and politicians typically await the monthly jobs number — a key report card on the nation’s economic health — with bated breath. But with so many potential game-changers on the horizon, October’s jobs report may say little about what Americans should expect going forward.

The fate of heavily indebted Greece has been up in the air for about a year and a half now, and this week the political wrangling over the conditions of a loan deal to Greece has been particularly contentious. Economists worry that if the deal falls through, a possible Greek default could set off a domino effect that brings down Italy and other fiscally troubled countries, potentially causing another global financial crisis.

Additionally, reports from the Congressional panel on deficit reductions — the so-called “supercommittee” — indicate that talks have stalled. The committee has less than three weeks before an alternative (and more draconian) plan would automatically kick in. If government spending cuts are put into effect too quickly, they could be a severe drag on economic growth and could potentially derail the fragile recovery, economists have said.

Even if such potential shocks do not materialize, the economic outlook is still troubling.

The good news, if you can call it that, is that once again the revisions of the previous months’ numbers showed that things were a little better than initially reported:

The report included some positive signs. The government revised August and September’s figures upward by 102,000. Average hourly earnings rose. And the unemployment rate fell for the first time since July, because a separate survey of households showed more people found work.

Good news, I suppose, but not really all that encouraging. As I noted, we supposedly had 2.5% GDP growth in the third quarter and yet we were barely creating enough jobs to keep up with population growth, that’s not good at all. Considering that the Federal Reserve is forecasting that the growth rate for the next year is likely to be in that same range, it seems unlikely that the unemployment picture is going to look all that much better on Election Day 2012 than it is right now, and that’s assuming that there isn’t some economic shock from Europe or elsewhere that makes that 2.5% growth forecast look wildly optimistic.

So, once again, not a bad jobs report, but not a good one either and the longer we continue having months like this the worse it really looks in the long run.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Moosebreath says:

    It would have been a slightly better 104,000, but for public sector jobs cuts of the sort Republicans and libertarians have been saying is what the economy needs.

  2. Doug,

    If you’re a true libertarian, how can you possibly support any type of job growth policy? Libertarian economic dogma is pretty clear that the markets simply need to self-correct. That may be hard cheese to the unemployed; but self-reliance, bootstraps and all that, right?

  3. ponce says:

    In the first 10 months of George W. Bush’s third year in office, the U.S. economy added 55,000 jobs.

    In the first 10 months of Barack Obama’s third year in office, the U.S. economy has added 1,256,000 jobs.

    The U.S. economy is nowhere near as bad as the Republican shills are praying it is.

  4. Hey Norm says:

    Once again…Doug fails to include the fact that the economy shed 24,000 public sector jobs.
    This is exactly the recovery so-called republicans and libertarians say the want.
    Government is shrinking. That’s what they have wet-dreams about. They claim this shrinking government will create economic growth. Probably just as soon as tax cuts for the wealthy do.
    Yet when they get what they want they claim it’s

    “not really all that encouraging”


    “not good at all.”

    Well no shit Sherlock. What did you think happens when you shrink government? You shed jobs.
    So all I can summise is that the more we live out your small government fantasies

    “the worse it really looks in the long run.”

    Now if you could just put 2 and 2 together.

  5. john personna says:


    I was listening to a Planet Money episode in which they note that Keynes invented bot Keynesism and championed econometrics to support it.

    James, are right, the very notion of measuring or caring about GDP is very Keynesian. A true libertarian wouldn’t even need the number.

  6. Hey Norm says:

    Neglecting Libertarian fantasies and Republicans more interested in mottos and uteri than jobs…
    Private-sector jobs are up 1.8M in the past year. Wages are up 1.8%.
    October chain store sales are up 3.7% over last year. Railcar loadings are up 5.8%, steel production is up 10.3%, and hotel occupancy rates are up 6.8%.
    Yeah the recovery is slow…but name a similar contraction we got out of faster?
    Just over a month ago Doug was posting about another recession. I’m sure he’s busy writing a post right this very minute about how he was wrong.

  7. anjin-san says:

    I miss the good old days when we had a Republican in the White House and monthly six figure job losses. Clearly Obama sucks.

  8. Hey Norm says:

    Didn’t you know…those 6 figure job losses were due to a Demicratic Congress…at least according to the wingnuts.

  9. Ron Beasley says:

    Sorry folks, this is as good as it’s going to get. Any real recovery will run into the West Texas Intermediate ceiling. In spite of an anemic economy WTI is at $94 bbl. Nothing but anemic growth is possible at that rate. Any surge in growth will quickly run WTI up to $100 – $110 bbl if not higher ending growth. The entire world economic system is in collapse mode. It’s not a question of if but when. Current efforts are little more than putting bandages on scalp wounds when the problem is a bullet in the brain. The financial house of cards is going to come crashing down. The Democrats can’t stop it, the Republicans can’t stop it, the Libertarians can’t stop it , the Randians can’t stop it.
    We are in transition and the new reality is going to mean less things and fewer humans. Here in the US the new reality is going to be one of fewer people rubbing money together to make money and more people making food. The economy is going to become more local – the guy down the street is going to make the furniture you can’t make yourself.