Real Unemployment Explained: What You Really Need to Know About Friday's Jobs Numbers

On Friday, the last set of jobs numbers before the election were produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here are the highlights:

Unemployment Rate: 7.9% (Up 0.1% from previous month)

Job Growth: 171,000 new jobs created

Behind the Numbers:

President Obama was inaugurated in January 2009 when unemployment was over 9%, the unemployment rate peaked for the last time in early 2010, and has been on a slow decline since then. Obama's campaign is highlighting this downward shift as a reason to continue on this path. Romney's campaign argues that the recovery has simply been too slow. 

This particular set of unemployment data is interesting because the unemployment rate did not increase because more people lost jobs, but because more people now believe that they can find jobs. The 7.9% figure does not account in the unemployment rate among persons who are no longer looking for work. So, after last month's positive drop in the unemployment rate more Americans were encouraged to start looking for work again driving the unemployment rate up slightly because the base got bigger. 

Also of significance, the only major employment group to show an increase in their unemployment rate were African-Americans, now up to 14.3%, while all other groups, adult men, adult women, teenagers, Whites, and Hispanics, showed little to no change. The unemployment rate for Asians decreased to 4.9% from 7.3%.

The United States economy has added jobs every month since the middle of 2010. The Obama campaign is again touting this as a sign that we should continue with the current plan, while the Romney campaign again challenges that we are not adding enough jobs per month. 

Most of the new jobs this month were added in the professional and business services category, adding 51,000 new jobs, and the second highest job additions, 31,000 new jobs were added in the health care sector. The mining industry lost 9,000 jobs and the manufacturing industry has showed no change since April. The next set of jobs numbers will be released on December 7, 2012.