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Breaking Down the Unemployment Numbers


Reaching 9.8% is bad, but other factors push the number as high as 17%.


Sorry folks, I was one month early. In January I forecast the unemployment rate would hit 9.8% by August. Meanwhile, even though it was clear the Fed was wildly off base in its adverse scenario, the Fed upped it total to a mere 9.2% to 9.6% for the year as noted on May 21, 2009 in Fed's Economic Forecast Worsens; Still Ridiculously Optimistic.

The Fed's forecasts, released as part of the minutes from its April meeting, show that its staff now expects the unemployment rate to rise to between 9.2% and 9.6% this year. The central bank had forecast in January that the jobless rate would be in a range of 8.5% to 8.8%, but the unemployment rate topped that in April, hitting 8.9%.

Even the Fed's revised forecast has now proven to be optimistic -- although there are still three months to go.

As I said prior to the jobs announcement, collectively, economists are a perpetually optimistic lot. Cynics might think purposely so, hoping to buy time.

This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the September Employment Report.

Nonfarm payroll employment continued to decline in September (-263,000), and the unemployment rate (9.8%) continued to trend up, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The largest job losses were in construction, manufacturing, retail trade, and government...

Establishment Data

Click to enlarge


  • 263,000 jobs were lost in total vs. 216,000 jobs last month.
  • 64,000 construction jobs were lost vs. 65,000 last month.
  • 51,000 manufacturing jobs were lost vs. 63,000 last month.
  • 147,000 service providing jobs were lost vs. 80,000 last month.
  • 39,000 retail trade jobs were lost vs. 10,000 last month.
  • 8,000 professional and business services jobs were lost vs. 22,000 last month.
  • 3,000 education and health services jobs were added vs. 52,000 added last month.
  • 9,000 leisure and hospitality jobs were lost vs. 21,000 added last month.
  • 53,000 government jobs were lost vs. 18,000 last month.

A total of 116,000 goods-producing jobs were lost (higher paying jobs).It was nearly a clean sweep again this month with education and health services jobs contributing a mere 3,000 jobs to the plus side.

Note: some of the above categories overlap, as shown in the preceding chart, so don't attempt to total them up.

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