During the month of October nonfarm payrolls grew by 171,000 in the U.S. Additionally, “the civilian labor force rose by 578,000 to 155.6 million in October, and the labor force participation rate edged up to 63.8 percent” according the the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Also, “both the unemployment rate (7.9 percent) and the number of unemployed persons (12.3 million) were essentially unchanged in October, following declines in September” (BLS).
For perspective on the 171,000 nonfarm payroll employment increase in October:
(click on any image for a large size)
Regarding the 7.9% civilian unemployment rate, the following chart plots the rate since January 1994. It also includes a measure of how much the rate has varied from the average using the statistical measure of standard deviation from the mean (average). As illustrated, the unemployment rate was well outside the normal range in 2009. While it has decreased the 7.9% rate is still abnormally high (for the time period January 1994 to October 2012).
For a broader measurement of employment in the United States the U6, produces a rate that sums of the total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers plus total employed part time for economic reasons. This rate has not fallen as rapidly as the U3 civilian unemployment rate and remains well outside of normal for the time period of January 1994 to October 2012.
Data Source: U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics