So, in a month that saw the addition of only 36,000 net new jobs, how come the jobless rate fell from 9.4% to 9 percent, when the usual cause - people giving up looking for work - doesn't appear to be a factor?

Simple answer: Different surveys, different outcomes.

The jobs total is based on a survey of approximately 140,000 establishments (businesses). It does not capture the self-employed, excludes farm laborers, and under-represents employment volatility at start-ups and new businesses.

The unemployment rate is based on a survey of 60,000 households. It includes farm workers, the self-employed and others who might be missed by the business survey.

Statistics uber-nerds: The BLS explanation of its methodology can be found here.

The business survey showed 36,000 net new jobs. The household survey showed an increase of 117,000 employed people.

Who were the biggest winners in the business survey?

  • Manufacturers, +49,000 jobs
  • Retailers,+ 28,000 jobs
  • Health care, +11,000 jobs.

 

And the biggest losers?

 

  • Construction, -32,000
  • Transportation and warehousing, -38,000
  • Government, -14,000 (-67,000 over the last three months)

 

Meanwhile, the household survey shows little change in the plight of the long-term unemployed or underemployed: 6.2 million people have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more, and 8.5 million say they have had their hours reduced or could find only part-time work.