Nonfarm payroll employment fell sharply in January (-598,000) and the unemployment rate rose from 7.2 to 7.6 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. Payroll employment has declined by 3.6 million since the start of the recession in December 2007; about one-half of this decline occurred in the past 3 months. In January, job losses were large and widespread across nearly all major industry sectors.
The following graph shows the labor force, household survey employment, nonfarm employment, and unemployment rate since 1998:
The actual numbers and sources for this and the following graph can be found at this link. As can be seen, employment has decreased and the unemployment rate has increased sharply since December 2007, especially in the past few months. Also noticeable is the fact that the labor force has dropped off for the past three months. However, much of the drop in the last month was due to adjustments to population estimates for the Household Survey. The BLS Employment Situation report states:
The adjustment decreased the estimated size of the civilian noninstitutional population in December by 483,000, the civilian labor force by 449,000, and employment by 407,000; the new population estimates had a negligible impact on unemployment rates and other percentage estimates.
In any event, the following graph shows the items shown in the prior graph, plus population and private employment, since 1950:
As can be seen, the current unemployment rate of 7.6 percent is the worst since the 1980-82 recession but is still well below the level of 10.4 percent reached in January of 1983. However, it also shows that the growth in employment, especially private employment, has been especially poor over the past eight years. In fact, private employment has increased just 407 thousand over that period. That works out to an average of just 4.24 thousand jobs per month. More on this can be found in an article that I've just updated titled Job Growth Under Bush and Prior Presidents.