The federal government reported that the economy added 171,000 jobs last month, almost 25,000 thousand more jobs than in September. But a second survey from the same source also reported that the unemployment rate ticked up 0.1 points to 7.9 percent. The surveys differ based on from whom the information is collected. The popularly used unemployment rate is gathered from the household survey, which asks each household whether or not resident adults have jobs. The number of jobs is determined by a survey asking large companies and government agencies how many people they employed.
In October, the household survey showed 578,000 more people were found to either be working or looking for work. About 410,000 of these individuals found work while approximately 170,000 did not. This difference led to an increase in the unemployment rate. It is worth noting that the household survey represents just 60,000 households compared to the 100 million households in the U.S.
The payroll survey is gathered from 140,000 companies and agencies that, combined, employ about 33 percent of non-farm employees. The media and the public typically consider only the unemployment rate while economists tend to rely on the jobs data. According to payroll data, 3.25 million new jobs have been added to the economy since the end of the recession. The household surveys covering this period show that 3.21 million people have reported finding work. This comparison shows that, over time, the two surveys tend to even out and display data consistent with each other.