264,000 jobs added but 700,000 fewer Americans employed?

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Perplexing even seasoned analysts, Friday’s jobs report showed a bigger-than-expected gain in jobs, while the unemployment rate rose slightly, although 7.3 percent was lower than some expected given last month’s government furloughs. So what’s going on with the data and how did the government shutdown affect collection? Photo courtesy of John Moore/Getty Images.

If you’re a would-be analyst of the monthly unemployment data, Nov. 8 is a day to try men’s souls.

That’s because the government’s two monthly surveys — one of actual people (the “household survey”) and the other that surveys mainly pretend people like corporations (the “establishment survey”) — give drastically conflicting reports of the labor market on this jobs Friday.

According to the establishment survey, the economy added a bracing 204,000 jobs in shutdown-crippled October, far more than the 125,000 or so expected. Moreover, the previous two months were revised upward by a healthy 60,000.

By contrast, the household survey was a distinct downer, reporting that some 700,000 fewer Americans were working in October than had been in the month before, while the U.S. population rose by 200,000 over the same period, which would normally imply an added 120,000 or so working-age Americans.

And our own most inclusive measure of un- and underemployment, the modestly named “Solman Scale” or “U-7,” actually rose last month to 15.78 percent (see data, below), reflecting the fact that 25,398,000 Americans still say they want a full-time job but can’t get one. (U-7 is also calculated using data from the household survey.)