Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 151,000 in October, but the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.6 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

Since December 2009, nonfarm payroll employment has risen by 874,000. However, the number of unemployed persons, at 14.8 million, was little changed in October. The unemployment rate remained at 9.6 percent and has been essentially unchanged since May.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) was about unchanged over the month at 6.2 million. In October, 41.8 percent of unemployed individuals had been jobless for 27 weeks or more.

Both the civilian labor force participation rate, at 64.5 percent, and the employment-population ratio, at 58.3 percent, edged down over the month.

The number of people employed part-time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) fell by 318,000 over the month to 9.2 million, partially offsetting large increases in the prior two months. These individuals were working part-time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

About 2.6 million people were marginally attached to the labor force in October, up from 2.4 million a year earlier. These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the four weeks preceding the survey.

Among the marginally attached, there were 1.2 million discouraged workers in October, an increase of 411,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are people not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.4 million people marginally attached to the labor force had not searched for work in the four weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.

Government employment overall was little changed in October. Employment in local government, excluding education, decreased by 14,000 over the month and has fallen by 123,000 over the past 12 months. The number of temporary decennial census workers fell by 5,000 in October.  After peaking at 564,000 in May, there were only about 1,000 temporary decennial census workers remaining on federal payrolls in October.

The average work week for all employees on private, non-farm payrolls increased one tenth of an hour in October to 34.3 hours. The manufacturing workweek for all employees also increased by a tenth of an hour, to 40.3 hours, while factory overtime was unchanged at 3.0 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private non-farm payrolls increased a tenth of an hour to 33.6 hours in October.

In October, average hourly earnings of all employees on private non-farm payrolls increased by five cents to $22.73. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 1.7 percent. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by seven cents to $19.17. The change in total non-farm payroll employment for August was revised from -57,000 to -1,000, and the change for September was revised from -95,000 to -41,000.

The federal extension on unemployment benefits is scheduled to expire at the end of November. Two million workers will be cut off from unemployment benefits next month if Congress fails to act to extend benefits again, which may be difficult to do during the limited schedule of the lame-duck session and the Republican gains in the midterm elections.

“Today’s job report is another reminder of how far we have to go to get the economy back on track and turn things around for America’s workers,” said National Employment Law Project executive director Christine Owens in a statement. “Congress doesn’t have to be a lame duck — it can make a huge impact now by renewing for another year the jobless benefit extensions that expire on November 30. If Congress fails to act, 2 million workers will be cut off next month alone — in the heart of the holidays — and any brief stopgaps will still put millions at risk of cut-offs next year. Congress simply cannot pull the plug on families and businesses if it has any realistic intention to turn things around.”

In 2010, benefit extensions have helped 9.5 million job seekers and their families and pumped roughly $6.8 billion into the economy every month. With average unemployment still extremely high, any lapse or cuts in benefits now would strike a major blow to workers and businesses during the holiday and retail season and create more obstacles to growth in 2011.

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