<html> <head><style type ="text/css">body { font-family: "Bloomberg Prop Unicode I", Verdana, sans-serif; font-size:125%; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; color: #FF9F0F; background-color: #000000; text-align: left; } p {line-height: 1.25em; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" );} h1, h2, h3 { text-align: left; font-weight: normal; color: #FFFFFF; } h1 { font-size: 130%; } h2 { font-size: 115%; } h3 { font-size: 100%; } #bb-style { font-size: 90%; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" ); } b, strong { font-weight: bold; } i, em { color: #FEC54A; } pre { font-family: "Andale Mono", "Monaco", "Lucida Console"; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; line-height: 1.25em; } table { border: 0; font-size: 90%; width: 100%; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; } td, tr { text-align: left; } td.numeric { text-align: right; } a:link { color:#53B2F5; text-decoration: none; } a:visited {color:#53B2F5} a:active {color:#53B2F5} a:hover {color:#53B2F5} </style> </head> <body> <p>By Mark Whitehouse</p> <p>Optimists can find some small comfort in one part of today's broadly dismal jobs report: The estimated share of the U.S. population with a job actually rose.</p> <p>The Labor Department's <a href="http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.a.htm">household survey</a>, based on a sample of 60,000 households, found that the number of people employed rose by 422,000 in May, bringing the employment-to-population ratio to 58.6 percent. That's up from 58.4 percent in April and matches the ratio in February, which was the highest since May 2010.</p> <p>To be sure, the ratio is still very far from normal: The average over the ten years preceding the last recession was 63.3 percent.</p> <p>The rise in the unemployment rate, to 8.2 percent in May from 8.1 percent in April, occurred because more people entered, or re-entered, the labor force. Only people who are actively seeking work -- meaning they're in the labor force -- are counted as unemployed. The labor force grew by an estimated 642,000 in May, 220,000 more than the increase in the number of people employed. Hence, more unemployed.</p> <p>One interesting point for wonks: The 422,000 employment gain estimated in the household survey exceeded the survey's <a href="http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.a.htm">margin of error</a>, which is about 400,000 jobs. This means we can be pretty sure that there actually was a gain. By contrast, statistically speaking, we can't be so sure that May's gain in nonfarm payroll employment -- an estimated 69,000 -- wasn't really less than zero or greater than the 150,000 economists had forecast. The margin of error in the <a href="http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.b.htm">payroll survey</a> is about 100,000 jobs.</p> <p>(Mark Whitehouse is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)</p> </body> </html>