If the Economy Added 120,000 Jobs Last Month, How Many Is That Really?

Economists expect the economy added 120,000 jobs in November. How many is that?


Tomorrow, the Labor Department will release employment figures for the month of November, and economists, markets, and reporters will all pounce on the data, searching for reasons to either rejoice or panic.

To the layperson, though, the numbers can seem awfully abstract. The consensus earlier this week was for the data to show that the economy added 120,000 jobs in November. But what exactly does that mean? Below are a few data points to put into context how big (or small) that number really is.

[Read analysis of the latest Fed Beige Book report.]

120,000 jobs is:

-Equivalent to 0.08 percent of the total U.S. civilian labor force (154.2 million), as of October 2011.

-3.6 percent of the estimated number of job openings in the United States (3.4 million), as of September 30.

-A little more than double the number of layoffs (56,000) announced in the finance sector this year.

-Just under one-third of the number of people who filed unemployment claims last week (402,000).

-Nearly equal to the average monthly employment change in the U.S. this year (126,000).

-Around 62 percent of the average number of U.S. jobs created per month from 1991 to 2000 (roughly 195,000).

-Less than one-tenth the number of U.S. workers employed by Walmart (1.4 million), the largest private employer in the U.S.

-4.3 percent of the size of the federal government workforce (2.8 million).

-Just over one-fifth the population of Wyoming (563,626), the least populous state.

-Equal to the population of Charleston, S.C. (or roughly 1.5 percent of the population of New York City).

-Slightly larger than the population of the U.S. Virgin Islands (106,405).