Job Growth, Unemployment Rate Both Drop In SeptemberJobless claims across the United States fell by 15,000 to a total of 358,000 in the week that ended Oct. 12, according to a report from the Department of Labor.

While lower, the number is not as low as what was forecast by economists, who anticipated the total number to drop to about 335,000, according to Bloomberg.

The number still includes a backlog from California, where a break down in the system last month has led to an increase in numbers from that state the past few weeks. Additionally, the figures include some of the government workers and government contractors who lost their jobs, at least temporarily, during the government shutdown that ended this week.

Yelena Shulyatyeva, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York City, told Bloomberg the numbers remain “abnormally high because of the shutdown, and it’s still California. The level of claims overall, excluding the special factors, has declined to a healthy, normal kind of level, but that does not necessarily mean that payrolls growth will accelerate from now on. We still need to see hiring, and we don’t see that.”

The numbers are the first indicator from the government of the current economic picture. During the shutdown, the Labor Department was unable to release numbers on jobless claims, the unemployment rate or any of the other factors the department tracks.

An official with the Labor Department told Bloomberg it is difficult to tell how many of the claims were made by non-federal workers, perhaps meaning that a clear picture of the economy will not emerge until after the economic waves caused by the shutdown begin to smooth out.

For example, Bloomberg reported that engineering and construction services company URS Corp. furloughed about 3,000 people because of the shutdown of the United States government. That number includes those who could not go to work because a government facility had shut down, and those who worked in areas where the government had asked for a reduction in staffing and the halting of operations. How many may come back remains unknown.

In a sign of good news, the Labor Department reported that those who are now on emergency benefits, having already used up all the traditional employment benefits, declined by about 46,400 people. The total number of Americans on emergency benefits declined to 1.38 million as of Sept. 28.

Consumer confidence, however, has slipped.  A preliminary report on the October Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index showed consumer confidence has dropped to a nine-month low of 75.2.

A Gallup report on consumer confidence indicates that it is now at the lowest it has been since 2011.

All of the varying economic numbers can be confusing for potential college students. However, incremental changes from month-to-month do not change the fact that most studies find a college degree increases a person’s chance to earn a higher salary and can increase their chances of getting promoted to a company or organization’s top jobs.

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