Sometimes, an increase in the unemployment rate is good news for the economy. October was one of those months.
The rise, to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September, was due to more people entering the job market. Many of those who had stopped searching for work were encouraged enough by the economy to start looking once again.
In determining the unemployment rate, the Labor Department surveys households to see how many people are in the labor force -- either on the job or looking for work. October's survey showed 578,000 more people than in September. About 170,000 of those have yet to find work, thus the slight uptick in the jobless rate.
"If the unemployment rate is going to rise, this is the way we want it to happen," said Heidi Shierholz, labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank.
Only once during the last five years -- in May 2012 -- have so many people returned to the labor force at one time. In September, an additional 418,000 people returned, marking two months of strong growth.
There are other signs of growing confidence in the labor market. Consumer confidence reached a four-year high in Thursday's reading, largely due to improvements in how people viewed the condition of the job market.
"The high level of consumer confidence indicates that voters are feeling better about the economy and its prospects,"
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