U.S. Job Market
Is the worst U.S. job drought since the Great Depression finally ending? Pictured: Boeing's 787 -- a major U.S. export good. REUTERS

The U.S. Labor Department announced 80,000 new jobs were added to the U.S. economy in October; unemployment dropped to nine percent from 9.1, revisions to September and August's figures added 102,000 jobs collectively to both months' earlier gains.

The consensus among economic experts? We're not out of the woods yet. Nail-biting and anticipation that the private sector may have, finally, started grinding into gear is tempered by a belief that the road ahead remains long and perilous, with no immediate fixes on the horizon.

Better Underlying Momentum

The underlying momentum of the economy is better now than we thought it was a few months ago, Augustine Faucher, the director of macroeconomics at Moody's Analytics, told The New York Times. We're doing O.K., even if we're not doing great. The odds of a double-dip recession are lower at least.

Today's figures have been met with lukewarm adjectives like modest and tepid. Still, most agree that progress of any sort is preferable to the stagnancy of the past seven months, in which the unemployment rate remained hovered at 9 percent.

We're making progress at a very slow pace, John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities, told Bloomberg. It indicates continued consumer spending, getting a little better over time.

Bloomberg's consensus estimate expected the total to be closer to 103,000 -- a number still not enough to keep up with the rate of population growth, or keep unemployment down. In fact, jobs gains have remained at a monthly level at or near the 125,000 necessary to keep the unemployment rate from rising -- and not much more.

Bostjancic: Economy Must Continue to Strengthen

While it may be enough to barely escape recession, the gain in jobs and incomes is not enough to offset consumer pessimism, Kathy Bostjancic, an economist at the Conference Board, told The Washington Post. The economy is simply not strong enough to deliver more than 125,000 jobs a month and continues to struggle to deliver even that much.

The low pace of job growth could hit major stumbling blocks along the way. The Euro debt crisis has yet to reach a solid resolution, and has undergone a turbulent 48 hours.

The outlook ahead remains for modest growth, but risks remain to the downside without a convincing resolution of the euro zone crisis, which is conspicuously absent at present, Nigel Gault, chief United States economist for IHS Global Insight told the New York Times.

At home, the Congressional super committee, charged with filling a $1.2 trillion-size hole in the budget deficit over the next ten years, appears far from formulating a plan. The committee's promised cuts to government funding of agencies and programs will surely have a drag on jobs figures, which are already brought down by a contraction in public sector employment, shedding 24,000 jobs last month alone.

Federal Reserve Bank chairman Ben Bernanke expressed the need for government to play its part in creating jobs on Wednesday.

It would be helpful if we could get assistance from some other parts of the government to work with us to help create more jobs, he said, according to Reuters.

But the uptick and revised figures has some experts believing the Federal Reserve will stay on the sidelines, and not institute another round of quantitative easing, or QE3.

The labor market data suggest that growth may be strengthening even as Europe may be slipping into recession, John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York, told Reuters. As impatient as the Fed may be, it will be difficult to round up a consensus for QE3 as long as the employment data are pointing to an improving economy.

Nutting: October Report Shows Promise

But the October report can be dissected two different ways, according to MarketWatch's Rex Nutting, who argues the household survey of the employment report shows much promise.

The business and household surveys that make up the employment report offer disparate pictures. Taken alone, the household figures show greater confidence, job growth and more folks were working full-time.

If the government reported only the results from the household survey, we'd all think that the labor market had turned a corner, he writes.