"A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step," they say. And while, in my experience, such long journeys usually include a car door slamming, and a key turning in the ignition -- that's not really the point. The point is that maybe, just maybe, we took a first step to recovery on Friday.

As you've probably heard by now, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced U.S. payrolls grew by 151,000 jobs in October. That's great for two reasons: First, because it only takes 125,000 new jobs to sop up America's monthly population increase, and hold the unemployment rate steady. We beat that number handily. And second ... did you hear?! We grew by 151,000 jobs! We haven't had news this good since ... well, since the Census started. And thanks to this good news, we can finally show you the following pretty picture:


Much prettier than the one we showed you last month, don't you think? And yet, the more I consider the BLS data that created it, the less I understand how this picture came to pass. I mean, is there good news to report on the job front? Sure there is.

Hiring ticked up in the mining industry last month, as Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX) hired more pickaxe-swingers, and Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE: FCX) expanded operations in New Mexico. Health care and business services did even better, as we've seen reflected in new hiring announcements at Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG) and Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM). And with Black Friday ads already at the printers, it seems retailers from Macy's (NYSE: M) to Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) are getting a jump on holiday hiring.

Eat, drink, and be merry ...
Why, even the dining industry is seeing a pickup, and we note with pleasure as we reach for the napkins that Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation Buffalo Wild Wings (Nasdaq: BWLD) is still expanding apace.

And yet, amid all the happy talk, BLS admitted that:

  • Total household employment declined by 330,000 last month.
  • 462,000 more citizens than last month, are not participating in the workforce.
  • And across the nation, the employment-to-population ratio declined to 58.3%, its lowest level in 30 years, while workforce participation of working-age citizens dropped to 64.5%, its lowest level ... ever.

I'm honestly not sure how these latter facts jibe with the pretty picture BLS tried to paint for us last week. But one thing I am sure of: The picture doesn't tell the whole tale.

Take the Foolish Rorschach test. What do you see in today's chart? Tell us about it below.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. Rich is not a licensed economist, but he plays one on the Web. Check out his latest stock recommendations on Motley Fool CAPS. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Best Buy is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Salesforce.com and Intuitive Surgical are Motley Fool Rule Breakers choices. Best Buy is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Best Buy. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.