Reality is slippery, for sure. Especially when you're trying to grasp it via stories like this one that are based on the data provided:
The unemployment rate dropped unexpectedly in January to 9.7 percent from 10 percent while employers shed 20,000 jobs, the government said Friday.
The rate dropped because a survey of households found the number of employed Americans rose by 541,000, the Labor Department said.
The job losses are calculated from a separate survey of employers. The report also included an annual revision to the estimates of total payrolls, which showed there were 930,000 fewer jobs last March than previously estimated.
The department also revised down its estimates for April through October of last year, adding another 433,000 job losses.
The November figure was revised higher, however, to show a gain of 64,000 jobs.
All told, the Great Recession has eliminated 8.4 million jobs, the department said. That's the most of any recession since World War II as a proportion of total payrolls.