Here's a bit of unexpected good news: hiring may be picking up this month. Despite extremely weak consumer sentiment and general economic sluggishness, Gallup indicates that the unemployment rate is now the lowest since it peaked during the recession. Is the jobs picture really improving?

First, here's the chart from Gallup:

gallup unemployment 2011-10.gif

You can see that 8.3% is the best value shown on the chart, which goes back to the beginning of 2010. That's when the labor market began to modestly improve after unemployment peaked in 2009. Gallup shows the jobless rate declining significantly from its 9.2% rate in September.

And the good news doesn't stop there. The pollster also finds that the broader measure of underemployment declined this month. Its rate was down to 17.5%, the second lowest value it has recorded since 2010 holiday shopping-related jobs helped to push it down to 17.2% late last year.

But that observation raises an important caveat: Gallup's rate is not seasonally adjusted. So the firm speculates that temporary Halloween-related retail jobs could be boosting employment. That might be true, but nearly a 1% drop in the unemployment rate sure would mean a lot of Halloween jobs. Most retailers haven't started hiring for Christmas yet.

We'll have to see whether the government reading concurs with Gallup's good news in a few weeks when we get October's official national unemployment rate. Seeing employment rise strongly this month could provide consumers the strong dose of good news they need. If their sentiment picks up and spending rises, then the recovery could find its footing.