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Vol. 73/No. 36      September 21, 2009

Official joblessness
climbs to 9.7 percent
(front page)
In August the official unemployment rate rose to 9.7 percent as bosses slashed jobs for the 20th straight month. This was up from 9.4 percent a month earlier, the Labor Department reported. According to preliminary government figures, 216,000 jobs were cut.

The broader unemployed and underemployed rate—which includes 9.1 million workers forced to accept only part-time hours and 2.3 million the government doesn’t count, claiming they haven’t looked for work over the past four weeks—rose to 16.8 percent. That’s more than 26 million workers.

Among the 14.9 million officially listed as unemployed last month, 5 million have been out of work for more than half a year, many soon facing a halt to unemployment benefit payments. The official unemployment rate has doubled over the past two years, with employers eliminating some 6.9 million jobs since December 2007. “Most economists expect the rate to top 10 percent in coming months and stay over 9 percent through 2010,” reported the Wall Street Journal.

Oppressed nationalities and youth again suffer disproportionately from unemployment. The August unemployment rate for teenagers rose to 25.5 percent, the highest since the government began keeping these records in 1948. Unemployment among Blacks is 15.1 percent, and 13 percent for Latinos.

Labor Department figures show that in 19 cities, the official unemployment rate is at 15 percent or higher. El Centro, California, and Yuma, Arizona, are among the highest with unemployment rates of 30 percent and 26 percent, respectively.

The number of “discouraged workers” who are not counted in the government’s statistics continues to rise. These are workers the government says have looked for work at some point in the past year but not in the last four weeks because they believe that no jobs are available. In August there were roughly 758,000 discouraged workers nationally, compared with 349,000 in November 2007, the month before the recession officially began.

Another group not counted by the Labor Department, called “marginally attached to the labor force,” includes discouraged workers as well as those who have stopped looking because of other reasons, like school, family responsibilities, or health issues. There were roughly 2.3 million people in this group in August, up from 1.4 million in November 2007 the Times reported.

Whirlpool is one of several big companies making major job cuts. The world’s largest appliance maker, which announced August 28 it will close its Evansville, Indiana, plant, eliminating 1,100 jobs.

American Airlines announced in early September it will furlough 228 flight attendants and put 244 more on involuntary leave.

“The number of private-sector jobs is now slightly below the level of August 1999,” reported the Washington Post, “meaning that a decade has passed without any net creation of non-government jobs.”

The average workweek is 33.1 hours, making it increasingly difficult for those with jobs to make ends meet. The number of people turning to food stamps “has surged as their hours and wages erode,” stated the Financial Times. “Some 40 percent of the families now on food stamps have ‘earned income,’ up from 25 percent two years ago.”
Related articles:
Bosses cheat lower-paid workers out of wages  
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