Rising Unemployment Rate

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its October 2008 report this past Friday.

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(click on the image to enlarge)

The numbers in the report reveal the severity of the economic situation that we find ourselves in as a nation.

  • The unemployment rate rose from 6.1% in September to 6.5% in October. This is its highest rate since March 1994.
  • Payroll employment declined for the 10th month in a row.
  • 1.2 million jobs have been lost this year, 651,000 within the last three months.
  • There are currently 10.1 million unemployed workers in the United States.
  • The percentage of the population that has a job is 61.8%, the lowest it has been since 1993.
  • The Labor Department’s most comprehensive alternative unemployment rate measure – which includes the underemployed (those who are working part-time because they cannot find full-time employment) and those who have looked for work but have quit their job search out of frustration – is 11.8%! This is its highest in over 14 years.
  • Approximately 22.3% of the 10.1 million unemployed has not been able to find work despite looking for 27 weeks or more.
  • Claims for unemployment insurance are approaching 500,00 this year, the highest level since 2003.

Industries experiencing the greatest job losses have been factories (e.g., auto and auto parts), manufacturing, construction, service employment (e.g., retail trade, auto dealerships), and financial services.

As tragic as these numbers and facts are, economists tell us that the economy will continue to “contract” in the fourth quarter of the year.

There has been job growth in some areas to report, though. Growth as occured in the the health care industry -298,000 jobs added since January 2008 – and in government, primarily local government, with 163,000 jobs added during the same period of time.

It is an understatement to say that immediate, and perhaps even drastic, steps and measures need to be taken by our federal government to pull us out of this rapid spiral downward into deeper recession.

What kind of measures will it take? As I noted in one of my first posts, I am no economist, but I do know and have read enough to believe that, first of all, the $700 billion that the Treasury Department has committed for the Wall Street bail-out should be used to relieve and rescue the American economy and those of us who live on Main Street, rather than pad the pockets of the corporate CEO’s and provide banks and other financial institutions with billions for the furthering of their business goals. For insight into this please read the article “The Trough” by Naomi Klein in Rolling Stone, November 12, 2008 and “And Now, Back to the Economy” by Nomi Prins in the November 7, 2008 issue of Mother Jones.

To help turn the tide of unemployment and underemployment and help stimulate the economy, the $700 billion bail-out money could be used to:

  • extend unemployment insurance benefits to America’s unemployed and help bring relief to burdened workers and their families
  • provide aid to states that are experiencing budget deficits and help sustain public services to those in need
  • develop alternative energy sources, and in so doing, create new jobs
  • invest in the building and rebuilding of our nation’s schools, roads and highways, bridges ( remember Minneapolis ? ), levees ( New Orleans ? ) and our inner cities, and again, help create new jobs

Maybe even another, somewhat more substantial, stimulous check in my mailbox.

Note: Labor Statistics information and numbers were found at the Economic Policy Institute, www.epi.org, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, www.cbpp.org.

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