Friday, October 02, 2009

Jobs Lost in September

This is a long post by Meteor Blades at Daily Kos, with some editing because it's so long:

Another 263,000 jobs were lost in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced this morning, far above the consensus of experts. Last month, the revised figures show, there were 201,000 jobs lost. The unemployment rate rose from 9.7% to 9.8%...

The latest figures reversed what had been a steady downward trend in job losses since spring. In the 21 months since the downturn began, there has been a net loss of 7.6 million jobs. Currently 15.1 million Americans are officially out of work. Another 11.4 million are unemployed because their unsuccessful search for a job has discouraged them, or they are underemployed because they want full-time work and can only obtain part-time hours...

The once-all-but-ignored alternative measure of unemployment and underemployed – U6 – rose from 16.8% to 17%. That figure includes jobless Americans who have become discouraged and those working part-time but desire full-time jobs, a total of 26.5 million. Without the government’s economic stimulus, which was fiercely opposed by Republicans, the situation would be far worse. But the latest figures give more credibility to those economists and other observers who have long questioned whether the stimulus as currently constituted can sustain a recovery.

In another much-watched statistic showing weakness in the labor market, the average workweek for production and nonsupervisory workers fell back to 33 hours, a record low.

The number of long-term unemployed - workers who have gone jobless for 27 weeks or more rose - by 450,000 to 5.4 million. In September, 35.6 percent of unemployed persons had been jobless for 27 weeks or more.

The official unemployment rate for whites was 9.0 percent for September, for blacks 15.4 percent, for Hispanics 12.7 percent, and for Asians 7.4 percent. The rate for women of all races was 7.8 percent, for men 10.3%. Count in the discouraged and the underemployed, and those breakdowns are far worse, too.

Most economists and other expert observers believe that the quarter just ended and the quarter that we have just begun will show growth, perhaps in the 3% to 4% range. In the past that’s usually meant a rise in hiring. But in recovery periods following the previous two recessions, there’s been a disconnect: an extremely weak labor market. Those recessions were comparatively mild. What we’ve seen since December 2007 is the weakest employment market since the Great Depression. And it’s not likely to go away without additional stimulus no matter what the deficit hawks in both parties have to say.

Chances are that unemployment will continue to rise to 10% or beyond by year’s end and well into 2010. This is in great part because companies currently are utilizing their production capacities at very low levels. Even if their delivery orders increase, they can get more productivity from current employees. All this could easily mean structurally high unemployment for a long time – that is, several years – because employers have seen no need to hire as many new workers.

I'm currently trying to update the speech I gave at Wiscon in 2004, Writing Science Fiction During the Third World War. Do do this, I have to explain the current economic situation, which is not easy.

How can we have a recovery if people aren't working?


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