Stunningly bad news on the nation’s jobless rate today: Unemployment worsened to 8.1 percent in February, from 7.6 percent in January, the highest level in more than a quarter century, according to Labor Department data released today.
We’re now looking at historical comparisons of joblessness not to the bad recession of the Reagan years but to the Depression era. This from Bloomberg:
Employers eliminated 651,000 jobs, the third straight month that losses surpassed 600,000—the first time that’s happened since the data began in 1939.
There are now 12.5 million unemployed workers. In addition, the number of people forced to work part-time for “economic reasons” rose by a sharp 787,000 to 8.6 million. That’s people who would like to work full-time but whose hours were cut back or were unable to find full-time work.
As always, the official unemployment rate doesn’t capture the full picture. A more comprehensive measure of unemployment—including those who want a job but have stopped looking, as well as those who are working part-time because they can’t find a full-time job—is 14.8 percent. This amounts to 22.5 million workers who are struggling to find a decent job in this economy.
The U.S. economy has lost nearly 4.4 million jobs since December 2007, the biggest employment plunge of any economic downturn in the postwar period. More than half of that job loss (2.6 million) took place in the past four months. Economic Policy Institute (EPI) analysts Lawrence Mishel and Heidi Shierholz put it this way:
Job loss continues at a stunning pace—we haven’t seen employment fall off a cliff like this in over thirty years.
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) increased by 270,000 to 2.9 million in February. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term unemployed was up by 1.6 million.
Jobs lost in February include: 104,000 jobs lost in construction, 168,000 in manufacturing, 40,000 in retail and 180,000 in professional and business services, with 78,000 jobs lost at temporary-help agencies. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says the jobs crisis:
calls for more action to strengthen our manufacturing and jobs base. We must do much more to rebuild our roads, bridges, airports and air traffic control system, mass transit and rail networks, and ports; to expand broadband access to all Americans; to ensure that state governments can continue to provide essential public services; to refurbish and build new schools and to invest in clean energy and modernize our electrical grid and energy-delivery network that are key to an economic revival.
Some 5 million U.S. workers are collecting unemployment insurance. Further:
Bankruptcy filings for individuals and companies surged 37 percent in February to more than 103,000, according to data compiled by Automated Access to Court Electronic Records, a service of Jupiter ESources LLC in Oklahoma City.
The Obama administration has undertaken critically needed steps to address the nation’s economic crisis, including the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, which will create or save 3.5 million jobs, and the Middle Class Task Force, chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, focused on rebuilding the nation’s middle class through the creation of family-supporting jobs.
This ain’t socialism, folks. It’s a desperately needed series of actions to address the economic disaster wrought by the failed policies of the Bush administration and his far-right allies in Congress. And we need it badly.