Official unemployment rate drops to 6.6 percent

WASHINGTON – The jobless rate report released today by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the official unemployment rate fell last month by a tenth of a percentage point to 6.6 percent.

The Economic Policy Institute, a progressive economic think tank backed by labor, issued a statement that was positive in tone and substance about some aspects of the Labor Department’s report but negative about others.

“In an unusual turn in recent months,” the institute’s statement said, “the decline (in the official unemployment rate) was for good reasons – a higher share of the potential workforce found work, with the share of the workforce with a job rising by two tenths of a percentage point. The labor force participation also rose by two-tenths of a percentage point.”

Unions, the EPI and progressive economists in general, however, note that the numbers of workers in the labor force who are still not working are far too high.

“Labor force participation is still far too depressed,” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist with EPI.

“There are still 5.7 million missing workers,” she added, “who are not participating by way of having a job.”

The people she describes as “missing workers” are people who have given up looking for work or people who never started because job offerings are so few.

Other parts of the employment report released by the government today are also not good.

The report, for example, shows that only 113,000 jobs were added in January, bringing the average growth rate of the last three months to just 154,000. At that rate of growth it would take more than six years to reach pre-recession levels of employment, said Shierholz.

The Labor Department’ s report, particularly bleak regarding the situation with long-term unemployment, comes out just a day after Republicans in both the House and the Senate killed legislation that would have extended emergency federal unemployment benefits for 1.7 million of the long-term unemployed. 

Photo: Waiting in line at a job fair in Miami. (Lynne Sladky/AP)



John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik started as labor editor of the People's World in May, 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York. Along with being labor editor, Wojcik is a co-editor of