WASHINGTON (PAI)–The nation’s unemployment rate ended 2007 by jumping 0.3 percent in December to 5 percent, 0.1 percent higher than in December 2006. Almost 500,000 more people lost their jobs last month. Factories and construction shed thousands of jobs. AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney called it “the latest in a series of troubling signs that our economy may be slipping into recession.”

If so, it would be the second official recession under the rule of anti-worker Republican George W. Bush–though income figures from other government surveys show workers never really recovered from his first slump. Bush and his advisers “won’t pull their heads out of the sand long enough” to face the recession threat, Sweeney added.

Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show 474,000 more unemployed in December than in November, and 1.7 million more people are out of work than when Bush took office in January 2001. Then, the last month under Democratic President Clinton, 5.956 million people were jobless. The jobless rate was 4 percent, just above its November 2000 low. Sweeney said the jobless rate is the highest since Hurricane Katrina.

The employment and unemployment report’s details disclose more sour news for workers under the Bush regime. The data showed an increase in the combined total of underemployed and the jobless. Counting those seeking work but who haven’t found it, those working part-time even though they really want full-time jobs, and those who are so discouraged they stopped looking, BLS said 8.8 percent of U.S. workers are unemployed or underemployed. Last December’s figure was 8.4 percent.

Many of the jobless in December have been out a long time: 33 percent have been out of work for more than 15 weeks, compared to 31% out that long last December. And 17.5% percent of the jobless at the end of 2007 have been out at least half a year, compared to 17.4 percent out for half a year at the end of 2006.

Those jobless for at least 26 weeks have exhausted their unemployment benefits. Bush and the GOP-run Congress steadfastly refused to extend unemployment benefits even during the first Bush recession, which supposedly ended in 2001. The new Democratic-run 110th Congress did not extend jobless benefits, either.

Factories continued their job slide, which has been almost uninterrupted starting in 1999, due to subsidized foreign imports. They shed another 31,000 jobs in December, down to 13.919 million. At the end of 2006, factories had 14.15 million workers. Since 1999, factories have lost more than 3.1 million jobs, half of them union.

Construction shed 49,000 jobs in December, down to 7.489 million. More importantly, the construction industry jobless rate in December was 9.4 percent–1 of every 11–compared to 6.9 percent in December 2006. That was 1 of every 16. Sweeney called the factory and construction figures “especially disheartening.”

One of every 5 of the lost factory jobs in November was in cars, down 6,300 to 969,700. In December 2006, auto plants employed 1.044 million. Textiles and apparel, which had close to 1 million jobs in 1999, shed another 5,600 from November to December. They now have 522,800. That’s 50,300 below the December 2006 figure.

Food plants were one of the few factory sectors to gain jobs, both in December and over the year. They added 4,000 jobs in December, and 12,000 in the year, finishing 2007 with 1.497 million workers.

In December, services added 93,000 jobs, four times as many as they gained in the last month of 2006. One-third of the new service jobs were in government. For the year, services gained 1.7 million jobs, to 116.35 million jobs. Their gain in 2007 was smaller than their gain (1.86 million) in 2006.

Retail trade, one of services’ lowest-paying areas, shed 23,000 jobs from November to December, reflecting lower holiday shopping. Clothing and department stores accounted for two-thirds of that 1-month loss. Despite December, retail ended with 15.37 million jobs, 46,000 more than a year before.

One of the biggest jumps came in another low-paying job, janitors. There were 19,000 more janitors in December, and 1.871 million janitors overall. That’s 54,000 more than a year before. The number in another low-pay area, temps, stayed the same in December. There were 2.596 million temps, 46,000 fewer in a year.

Transportation and warehousing, including railroads, trucks, airlines and mass transit, shed 4,000 jobs in December, but ended the year with 4.551 million jobs, 34,000 more than a year before. That’s despite a 17,000-job loss during the year in trucking, down to 1.436 million.

Health care jobs kept increasing. They rose by 28,000 in December and 380,600 in the year, to 13.16 million. Of the yearly rise, 51,000 jobs came in home health care and 23,000 in nursing homes, both low-paying.

Telecommunications firms slid below 1 million jobs in 2005, and they stayed there throughout 2006 and 2007. The telecom companies had 982,400 workers at the end of the year, 3,900 more than in December and 4,000 more than a year before. Of the 31,000 November-December gain in government jobs, half were in local schools. Government jobs rose by 244,000 in the year, to 22.388 million. Almost all of the year-on-year gains were in local governments, in school and out.

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