Unemployment at record levels

The nation’s official unemployment rate soared into double-digit territory in October, increasing 0.4 percent that month, to 10.2 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

An additional 558,000 people lost their jobs, bringing the official total to 15.7 million.
The BLS report said, “Since the start of the recession in Dec., 2007, the number of unemployed persons has risen by 8.2 million, and the unemployment rate has grown by 5.3 percentage points.

Even before the Bush recession began, however, unemployment during his pro-business administration was never as low as it had been before he came into office. The last official unemployment report before Bush took office in Jan., 2001, indicated a 4 percent jobless rate, with 5.9 million officially out of work.

The sharp hike in the jobless rate was announced just after the Democratic-controlled 111th Congress rushed through a 20 week extension of unemployment benefits. The Senate approved the benefits extension by a 98-0 margin and the House by 403-12. All those opposed were Republicans. The vote came a month later than it would have come had Senate Republicans not delayed action with unsuccessful attempts to attach numerous amendments.

Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the labor-backed Economic Policy Institute, said the figures indicate the need for a second massive stimulus program to create additional jobs.
“While the job losses are moderating, the unemployment rate will continue to rise until we add jobs in a very healthy way,” she declared.

Discussing some of the details behind the figures, Shierholz made note of several factors that make the official figures gloomier than they might first appear:

The official rate is only the tip of the jobless iceberg. Including the unemployed, those forced to work part-time when they want and need full-time work and workers so discouraged by fruitless job hunting that they have given up altogether, 17.5 percent of the work force is unemployed or underemployed. That figure, alone, rose .7 percent in the last month.

Factories shed 61,000 jobs in October. Now on a ten year slide, factory jobs are down to 11.6 million. Construction lost 62,000 jobs, falling below 6 million. The report shows 1.8 million unemployed factory workers, or a jobless rate of 12.2 percent.

There are 1.7 million jobless construction workers, for an unemployment rate of 18.7 percent.
Another feature of the report shows that adult men, once the primary “breadwinners” for most families, continue to sustain the most dramatic job losses. The official unemployment rate for men rose 0.4 percent in October to 10.7 percent. The jobless rate for women rose 0.3 percent to 8.1 percent.

More than half the unemployed population (55 percent) is not suffering a temporary layoff, the condition traditionally associated with the term “unemployed.” Their layoffs are permanent.

In addition, more than a third (36.6 percent) has been out of work for at least six months.



John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.