Friday, January 9, 2009

The Stark Facts Behind the Rise in Unemployment

Here are the disturbing facts and figures behind today's announced rise in unemployment to 7.2 percent:

The economy shedded nearly 2.6 million jobs in 2008, according to the Labor Department. This many jobs have not been lost since the 2.75 million at the conclusion of World War II. Three quarters of the total has occurred just in the last quarter alone.

The 7.2 percent figure represents the highest total in 16 years. The 584,000 jobs lost comes after the economy lost 524,000 in November of last year. To see the raw numbers from the Department of Labor, click here.

The number of unemployed Americans now totals 11.1 million. The figure may actually be higher since the Labor Department only tracks those looking for work during the last four weeks and cannot account for those intimidated by the bleak job market.

The comparison between President Clinton's two terms in office and President Bush's is stark and puts even more pressure on the incoming Obama administration. By the end of Clinton's presidency, the economy generated nearly 23 million new jobs, while Bush is slated to have created just over 3 million in eight years.

Within the numbers lies one devastating insight: things are likely to get worse. According to a Los Angeles Times report, those gainfully employed are losing more hours than before.

The report was full of ill portents. Among them was a reported decline in the number of hours worked to 33.3 hours per worker -- the lowest number recorded since the Labor Department began keeping track in 1964. Businesses tend to cut hours before cutting workers, so the declines likely mean more layoffs are pending.

This fact cuts directly to real-world problems affecting all Americans. While times are difficult for those laid-off recently or fruitlessly attempting to find work, those with employment are hurting as well.


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