January 2009


A year earlier, the number of unemployed persons was 7.6 million and the jobless rate was 4.9 percent. [BLS]

White      6.9%
African American 12.6%
Hispanic 9.7%
Asian**                                     6.2%
Men 20 years and over 7.6%
Women 20 years and over 6.2%
Teen-agers (16-19 years) 20.8%
Black teens 36.5%
Officially unemployed 11.6 million


Working part-time because can’t find a full-time job:  7.8 million
People who want jobs but are not looking so are not counted in official statistics (of which about 2.1 million** searched for work during the prior 12 months and were available for work during the reference week.)  5.6 million
Total: 25.0 million (15.7% of the labor force)

Source: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

In addition, millions more were working full-time, year-round, yet earned less than the official poverty level for a family of four. In 2007, the latest year available, that number was 17.6 million, 16.2 percent of full-time workers (estimated from Current Population Survey, Bur. of the  Census, 2008).

In December, 2008, the latest month available, the number of job openings was only 2.7 million, according to the BLS, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Estimates, Feb. 10, 2009.+  Thus there are more than 9 job-wanters for each available job.

Mass layoffs: “In December, employers took 2,275 mass layoff actions, seasonally adjusted, as measured by new filings for unemployment insurance benefits during the month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. Each action involved at least 50 persons from a single employer; the number of workers involved totaled 226,117 on a seasonally adjusted basis. ….Over the year, the number of mass layoff events increased by 806, and the number of associated initial claims increased by 80,201…..Among the twenty-one major industry sectors, six registered series highs for both mass layoff events and initial claims for all of 2008—construction; transportation and warehousing; finance and insurance; real estate and rental and leasing; management of companies and enterprises; and accommodation and food services. Eleven states recorded series highs in mass layoff initial claims activity (with data available back to 1996).” (BLS, Jan. 28, 2008)

*See Uncommon Sense #4 for an explanation of the unemployment measures.
**Not seasonally adjusted.
+”The job openings rate in December was the lowest point so far in the 8-year-oldseries.  …Although job openings were essentially unchanged from November to December, the number of job openings has trended downward for 18 months…..Over the 12 months ending in December, the job openings rate (not seasonally adjusted) did not rise significantly in any industry or region. The rate was essentially unchanged in six industries: natural resources and mining; retail trade; information; finance and insurance; real estate and rental and leasing; and other services. In the remaining 12 industries and at the total nonfarm and total private level, the job openings rate fell significantly over the year. Three of the four regions experienced a significant decline in the job openings rate over the year: Midwest, South, and West. Although job openings were essentially unchanged from November to December, the number of job openings has trended downward for 18 months.”