December 2009


 A year earlier, the number of unemployed persons was 11.4 
million, and the jobless rate was 7.4 percent. [BLS]



African American




Asian**                                     8.4%
Persons with a disability **


Men 20 years and over


Women 20 years and over


Teen-agers (16-19 years)


Black teens


Officially unemployed

15.3 million



Working part-time because can’t find a full-time job:  9.2 million
People who want jobs but are not looking so are not counted in official statistics (of which about 2.5 million** searched for work during the prior 12 months and were available for work during the reference week.)  6.3 million

Total: 30.8 million (19.3% of the labor force)


**Not seasonally adjusted.
*See Uncommon Sense #4 for an explanation of the unemployment measures.

In addition, millions more were working full-time, year-round, yet earned
less than the official poverty level for a family of four. In 2008, the latest 
year available, that number was 17.8 million, 17.1 percent of full-time, full-year workers (estimated from Current Population Survey, Bur. of the  Census, 2009).

In October, 2009, the latest month available, the number of job openings was only 2.5 million, according to the BLS, Job Openings and

Labor Turnover Estimates, December 8, 2009.+ Thus there are more than 12 job-wanters for each available job.[Numbers are not comparable with previous months as methods have been revised.]

Comparing Long-Term Unemployment: 1999-2009


Mass layoffs: “Employers initiated 1,776 mass layoff events in the third quarter of 2009 that resulted in the separation of 277,924 workers from their jobs for at least 31 days, according to preliminary figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of extended mass layoff events reached a record high for any third quarter (with data available back to 1995). Third quarter program highs in the number of events were also recorded in half of the 18 major industry sectors, 2 of the 4 geographic regions, 4 of the 9 divisions, and 15 states.

Manufacturing firms reported 511 extended mass layoff events involving 80,135 separations in third quarter 2009 and were responsible for 29 percent of private nonfarm extended layoff events and related separations. A year earlier, manufacturing made up 31 percent of events and 33 percent of separations.

Nine major industry sectors reported third quarter program highs in 2009 in terms of the number of extended mass layoff events in the private nonfarm sector—construction; wholesale trade; transportation and warehousing; professional and technical services; management of companies and enterprises; administrative and waste services; educational services; arts, entertainment, and recreation; and other services, except public administration.

Among the four census regions, the West and the Midwest recorded the highest numbers of separations due to extended mass layoff events in the third quarter of 2009. All regions except the West reported over-the-year decreases in the number of separations. (See table 4.) Among the nine census divisions, the highest numbers of separations during the third quarter of 2009 were in the Middle Atlantic, East North Central, South Atlantic, and Pacific. (See table 4.) Only three divisions reported over-the-year increases in terms of the numbers of separations—New England, West North Central, and Mountain.” (BLS, November 10, 2009)


+“Over the 12 months ending in October, the job openings rate (not seasonally adjusted) decreased for total nonfarm, total private, and government. The job openings rate also decreased in many industries: mining and logging; durable goods manufacturing; nondurable goods manufacturing; retail trade; transportation, warehousing, and utilities; information; educational services; health care and social assistance; arts, entertainment, and recreation; accommodation and food services; and state and local government. The job openings rate decreased in 3 of the 4 regions—Midwest, Northeast, and South.”


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