March 2009


 A year earlier, the number of unemployed persons was 7.8 
million, and the jobless rate was 5.1 percent. [BLS]



African American




Asian**                                     6.4%
Persons with a disability **


Men 20 years and over


Women 20 years and over


Teen-agers (16-19 years)


Black teens


Officially unemployed

13.2 million



Working part-time because can’t find a full-time job:  9.0 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.)  5.8 million

Total: 28.0 million (17.5% of the labor force)


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 February, 2009, the latest month available, the number of job openings was only 3.0 million, according to the BLS, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Estimates, April 7, 2009.+ Thus there are more than 9 job-wanters for each available job.[Numbers are not comparable with previous months as methods have been revised.]

Mass layoffs: ” Employers took 2,769 mass layoff actions in February that resulted in the separation of 295,477 workers, 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 mass layoff events in February increased by 542 from the prior month, while the number of associated initial claims increased by 57,575. Over the year, the number of mass layoff events increased by 1,100, and the associated initial claims increased by 112,439. ….

This year, both average weekly events and initial claimants reached their highest February levels in program history; data are available back to 1996. Thirteen of the 19 major industry sectors reported program highs in terms of average weekly initial claimants for the month of February— mining; construction; manufacturing; wholesale trade; retail trade; transportation and Warehousing; finance and insurance; real estate and rental and leasing; professional and technical services; management of companies and enterprises; educational services; accommodation and food services; and other services, except public administration. ….Of the 4 census regions, the West registered the highest number of initial claims in February due to mass layoffs (65,792), followed by the Midwest (64,973), the South (55,542), and the Northeast (32,131).” (BLS, Mar.10, 2009)

*See Uncommon Sense #4 for an explanation of the unemployment measures.

**Not seasonally adjusted.

+”Over the 12 months ending in February, the job openings rate (not seasonally adjusted) was essentially unchanged in the Northeast region and in six industries: retail trade; information; finance and insurance; real estate and rental and leasing; educational services; and other services. In the remaining 11 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. The job openings rate rose significantly over the year only in the federal government.”