August 2009


  A year earlier, the number of unemployed persons was 9.6
million, and the jobless rate was 6.2 percent. [BLS]



African American




Asian**                                     7.5%
Persons with a disability**


Men 20 years and over


Women 20 years and over


Teen-agers (16-19 years)


Black teens


Officially unemployed

14.9 million



Working part-time because can’t find a full-time job:  9.1 million
People who want jobs but are not looking so are not counted in official statistics (of which about 2.3 million** searched for work during the prior 12 months and were available for work during the reference week.)  5.6 million

Total: 29.6 million (18.5% 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 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 July, 2009, the latest month available, the number of job openings was only 2.4 million, according to the BLS, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Estimates, September 9, 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.]

Mass layoffs: “In August, employers took 2,690 mass layoff actions involving 259,307 workers. Mass layoff events increased by 533 and associated initial claims by 52,516 from July. Over the year, events increased by 803 and initial claims by 70,356. Year-to-date events and initial claims reached new program highs. ….

Seven of the 19 major industry sectors reported program highs in terms of average weekly initial claimants for the month of August: construction; wholesale trade; retail trade; management of companies and enterprises; educational services; arts, entertainment, and recreation; and accommodation and food services. (Average weekly analysis mitigates the effect of differing lengths of months…..

Among the 4 census regions, the West registered the highest number of initial claims in August due to mass layoffs (36,897), followed by the Midwest (32,197) and the South (29,486). (See table 5.) Average weekly initial claims associated with mass layoffs increased over the year in 3 of the 4 regions, with the Northeast experiencing the largest increase (+2,064). In 2009, the Northeast reported its highest August level of average weekly initial claims (6,611) in program history.” (BLS, September 25, 2009)


+“The job openings rate was little changed in July in every industry except retail where the rate declined. The job openings rate decreased in the Northeast and was little changed in the remaining regions….Over the 12 months ending in July, the job openings rates (not seasonally adjusted) decreased for total nonfarm, total private, government, and the majority of industries. The exceptions were information and arts, entertainment, and recreation, in which the rates were little changed. All four regions experienced a drop in the job openings rate over the 12 months ending in July.


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