In Last Big Jobs Report Before Midterms, Unemployment Rate Holds at 9.6 Percent
Image has not been found. URL: /wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Census_2.jpgThe government shed 77,000 census workers in September. (ZUMA Press)
This morning, the Labor Department announced that the U.S. unemployment rate remained at 9.6 percent in September, reflecting a continued stall-out in the recovery. This is the last major jobs report before the November midterm elections. The unemployment rate has held between 9.5 and 9.7 percent since April. And it has remained at or above 9.5 percent for 14 months, the longest spell in more than 70 years.
[Economy1] The numbers reflect both employers’ unwillingness to hire and job losses in government. Overall, the economy had 95,000 fewer jobs in September than in August. The government shed workers — including 77,000 from the census and 76,000 from local governments, many of whom were teachers and school staff.
Private employers added 64,000 workers — a good number, but not nearly enough to put a dent in the unemployment rate or even to absorb new workers into the economy due to population growth. In August, private employers added 67,000 new jobs. The economy normally needs to add about 125,000 jobs a month to put new entrants to the labor market to work. To return to full employment in five years, the economy needs to add 300,000 a month, every month. Since December 2009, the private sector has added 827,000 jobs — an average of 91,900 per month.
The total number of unemployed persons declined slightly, and not meaningfully, from 14.9 million to 14.8 million. The number out of a job for more than six months fell from 6.2 million to 6.1 million — 41.7 percent of workers. The number of long-term unemployed workers has fallen 640,000 since it hit a high of 6.8 million in May. Economists fear that most of those workers have left the labor market rather than finding work.
The statistics speak to prolonged difficulties in the labor market, to say the least. Though they do not show the labor market deteriorating, there are scarce signs of improvement. Americans worked the same workweek, for the same wages, at approximately the same level of employment in September as in August. The report speaks to a worrying status quo.
Democrats, campaigning for the midterms, have acknowledged Americans’ frustrations with jobs. Speaking at a rally in Maryland yesterday, President Obama stressed again — as he has for months in his major economic speeches — that the economy is growing and that the private sector is creating jobs. But the pace of growth is too slow for anybody’s comfort, and particularly not the comfort of the middle class.
“Of course people are frustrated. People are impatient with the pace of change. They want things to move a little quicker. I understand that. I’m impatient too,” Obama said. “But the other side, they don’t have an answer. All they have decided to do is to ride that frustration and that anger all the way to the ballot box.”
And that is what they are doing. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the minority leader, has lambasted Democrats and their stimulus policies for failing to add jobs. “Virtually every single piece of major legislation Democrat leaders in Washington have proposed over the past 19 months has made it either harder for businesses to hire new workers or retain the workers they already have,” he said last week. “And now they want to make it even worse.”
Fewer than 50 percent of Americans approve of the way Obama is handling the economy.