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National unemployment rate rises to 9.8 percent

This morning’s jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics contained much bad news. Despite some promising signs that the economy is improving the national unemployment rate jumped from 9.6 to 9.8 percent.

Non-farm employment increased by only 39,000 jobs, not nearly enough to cover the increase of new workers through population growth. Perhaps most oddly, retail jobs shrunk at a time when retailers should be gearing up for Christmas sales.

The number of workers who had been unemployed for more than 27 weeks — the long-term unemployed — stayed steady at 6.3 million, accounting for nearly 42 percent of all jobless workers. Nine million workers were in involuntary part-time jobs because they could not find full time work; these are referred to as underemployed.

An additional 3.8 million workers were counted as “marginally attached to the labor force” or “discouraged workers” because they had given up looking for jobs after long searches, believing that there were no jobs available to them. Those workers are not counted in the unemployment statistics, which would obviously be far higher if they were.

This bad news comes as the White House and the Democrats are trying to pass an extension of federal unemployment benefits over the objections of Republicans, who demand that the cost of those benefits be offset by budget cuts so they won’t increase the deficit.

At the same time, they also demand that tax cuts for the richest 2 percent of Americans be continued, which would add $700 billion to the deficit, without any demand for offsetting that cost.

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