March unemployment: Another month, another two-thirds of a million jobs lost

This morning’s March unemployment figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics were roughly as expected–which is to say, awful. After a while, you begin to run out of dire-sounding adjectives, so I’ll simply quote the BLS release on the top-line numbers: “In March, the number of unemployed persons increased by 694,000 to 13.2 million, and the unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent. Over the past 12 months, the number of unemployed persons has grown by about 5.3 million, and the unemployment rate has risen by 3.4 percentage points. Half of the increase in both the number of unemployed and the unemployment rate occurred in the last 4 months…. In March, the number of persons working part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) climbed by 423,000 to 9.0 million.”

The broader U6 measurement of under-employment–which includes not only those who have lost their jobs recently but “discouraged workers” who’ve stopped looking and those who are working part-time against their wishes due to the state of the economy–rose from 14.8 percent to 15.6 percent. That’s the second straight month in which it’s risen nearly a full point, and it means that almost one in six American workers are either out of a job or making ends meet with temporary and part-time gigs.

As the Associated Press points out, “”Since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has lost a net total of 5.1 million jobs, with almost two-thirds of the losses occurring in the last five months.”

It practically goes without saying, but: Once again, there’s no bottom in sight.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Annalise Cudahy on 04/03/2009 - 10:00 am.

    Several important implications to the dismal numbers:

    With U6 at around 15%, we’re looking at a situation rather similar to 1895, the Depression that we seem to be following more closely than the last one. This is fairly consistent behavior, although things are moving much faster than they did 110 years ago.

    The latest budget projection for the state assumed -1.2% growth in national GDP for 2009. With about 2M jobs lost in this period, it would be surprising if 1Q09 does not come in with a net GDP loss on the order of -3% to -4% – the job loss alone is around -1% of GDP in lost wages. That means the state will either project decent growth later this year or revise its forecast significantly downward.

    Last, the rate of job loss is not improving at all – and may be accelerating. This phase of the Depression is still very much underway.

  2. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 04/03/2009 - 01:11 pm.

    This looks like the best time to raise taxes, increase regulation, establish trade protectionism, and tax all carbon.

    Of course, if you are a democrat, “now” is always the time to raise taxes.

  3. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/04/2009 - 12:37 am.

    I’ve seen it suggested elsewhere that quoting the U3 number alone – as though it sufficed, as though it told what needed to be told – is irresponsible journalism.

    Unfortunately, most of our mainstream information sources repeat the top-line U3 number, like good parrots.

    Those of us who appreciate responsible journalism appreciate Steve Perry’s work in this and other subject areas. It is critically important at this time.

    Another dimension hidden in the top-line U3 unemployment number is in the “long term” unemployed – those who are still looking, but have been unable to find a job for 6 months or more.

    This is now at 24% and growing (Discussed on National Employment Law Project web site). That’s right – 1 in 4 have been unsuccessful for 6 months running, or more. Their numbers are growing, and they are looking at the elapse of their unemployment benefits – and soon.

    For some, losing their unemployment benefits means losing the last critical part of their safety net. When job seekers outnumber available jobs by a 7:1 ratio, it suggests there IS no job for 6 out of 7. What are they supposed to do? Disappear?

    When they become discouraged and stop looking, they WILL be “disappeared” from U3. Thereafter, they continue to exist only in the U6 number, the statistical hospice for the unemployed. We all know how much reporting the mainstream gives the U6 number.

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