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Not "Good News In Unemployment"

Posted by Ted Canova on March 5, 2011 at 10:00 AM

By Ted Canova

Unemployment news is a trigger for me. Since starting JobTalkAmerica, I see the monthly unemployment numbers as a facade. The public sees the scorecard and mainstream media decides if it's "good news" or "bad news." Then national amnesia sets in for the month. During the other 29 or so days, there are millions of ordinary people, through no fault of their own, who struggle with guilt, shame and little hope to re-ignite a fading careeer.


On the drive to work today, the anticipation on radio rivaled election night returns.

  • "Economists are hopeful....
  • "The jobs picture looked better in January, so February may...
  • "Silicon Valley is hiring...

Then, the numbers were release and the predictible headlines followed.

  • Unemployment droped to 8.9%. The nation added 192,000 jobs in February.
  • "Spurred by Private Hiring, Job Growth Gathers Steam"
  • "Signs Pointing Up"

But behind the cozy headlines, is the plain truth: February looks good because January, with chaotic winter and closed businesses, was paralyzed like the 1,028 buses in snowy Midtown Manhattan.


But 8.9% is better than 9.8%. This means 13.7 million Americans were unemployed, right? Well, no and here's another problem. A better indictator of America's unemployment is the U6 number compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This includes discouraged Americans who are so burnt out from job hunting that they stopped looking for jobs that don't even exist. It also includes part timers without benefits dying for a fultime gig. The U6 inched down .2% to 15.9% in February.


Do the math. 16% unemployment means more than 20 million Americans are out of work or barely making it. The National Employment Law Project adds perspective with its analysis:

  • Lower-wage industries constituted 23 percent of job loss, but 49 percent of recent growth
  • Mid-wage industries constituted 36 percent of job loss, and 37 percent of recent growth
  • Higher-wage industries constituted 40 percent of job loss, but only 14 percent of recent growth.

Adding 192,000 new jobs in February is a start. But before you sustain your enthusiasm for any month's jobless numbers, realize this: the country lost 8.7 million jobs during this recession. We've made up only about 1.2 million jobs. For America to dig out for real, we'd need to create 200,000 to 400,000 a month for 3-5 years. After we find work for the 8.9% unemployed, then maybe we can help the other 7% barely noticed.

For tips to find a job, listen to JobTalkAmerica.

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