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June 12, 2024

NAACP Field Secretary and civil rights leader, Medgar Evers, was assassinated in front of his home in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963.

Jobless Numbers Point to Crisis

POSTED: February 06, 2009, 9:55 am

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If President Barack Obama needed any more ammunition to argue for his economic recovery package, he received it with this morning’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Summary report for January. Coming off two consecutive months in which the economy shed half a million jobs in each month, the loss of 598,000 jobs in January provides a punctuation mark to the nation’s economic crisis. The nation’s unemployment rate now stands at 7.6 percent. The number of people who have lost jobs and who have completed temporary jobs increased to 7 million last month, an increase of 3.2 million during the last 12 months.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released January’s jobless numbers; 598,000 jobs were lost last month and the nation’s unemployment rate hit 7.6 percent. Black unemployment now stands at 12.6 percent, compared to whites at 6.9 percent, and Black teenage unemployment is at 36.5 percent. Black men are also fairing particularly bad as their unemployment rate stands at 14.1 percent while it is 9.2 percent for Black women. These numbers reveal the sense of urgency in the Black community for relief as the President’s economic recovery package winds its way through Congress. As Black men and teens fall out of the labor market the deepening crisis will begin to have spillover effects in the community; as homeowner and renters will not be able to keep pace with monthly payments, the public health system will be overwhelmed as the unemployed seek medical care through local hospitals since many will lose their health care benefits along with their jobs, and ultimately crime will increase as desperation grows.

There were 2.1 million people marginally attached to the labor market last month, an increase of 400,000 than 12 months ago. These people wanted and were available for work but could not find a job sometime in the last 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly survey. Among this group were 734,000 discouraged workers. These people are not currently looking for work because they do not believe there are jobs available for them. The number of discouraged workers has increased by 270,000 from a year earlier. The remaining 1.4 million persons who were marginally attached had not searched for a job in the four weeks prior to the BLS survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.

The job losses spread across industries and sectors within industries. Manufacturing employment fell by 207,000 jobs in January. Durable goods manufacturing lost 157,000 jobs with motor vehicles and parts shedding 31,000 jobs, the latter a sign of the continuing troubles in Detroit. Construction lost 111,000 jobs last month. The industry has shed 1 million jobs since peaking in January 2007.

Retail trade fell by 45,000 jobs last month as the sector began to feel the effect of a dismal holiday shopping season. Employment declined in automobile dealerships (14,000), building material and garden supply stores (10,000), department stores (9,000), and furniture and home furnishing stores (7,000). In each of those sectors last month, a prominent retailer announced job cuts, including Home Depot and Macy’s. Wholesale trade employment fell by 31,000 jobs in January.

Employment in transportation and warehousing dropped by 44,000 jobs last month, with most of the decline in the industry occurring in the last five months. In January, employment fell in truck transportation (25,000), support activities for transportation (9,000) and couriers and messengers (4,000). The temporary help industry lost 76,000 jobs in January. Since December 2006, the industry has declined by 695,000 jobs. Professional and technical services lost 29,000 jobs last month.

The financial services sector continues to show signs of stress. Now under a microscope due to the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), the industry lost 42,000 jobs last month. Employment in the industry has fallen by 388,000 since a peak in December 2006. In January, job losses occurred in securities, commodity contracts, and investments (15,000) and in credit intermediation (10,000).

The health care sector continued to be one of the few bright spots. The sector gained 19,000 jobs in January and averaged an increase of 30,000 a month last year. Employment in private education also moved in a positive direction, increasing by 33,000 jobs last month.

With this latest ammunition, President Obama is certain to immediately go on the offensive and the White House will likely use the data to push Senate Democrats to aggressively close the deal on the economic recovery package. The President is set to address the nation on Monday to call for Congress to pass the recovery bill but will likely begin making the push today when Press Secretary Robert Gibbs gives the daily White House briefing, and tomorrow during Mr. Obama’s weekly address.

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