There’s some positive news on the job front from the US Department of Labor today. The US economy lost only 11,000 jobs last month, compared to an average of 135,000 in each of the three previous months. (These numbers reflect the net change in jobs – each month, even in a recession, some new jobs are created, and some jobs are lost.) And 117,000 jobs have been added in the temporary help industry since July. Employers often start rebuilding their workforces by hiring temporary workers, so that is an encouraging signal that employers are becoming more confident.
The economic recovery package may deserve credit for the improved jobs picture. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) created or saved between 600,000 and 1.6 million jobs across the country through the end of September. And the ARRA will continue to fuel job creation over the coming months and years; only about one in four ARRA dollars has been spent so far.
The bad news from the Department of Labor is that it’s taking much longer for the nation’s unemployed workers to find work than it did last year or even in October. Nationally, nearly 40 percent of jobless workers have been out of a job for more than half a year. That’s a record high for this sad statistic. And although Congress extended unemployment insurance payments last month, millions of workers will run out of jobless benefits next year unless Congress renews ARRA programs for the unemployed. That additional help is critical for families trying to make it through long periods without work.
California’s employment situation has been worse than the national picture since the recession began. In October, the latest month for which state-level data are available, California’s unemployment rate was 12.5 percent, while nationally 10.2 percent of workers were without jobs that month. New data due out in two weeks will show whether the state is following the US path toward a brighter job market.
— Vicky Lovell