The Jobless Rate Appears To Have Stabilized, But the Odds of Finding Work Remain Slim

California’s unemployment rate appears to have stabilized in November, in line with economists’ projections that the recession would bottom out in California by the end of this year. The state’s jobless rate stood at 12.3 percent in November – a figure that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported was not statistically different from October’s 12.5 percent rate.

While it’s good news that the state’s economy could be at a turning point, it’s not yet time to celebrate because jobs remain extremely hard to come by. A BLS dataset that tracks groups of jobless Americans over time shows that:

  • Very few jobless found work in November, and the odds of finding a job have steadily dropped. Only about one out of six Americans (16.4 percent) who were jobless in October found employment in November. Two years earlier, the unemployed had a much better chance of finding work: In a given month, more than one out of four jobless found work.
  • The majority of America’s jobless stay unemployed from one month to the next. Nearly two out of three Americans who were unemployed in October (65.5 percent) remained jobless in November. Two years ago, the jobless had a 50-50 chance of staying unemployed in a given month. The remaining 18.1 percent of Americans who were unemployed in October stopped looking for work and “dropped out” of the labor force in November.
  • Women are less likely to find work and more likely to leave the labor force than men. Just 14.1 percent of women who were jobless in October found work in November, compared to 17.7 percent of unemployed men. This difference reflects the fact that a larger share of women gave up their job search and dropped out of the labor force in November: 22.0 percent of women stopped looking for work, compared to 15.0 percent of men.

Although the end of the recession may be in sight, these statistics make clear that the suffering is far from over for the unemployed. That’s why it’s important that the US Senate act quickly to extend unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and continue health insurance subsidies for the unemployed.

— Alissa Anderson

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