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Vol. 74/No. 7      February 22, 2010

Long-term joblessness
reaches new high
(front page)
The duration of unemployment reached an all-time high in January—an average of nearly seven months—and the official unemployment rate for the month is 9.7 percent. The fact this rate is down 0.3 percent from December has amplified claims the economic recovery is under way.

The latest employment figures are “signs of the beginning of recovery,” stated Christina Romer, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the day the report was released.

The decline in January reflects a seasonal adjustment, while the number actually counted as unemployed rose by 1.4 million. Pronouncements of economic recovery are little encouragement for these workers, as well as those with jobs, many of whom are worried the ax is about to fall.

Some 3,500 employees at St. Vincent’s Hospital, a major medical facility in New York City, face an uncertain future as hospital owners are threatening to close it. Verizon is slashing 13,000 jobs and Home Depot is planning to lay off 1,000 workers.

The official unemployment rate for African Americans, which has been steadily rising over the past year, is now 16.5 percent, up from 12.8 percent a year ago. For Latinos, 12.6 percent are unemployed, and for teenagers, 26.4 percent.

With 14.8 million workers officially unemployed last month and an additional 2.5 million workers not counted because they are “marginally attached” to the workforce, few workers would read the government report as encouraging.

“It’s no wonder unemployed workers are getting discouraged,” stated CNNMoney. “It’s never taken longer to find a new job.” The number of long-term unemployed—those without jobs for 27 weeks or more—was 6.3 million in January, setting a new record for the 10th month in a row.

Payments could be halted next month for as many as 1.2 million workers receiving unemployment insurance checks unless Congress passes legislation extending benefit payments.

While the bosses hold off on hiring, those with jobs are being forced to work harder through increased speedup, inevitably causing more injuries. “During the past two quarters productivity expanded at an astounding pace of close to 8 percent annualized,” Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi told Daily Finance. “This is the strongest two-quarter gain on record outside of a period in the early 1960s.”

For the fourth quarter of 2009, “productivity” rose at a 6.2 percent annual rate with output rising by 7.2 percent and work hours increasing an average of 1 percent. The productivity increase was even higher in manufacturing at 7.8 percent. During this time, real wages fell by nearly 2 percent, according to

The Barack Obama administration is promising to offer a $5,000 tax credit to small businesses for each worker they hire. But the National Federation of Independent Business reported last month that more small employers nationwide are expecting to cut jobs rather than hire over the next three months.  
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