Recovery: US Jobless Rate Rises To 9.8 Percent

War is peace! The Greatest Depression is recovery!

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The unemployment rate jumped to 9.8 percent as hiring slowed in November, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday, again indicating that the economic recovery is wobbly.

It was the fifth-highest monthly unemployment rate reported since the beginning of the downturn.

“Today’s jobs report could not have been worse for unemployed Americans and a struggling economy anxious for better news,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.

More than 15 million people remain unemployed.

But Wall Street investors shrugged off the report, and stocks climbed slightly, buoyed in part by positive signs this week on consumer spending.

Indeed, in some ways there appear to be two very different faces of the economy.

This week, pending home sales jumped a surprising 10 percent; sales by U.S. automakers climbed by double-digit percentages; and many of the nation’s largest retailers reported better-than-expected sales last month.

Moreover, the news for those holding jobs was relatively positive. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 1.6 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

“The lesson the last year has been the increasing dichotomy between the jobless and those who have been able to hang onto their jobs,” said Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

He said the wage increases were “even pretty good by post-war standards.”

But Keith Daughtry, 48, a carpenter for Clark Construction until last April, said that if the economy is recovering, he sees little sign of it. He was standing outside of the D.C. Employment Services office on H Street NE on Friday.

“They say [the economy] is up, but to me it’s still down,” he said. “Walk down this street and tell me how many hiring signs you see in windows.”

Kristie Armstrong, 32, worked as a tour guide for Open Top Sightseeing buses last summer and fall but hasn’t been scheduled in the last month. She’s been told that work will pick up with warmer weather in March, “but I need money now,” she said outside the D.C. unemployment office.

“People keep saying there’s going to be more jobs, but we’re not seeing it,” she said. Referring to her visit to the unemployment office, she added: “This is the first time I’ve ever had to do anything like this.”

Exactly how to handle the lingering unemployment problem has created an increasingly controversial fissure in the national political debate.

Democratic lawmakers have been working to extend unemployment insurance into 2011, but Republicans are demanding spending cuts to offset the costs of the extension.

Without congressional approval, unemployment benefits will run out for 2 million people in December, and several million more will lose them in the coming months.

Meanwhile, most of the pressures of unemployment are being borne by the nation’s less educated: The unemployment rate among adults with a high school education or less is at least double that for workers with a bachelor’s degree.

Citing the dismal jobs report, Vice President Biden pushed Congress to extend the unemployment insurance benefits, a top priority for the administration during the lame-duck session of Congress.

“Extending that support to those hardest hit by this crisis is not only the right thing to do . . . it is economically necessary for us to do it,” Biden said, noting that the unemployment payments will boost spending in the economy.

It is the slow and uneven pace of job creation that has stymied efforts to reduce unemployment.

While nonfarm payroll employment climbed 172,000 in October, the report said, it rose by only 39,000 in November.

Even with much stronger growth in the number of jobs, however, it could be more than a year before the unemployment rate falls to more moderate levels.

The Social Security Administration estimates the United States will have to add at least 200,000 jobs a month to push unemployment below 8 percent by 2012, assuming that the rate of people joining the workforce remains steady.

By Peter Whoriskey and Nathan Rott
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, December 4, 2010

Source: The Washington Post

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