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Weekly Unemployment Figures Seesaw

Unemployment is up and down, but overall, is it really getting much better?

Unemployment is up and down, but overall, is it really improving?

Watching unemployment figures weekly is like riding a seesaw for too long. Up and down we go, without much thrill or joy from the ride.

The latest weekly government data on unemployment is out, and it appears that the numbers have gone up a bit from July. More people are collecting unemployment this week than anticipated, although the number of those still on unemployment overall has actually at the lowest level since April 2009.

The Department of Labor reports that “in the week ending Aug. 8, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 558,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 554,000.”

Experts still expect the jobless rate to rise to 10 percent in 2009, says a Bloomberg news article on the figures. From that article:

Better-than-anticipated reports on manufacturing, housing and employment indicate the deepest job cuts may have passed. At the same time, while analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News say the government’s stimulus spending will spur economic growth as of this quarter, they predict it won’t stop the jobless rate from reaching 10 percent and restraining consumer spending.

“The job market is no longer skidding out of control,” Carl Riccadonna, a senior economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York, said before the report. Nonetheless, he said, “while the stimulus is helping the economy gain traction, we’re not going to see a massive ramp-up in hiring because of it.”

What regions are seeing the unemployment rates zigzag across data streams for early August? The Department of Labor says that “the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending Aug. 1 were in Alabama (+721), Washington (+692), Nebraska (+306), Kentucky (+247), and Delaware (+157), while the largest decreases were in California (-7,258), Michigan (-7,031), Tennessee (-4,391), Florida (-3,358), and Georgia (-2,538).”

Depending on whether you have a micro or macro view of the economy, unemployment is either getting better or is destined to stick around. As  New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote about the July unemployment figures:

[B]ehind the official numbers is a scary story that illustrates the single biggest challenge facing the United States today. The American economy does not seem able to provide enough jobs — and nowhere near enough good jobs — to maintain the standard of living that most Americans have come to expect.

The country has lost a crippling 6.7 million jobs since the Great Recession began in December 2007. No one is predicting a recovery in the foreseeable future powerful enough to replace the millions of jobs that have vanished in this historic downturn.

Analysts at the Economic Policy Institute noted that the economy has fewer jobs now than it had in 2000, “even though the labor force has grown by around 12 million workers since then.”

Have you recently lost your job? Here are some articles that may ease some worries:

[Image by span via Flickr CC 2.0]

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