12.04.2009 News Releases

National Job Losses Moderate

CHAPEL HILL (December 4, 2009) – New national employment data show that November was the 22nd-straight month in which the economy shed more jobs than it added. Last month, 11,000 positions were lost, and 10 percent of the labor force was unemployed.

“The job market paused to catch its breath in November, and job losses were mild by the standards of this recession,” says John Quinterno, a principal at South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Unfortunately, the overall employment situation remains bleak.”

In November, the nation’s employers eliminated 11,000 more payroll positions than they added. Also, revisions to the September and October data revealed that the economy lost fewer positions than first reported.

November job losses were concentrated in the manufacturing (-41,000); construction (-27,000); and information (-17,000) industries. These losses primarily were offset by gains in the professional and business services (+86,000) and health care (+21,000) fields. Much of the increase in professional services employment was driven by hiring in the temporary help services sub-industry (+52,000).

“Although the pace of jobs losses has moderated recently, the labor market remains incredibly weak,” notes Quinterno. “Since the recession started almost two years ago, the American economy has jettisoned 7.2 million jobs – an amount equal to 5.2 percent of all the positions that existed in December 2007.”

That decline is reflected in the household data released this morning. In November, 15.4 million Americans – 10 percent of the labor force – were jobless and actively seeking work. Proportionally more adult male workers were unemployed than female ones (10.5 percent versus 7.9 percent). Similarly, unemployment rates were higher among Black (15.6 percent) and Hispanic workers (12.7 percent) than among White ones (9.3 percent). Additionally, employment participation levels were the lowest ones recorded since the mid-1980s.

“Jobless workers are finding it incredibly difficult to find new positions,” adds Quinterno. “Last month, 38 percent of all unemployed workers had been out of work for at least six months, and the average spell of unemployment was 28.5 weeks. Because the number of job seekers far exceeds the number of job openings, many more individuals simply have given up on finding work. Counting those individuals would bring the underemployment rate to 17.2 percent.”

Today’s national data suggest that another weak employment report is in store for North Carolina. Since the recession’s start, North Carolina employers have eliminated, on net, 238,100 positions, and the statewide unemployment rate has climbed to 11 percent.

“In recent months, job losses and unemployment have abated and seem to have settled at extremely high levels,” observes Quinterno. “At the same time, little points to an imminent reversal. Consumer demand remains week, the housing market is dragging on growth, and the non-residential real estate bubble is deflating. Even more alarmingly, the federal recovery package probably has achieved its maximum effect, and elements of the package like extended unemployment insurance soon will start to phase out.”

“Based on current trends, it appears that high levels of joblessness will remain the norm into the future,” cautions Quinterno. “In fact, a growing number of studies suggest that unemployment rates will linger around the 10 percent mark through 2011, absent additional federal action.”

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