The Situation Is Bleak. As Economy Still Bleeds Jobs, Experts Predict Another Jobless Recovery

First, the bad news: WASHINGTON (AP) — Employers cut a larger-than-expected 467,000 jobs in June, driving the unemployment rate up to a 26-year h

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First, the bad news:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Employers cut a larger-than-expected 467,000 jobs in June, driving the unemployment rate up to a 26-year high of 9.5 percent, suggesting that the economy's road to recovery will be bumpy.

The Labor Department report, released Thursday, showed that even as the recession flashes signs of easing, companies likely will want to keep a lid on costs and be wary of hiring until they feel certain the economy is on a solid ground.

June's payroll reductions were deeper than the 363,000 that economists expected.

However, the rise in the unemployment rate from 9.4 percent in May wasn't as sharp as the expected 9.6 percent. Still, many economists predict the jobless rate will hit 10 percent this year, and keep rising into next year, before falling back.

All told, 14.7 million people were unemployed in June.

If laid-off workers who have given up looking for new jobs or have settled for part-time work are included, the unemployment rate would have been 16.5 percent in June, the highest on records dating to 1994.

Since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has lost a net total of 6.5 million jobs.

As the downturn bites into sales and profits, companies have turned to layoffs and other cost-cutting measures to survive. Those include holding down workers' hours and freezing or cutting pay.

The average work week in June fell to 33 hours, the lowest on records dating to 1964.

The worse news: as some economists predicted, the stimulus package was too small to affect the "real" economy - you know, the one you and I live in? - in any significant way. Sounds like those who urged Obama to think large and visionary (a la FDR's Public Works Administration) really did have the right idea:

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Reporting from Washington -- Even as the nation's economy begins clawing its way out of the worst recession in 60 years, there are growing signs that this recovery could come with an unsettling twist: The wheels of commerce may begin to turn again without any substantial boost in jobs.

Not only is the national unemployment rate, now 9.4%, likely to climb into double digits later this year, but it is also expected to remain there well into 2010, economists say. That would prolong the misery of the unemployed, squeeze retailers and other businesses, and add millions of dollars in government costs and lost productivity. It could even threaten the recovery itself.

Though it's common for the jobless rate to keep climbing for a time after economic output turns positive, the aftermath of the last two downturns, in 1990-91 and 2001, introduced the idea of a "jobless recovery." Even though the economy improved, many unemployed workers discovered that jobs as good as the ones they'd lost were almost impossible to find.

This time, many economists say, there are new factors that could make the problem worse. Many more layoffs in this recession have been permanent, not temporary.

About Susie Madrak

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