Good News/Bad News On New Unemployment Figures

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Although it sounds like good news, I'd hold off on the cheering just yet:

The American unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to its lowest level in two and a half years in November, despite the many global crises batting against the economy.
The unemployment rate fell to 8.6 percent, after having been stuck around 9 percent for most of 2011, the Labor Department said Friday. Additionally, a separate government survey found that the nation’s employers added 120,000 jobs last month, after adding 100,000 jobs in October.

So lower unemployment rate and slightly more jobs added this month. Good, right? Well....

The jobless rate fell partly because more workers got jobs, but also because about 315,000 workers dropped out of the labor force, and the jobless rate counts only people who are actively looking for work. Even so, the country still has a backlog of more than 13 million unemployed workers, whose periods of unemployment averaged an all-time high of 40.9 weeks.

“They say businesses are refusing to look at résumés from the unemployed,” said Esther Perry, 59, of Bedford, Mass., who participated in a recent report on unemployed workers put together by USAction, a liberal coalition. “What do you think my chances are? Once unemployment runs out, I don’t know what I will do.”

So now we're facing more chronically unemployed people who are simply falling off the rolls, never to be considered by a politician again. As Robert Borosage from Campaign for America's Future puts it:

“This fragile growth now faces fierce headwinds, with austerity in Europe and Great Britain driving those economies into recession. The financial crisis in Europe will impact zombie banks in the United States.

“While it looks like that Congress finally may use small band aids to attempt to stop the economic bleeding like the payroll tax extension and extending unemployment benefits, they are not doing what is needed to push this economy back in to firing on all cylinders.”

“We need Congress and the Federal Reserve to act now to put people back to work. Use the opportunity posed by record low interest rates to rebuild our decrepit infrastructure. Provide young workers with jobs in urban corps and green corps and the non-profit sector. Provide aid to states and localities to avoid more devastating layoffs of teachers and cops.”


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