August 8, 2009

When the above interview was taped in January, the actual unemployment rate was 14%. Now it's around 15.5%. And NYT financial columnist Floyd Norris takes a look at some other depressing numbers from a recent release from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development:

As I went over the numbers, the one that leaped out at me was that the auto manufacturing business had added 28,200 workers. Added? That sure is not the impression you’d get from the reports coming from Detroit.

It turns out those are seasonally adjusted numbers. Before seasonal adjustment, the number of auto workers fell by 8,600. I doubt the seasonal adjustment factors have much to do with current trends.

Still, it is clear that things are getting worse slowly. Fewer people are losing their jobs. But long-term unemployment is higher than ever.

The number of unemployed people who have been unemployed for 14 weeks or less was 6.79 million in July, the lowest figure for that group since December. But the number unemployed for 15 weeks or more was 7.88 million, up 74 percent since December and the highest figure ever.

For the first time ever — or at least since the government started counting the figures in 1948 — more than a third of the unemployed have been out of work for at least 27 weeks. The average unemployed person had been jobless for less than 20 weeks at the end of last year. Now the figure is over 25 weeks.

Is it good news that fewer people are losing their jobs? Yes. Is it bad news that the number of long-term unemployed is rising? Yes.

This week, I realized it was the one-year anniversary of my layoff. Yikes.

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