Like a rollercoaster, the nation’s economy continues to take a circuitous route toward recovery. While there have been recent indications that the grip of the recession might be loosening, new date released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides a stark picture of how workers are faring. The BLS’s Employment Situation Summary for October reports that unemployment rose from 9.8 percent to 10.2 percent over the month. It is the highest unemployment rate since April 1983 during the Reagan recession. The total number of unemployed persons increased by 558,000 to 15.7 million.
Black Americans are being devastated by the economic downturn. Black unemployment is now at 15.7 percent, and although it is less than twice that of whites, a multiplier that has almost become a benchmark; it still represents dangerously high levels of employment among Blacks. Today’s Chicago Tribune features an article that describes how the Black middle class is being wiped out by the recession. Black men and teenagers are worse off than any group, with 17.1 percent and 41.3 percent unemployment respectively. The unemployment rate for Black women was 12.4 percent. What the numbers do not tell is the extent of Blacks separation from the labor market since the official unemployment rate does not account for individuals’ no longer pursuing work and who are not accounted for in the official unemployment statistics. As high as unemployment appears in the Black community, real joblessness is even worse.
Last month the economy shed 190,000 jobs with the largest losses in construction, manufacturing and retail trade. Construction employment fell by 62,000 jobs last month and has averaged 67,000 during the last six months. Since the start of the recession in December 2007, employment in construction related industries has fallen by 1.6 million jobs. A similar loss was experienced in the manufacturing sector in October, as jobs fell by 61,000 for the month. Manufacturing has been hardest hit since the start of the recession, shedding 2.1 million jobs. Retail trade lost 40,000 jobs in October, with declines across the sector but concentrated in sporting goods, music stores and department stores.
As if to forewarn lawmakers during the debate on health care reform, the health care sector again showed an increase in employment as it added 29,000 jobs last month. The sector has been one of the few showing growth since the recession began; gaining 597,000 jobs. Last month, jobs in temporary help services increased by 34,000. This has been a reversal of a negative trend for a sector that averaged a loss of 44,000 jobs per month between January 2008 and July 2009. Since July temporary health services has added 44,000 jobs to the economy.
For a complete picture of the October Employment Situation Summary report, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics website at www.bls.gov.