One of the most distressing aspects of the financial crisis is the huge job losses both in the this country and world wide. Few life events are more devestating than a job loss.
As Tula Connell reported in the AFL-CIO Now Blog on January 9, 2009,
The jobless numbers out today are worse than even the most pessimistic analysts imagined: 524,000 jobs lost in December, pushing the nation’s unemployment rate to 7.2 percent. Under the Bush administration, 2008 has become the worst year for job loss since 1945, with nearly 2.6 million jobs lost last year alone. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 11.1 million of America’s workers are unemployed.
December was the 12th straight month of job loss and included a loss of 21,400 jobs in auto and parts industries. From Bloomberg:
Manufacturing, which makes up 12 percent of the economy, shrank in December at the fastest pace in 28 years, Institute for Supply Management figures showed. Payrolls at builders dropped by 101,000 after decreasing 85,000. Financial firms reduced payrolls by 14,000, after a 28,000 loss the prior month. Service industries, which include banks, insurance companies, restaurants and retailers, subtracted 273,000 workers after a decline of 402,000.
Employment in retail trade declined by 67,000 in December and by 522,000 for all of 2008. More than half of the losses in 2008 occurred in the last four months of the year.
And it’s taking longer and longer to find a job, as National Employment Law Project Executive Director Christine Owens notes:
It is particularly telling that the number of Americans who have been looking for work for more than six months skyrocketed to a whopping 2.6 million, now accounting for nearly one in four of the unemployed.
As bad as the official 7.2 percent unemployment rate is, the situation for unemployed or underemployed is actually far worse. The official unemployment rate of 7.2 percent does not include underemployed workers and those who are discouraged, and if they were included, analysts estimate the U.S. unemployment rate would be 13.5 percent, up 6 percentage points from 2007.
(Dakine01 at Oxdown describes what it’s really like to be among the long-term jobless. Read his diary here.)
But it looks like the Bush legacy of job destruction will continue long after he’s gone. Meeting last month, the Federal Reserve predicted the U.S. economy is likely to deteriorate further this year and unemployment will rise into 2010.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney today spelled out the steps needed for long-term economic health:
Broad-based economic changes must be made to ensure sustained economic growth and broadly shared prosperity. We must restore American competitiveness to deal with our country’s unsustainable trade deficit. We must guarantee affordable, quality health care coverage for everyone. We must thoroughly reform our financial regulatory system to provide more transparency and effective government oversight and regulation. And to ensure that the middle class is rebuilt, we must pass the Employee Free Choice Act so workers can bargain collectively with their employers for better lives.
Yesterday, President-elect Barack Obama urged Congress to act quickly on an economic recovery package before it’s too late. Already, some in the Senate want to slow the process, delaying passage until mid-to-late February. As Obama puts it:
I don’t believe it’s too late to change course, but it will be if we don’t take dramatic action as soon as possible. If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years. The unemployment rate could reach double digits. Our economy could fall $1 trillion short of its full capacity, which translates into more than $12,000 in lost income for a family of four. We could lose a generation of potential and promise, as more young Americans are forced to forgo dreams of college or the chance to train for the jobs of the future. And our nation could lose the competitive edge that has served as a foundation for our strength and standing in the world.
In short, a bad situation could become dramatically worse.
Many working people are holding our breath, waiting for the nightmare of the Bush administration to end, and for the new direction that the Obama administration represents to start turning our country, including our economy, around. Its just a little more than a week until inauguration day. While changing the direction of our economic devestation will take some time, after January 20th, when President-elect Obama takes office, we can look forward to efforts to help and sensitivity to the issues that are impacting so many of us as workers and members of working families.