Yesterday the Labor Department released its October jobs report which showed a slight decline in the national unemployment rate, falling to 9.0 percent. The number of long term unemployed -those out of work six months or longer also fell. Arthur Delaney at the Huffington Post writes,
“The number of long-term unemployed fell 366,000 to 5.9 million, the Labor Department announced Friday. But since it first topped 6 million at the end of 2009, the size of the population coping with six or more months of joblessness hasn’t changed much. The latest datapoint represents the third time the number of long-term jobless dipped below 6 million this year. Each of the two previous times, it went back above 6 million the next month.
In other words, October’s decline in long-term joblessness is small potatoes. The below graph, from economist Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal D.C. think tank, shows the trend in prolonged unemployment since 2006.
“There is a lot of month-to-month variability in these numbers,” Shierholz said. “It’s just been hovering around 6 million for the last year.”
Shierholz said there were 4.4 million people who’d been out of work a full year in October 2010. That number has fallen to 4.1 million. But the number of very long-term jobless — people out of work 99 weeks or longer — tells a more a discouraging story.
At this time in 2010, there were 1.5 million jobless who’d passed the 99 week mark. Now there are 1.8 million. (There were 2 million in September, but since these particular data on unemployment duration are not seasonally adjusted, month-over-month comparisons don’t really work.) The 99 week milestone is significant because once someone’s been out of work that long, he or she no longer qualifies for unemployment insurance.”
Even if the long-term jobless numbers did come down because people actually found a job (versus giving up their search for work), it’s not necessarily (or likely) ‘good news’ about the condition of the economy or the outlook for job seekers.
Yours truly just landed a permanent job -the first in more than three years. It is a part time, low wage job (less than 20 hours per week) – earning minimum wage ($7.25/hr) for the first time in my life other than a 102 months stinut working at a restaurant at age 15. After earning a BS in finance in 2003 (as a night student while working full time for companies such as INVESCO), I now earn 24% of what I used to. This means I am now (still a 99er) and among the ‘working poor’. (Did I mention that the Colorado minimum wage requirement will increase to $7.64 in January?)
While I’m ‘happy’ to have had landed a PERMANENT job, I find absolutely no comfort, satisfaction or any signficiant increased level of ‘hope for economic prosperity’ because I landed a job paying me $130-150 per week – and thereby contributed to the decrease in long term joblessness. I am in touch with many of the long term unemployed – many of whom are over age 45-50. In my conversations with them, as well as very recent conversations with others inquiring about the the ad I placed on Craigslist to sell my car (the very last of my assets), the long term unemployed are either (still) not finding work at all or are working in minimum wage, part time jobs such as the one I just landed. This is particularly true for ‘older’ workers.
On October 28, The Colorado Center on Law & Policy (CCLP) the Self-Sufficiency Standard for 2011. A Public News Service article titled ‘Making Ends Meet in Colorado’ includes the following regarding the 2011 report from CCLP:
“…the report, which details the cost of living in each of Colorado’s 64 counties, finds that financial hardship is more widespread than federal estimates indicate.
The federal government says the national poverty rate is just above 12 percent, which translates into an income of less than $15,000 for a family of two. But Tracey Stewart, manager of the center’s Family Economic Security Program, who worked on the new report, says a family of two in Colorado would need to make at least twice that – and often much more – to afford basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing.
“What we’re looking at is a growing gap between what it takes to be self-sufficient and how much folks have not been able to do that purely because wages have not kept up with costs.”
Housing prices in Colorado have remained basically unchanged since the housing bubble, and other costs, such as for food or utilities, have gone up, Stewart says. The report finds that of the top 10 most common jobs in Colorado, only four have median wages above the self-sufficiency standard.”
As noted above, if you’re among the ‘older’ Americans looking for work, the picture is even worse: Baby Boomers- those aged 55 and over – now make up 43 % of the long term unemployed (the highest rate of any age group):
“People age 55 and older are still the most likely to be part of the long-term unemployed, according to research released this week. The numbers point to a continuation of a trend that has persisted throughout the economic downturn: In a competitive, fast-changing job market, older applicants are finding their options especially limited.
More than 4.4 million people in the U.S. are among the long-term unemployed, meaning they’ve been looking for work for a year or more, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts, which made its research available on Tuesday.
The long-term unemployed include people of all ages, but it’s people 55 and older who might have it the worst. Over 43 percent of unemployed people in that age range — some 923,000 people — have been out of work a year or more. That’s the highest rate of any age group.
Overall, nearly a third of all of the unemployed — 31.8 percent — have been jobless for more than a year.“
Bottom line: It is simply false to imply or suggest that there is any good news in yesterday’s October jobs report which shows a slight decline in the number of long term unemployed workers and decline in the national unemployment rate which fell to 9% from 9.1%.
Joan Freeman at Gray Matters Coalition:
“Age discrimination is a PEOPLE problem that crosses all boundaries, gender, national origin , religion , disabilities, blue or white collar, profession, political, group, coalition, union, association, no matter who you are-you will be effected.
Allowing outside influences & distractions to keep boomers & 55+ ers divided into small groups is self defeating & that is how big biz likes it.”
Learn about the increased difficulty in age discrimination (thanks to a 2009 Supreme Court ruling) and sign the Gray Matters petition :
“2011 Fair Playing Field Act to Protect American Workers
Against Age Discrimination” http://signon.org/s/HkT7QV
If you haven’t already, please sign my Change.org petition which now has more than 101,000 signatures!