The Labor Department reported today that nearly 600,000 people filed for unemployment last week. That’s an annual rate of over 30 million workers losing their jobs – over 20% of the work force.
I thought you might be interested in some anecdotes from the state of Michigan. It was reported yesterday that in one month, from November to December, unemployment in Michigan rose by a full percentage point to 10.6%. And it seems that the unemployment offices have been completely overwhelmed. Phone lines are jammed. The web site has crashed from overuse. People are forced to take their questions directly to the unemployment office. The local news showed a line at one such office that appeared to stretch for a full city block. I’m reminded of pictures of the unemployed waiting in lines during the Great Depression. And many of these are highly skilled people. One guy interviewed had two master’s degrees and worked in an IT department. Yet, some politicians still offer up “job retraining” as the solution. Retraining to do what? Where is the huge demand for labor that’s going unmet because Americans are too uneducated to fill the positions? The only retraining needed around here is how to fill out unemployment application forms.
I’m also reminded of a visit to Michigan by Mitt Romney during the Republican primary campaign. He told Michiganders condescendingly that we’re in a “one-state recession.” Well, it isn’t a one-state recession any more, is it? It makes you wonder whether the state of Michigan is the canary in the coal mine for the U.S. economy. If we are, the rest of you had better hunker down because it’s going to get much, much worse!