Worst String of Monthly Job Losses on Record

This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the unemployment report for the month of March.  Another 663,000 jobs were lost and U3 unemployment hit 8.5%.  The broadest measure of unemployment, U6, which includes those who have given up looking for work and those who have settled on part-time jobs while still seeking full time employment, hit 16.2% (not seasonally adjusted).  (See http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t12.htm)

Here’s some additional data that highlights how truly bad the job market is.  The number of unemployed has now risen eleven consecutive months.  This is short of the record of 17 consecutive months from August, 1981 through December, 1982.  However, the total number of unemployed for the current string of months blows away that old record, coming in at 5.49 million vs. the ’81-’82 record of 4.19 million.  In other words, the ranks of the unemployed has exploded at a record pace.  Also, it should be noted that the number of unemployed has grown in 18 of the last 22 months. 

In terms of the number of jobs lost, March marks the 15th consecutive month of job losses, only two months shy of the record of 17 (since record-keeping began in 1939) set in the ’81-’82 recession.  But the current string of job losses, at 5.13 million, blows away the ’81-’82 recession string of 2.84 million.  The number of jobs lost in March, 663,000, is the worst since September of 1945, when the U.S. was quickly winding down its war effort.  (It’d be tough to beat that record.  That month, 1,966,000 jobs were lost at a time when the U.S. population and work force were half of today’s level.)  (See http://data.bls.gov/PDQ/servlet/SurveyOutputServlet for more info.)

What’s worse is that no one expects this string of monthly job losses to end any time soon.  Another Great Depression, when unemployment hit 25% in 1933?  Probably not.  But we’re careening in that direction at a record pace.

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4 Responses to Worst String of Monthly Job Losses on Record

  1. Jeremy says:

    You said, “Another ‘Great Depression’, when unemployment hit 25% in 1933?”
    Using the same methods of calculating the unemployments numbers as they did in the 30’s is closer to the U-6 unemployment calculation which is closer to 16% in March 09.

    • Pete Murphy says:

      Can you point me toward the calculation that was used at that time? I’d love to know what it was. I don’t think we’re at the same level as 1933. By that time, the Great Depression had been underway for three years. However, I do believe that the U6 calculation is probably close to the calculation used at that time. If so, another rise of 9% in unemployment will get us to 1933 levels. It’s not out of the realm of possibility.

  2. Clyde Bollinger says:

    The most frightening aspect to me in all of this job loss information is the lack of a shortage of manufactured goods. Were this many workers on strike, for instance, there would be lines forming to purchase the remaining available goods in the assumption that shortages were coming next. There is no mention of lost production due to layoffs and terminations. It appears that the remaining workforce is meeting demand. If this is indeed the case, where will the impetus to re-hire or add new workers come from? Is it possible the market does not need the laid off workers to function and that much of this is streamlining?
    The administration’s entire proposal is predicated on the presumption that demand exists, but is just dormant, and that when the shovel-ready bridge to no-where project starts things will turn around.
    I don’t have any more expectations of success by the current plan than the New Deal procduced, since it is essentially a repeat on a much more costly scale.

    • Pete Murphy says:

      This is exactly the problem. The world is awash in over-capacity, and we make matter worse here in the U.S. by importing this over-capacity from badly overpopulated nations. Globalization has become an unemployment-sharing program.

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