Employment picks up

A job seeker greets a recruiter during a job fair held by the California Employment Development Department and the San Francisco Veterans Employment Committee May 12, 2010 in San Francisco, Calif.

Kai Ryssdal: The employment news this first Friday of the month is -- for a long-overdue change -- pretty good. The economy added 216,000 jobs in March. The unemployment rate hit a two-year low of 8.8 percent. And almost everywhere you looked, there was hiring: manufacturing, health care, education, hotels and restaurants. Temporary work is up, which gives at least some of the unemployed a way back into the workforce.

But the better it gets for most, the worse it gets for some. Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman reports.

Mitchell Hartman: Private employers have hired more than half a million new workers this year. And the unemployment rate's fallen a full percent since Thanksgiving.

Gary Burtless: The better the news, the less most of the rest of us worry about the people who are without jobs.

Gary Burtless is a labor economist at the Brookings Institution.

Burtless: The layoff rate has come way down, and unfortunately that makes a lot of employed people a little less sympathetic.

Which makes Melissa Boteach's job way harder. She's campaign coordinator for an anti-poverty coalition called Half in Ten and all this good job news...

Melissa Boteach: It can really mask the needs of the long-term unemployed. Nearly half of the unemployed have been out of work for six months or longer -- that's 6.1 million people. And about a third have been out of work for over a year.

And the situation's getting worse. The average job hunt now takes 39 weeks -- the longest since 1948.

Boteach: One of the things that we can do is to invest in job training.

That's a seriously uphill battle, though, with Republicans in Congress trying to slash this year's worker education budget.

Gary Burtless at Brookings says job training can help older and less-educated workers find a place in the 'new economy.'

Burtless: But I don't think we should kid ourselves that it's going to play a big role in the next year or two years in getting the unemployment rate down.

That's because there are still about five job-seekers for every available job, so even re-trained workers will face plenty of competition.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.
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