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Recession changing the way we live

Job seekers line up before dawn to register at a community employment center in Pasadena, Calif.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Kai Ryssdal: Alright, so I guess the official verdict on today's jobs report could best be summarized as medium-good. Overall, the economy dumped 54,000 jobs in August. You take out the temporary census workers going away, though, and the headline is that we got just about 70,000 new private-sector jobs last month. The unemployment rate, on the other hand, which does come from a different survey actually went up -- 9.6 percent is the number.

Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman is here to talk about the news of the day. Hey Mitchell.

Mitchell Hartman: Hi Kai.

Ryssdal: Let met ask you the nuts-and-bolts question first. We are adding private sector jobs, have been for a number of months now -- and yet the unemployment rate is going up. Make sense of that for me.

Hartman: Well, it's because people are coming back into the workforce to look for work again. They were sort of off the radar, now they're back on. Just in August, another 500,000. You know, people are running out of their unemployment benefits. There are these glimmers of hope in the job market. Unemployment will probably stay in this 9.5-10 percent range -- I don't know -- through November probably well into next year.

Ryssdal: November, of course, is the only date, really, that people in Washington care about; the elections are coming up. Is it going to become, voting time this fall, it's the economy, stupid?

Hartman: You know, maybe even more specifically, it's the jobs, stupid. We're starting to realize just how deeply and broadly this Great Recession has bitten into the way we live. Births in America were down 2.5 percent and marriages down 3.5 percent. Something called "new household formation," basically it has flattened out. Usually, we're adding like a million households a year, just from kids growing up and moving out, people getting married. All of this really suggests that people are just putting their lives on hold. They're deciding not to start families, not to leave home after high school or college. Demographers told me that a lot of this is really just about lack of jobs, lack of job opportunity.

Ryssdal: Alright, but wait a minute -- and I need to preface this by saying that unemployment is horrible, 10 percent unemployment is a very high number -- but I want to get at why this feeling of unease is so widespread, because 90 percent of the American workforce has a job. Why's it so widespread then?

Hartman: Well, the folks at the Pew Research Center have been doing a lot of surveys on this. They looked at why this relatively small unemployed sliver makes the rest of us feel so worried. And actually they found out it's not such a sliver. Researcher Richard Morin.

Richard Morin: About a quarter of all currently working adults had been unemployed at some point during the recession. Add to that 9-10 percent who are currently unemployed, and you have a third of the country who has dealt directly with what the worst of the recession has had to offer.

Hartman: And then you add the fact that the people who are still working, many of them hadn't had raises. A lot of people who are working are working part-time, because they can't get full-time hours or they can only find a temp job. And then finally, there's what I call the "I know someone" effect. We all know people who are unemployed. All of that makes the rest of us decide not to spend, not to go on holiday.

Ryssdal: Even though, we've been adding jobs all summer. If you add it up since the beginning of the year, it averages out to like 95,000 a month. Even given all that, we're still not feeling it, we're still not feeling the love.

Hartman: Well, consumers are starting a little more upbeat. Obviously, that's why people have started to look for work again. But, I'm gonna be a bummer here, again: The Pew folks did another study recently, just out this week. They looked at people who had gone back to work after being laid off. And on average, they're making less money, they feel very overqualified of the jobs they've gotten, they're not as satisfied with their job or their career prospects. That could change eventually, but it'll probably take a while.

Ryssdal: Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman, out of Oregon Public Broadcasting at our Entrepreneurship desk up there. Mitchell, thanks a lot.

Hartman: You're welcome.

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