Get used to this high unemployment rate

A job seeker listens to a potential employer at a career fair in Denver, Colo.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: If you were hoping for some good jobs news today, maybe to give to your unemployed spouse or your recent college graduate child -- yeah, the one still living in his old room -- well today just wasn't that day.

The November employment report was a downer in pretty much every direction. We added only 39,000 jobs last month. Economists had gotten our hopes up for a much bigger jump. To top it off, the unemployment rate went up a couple ticks as well, to 9.8 percent.

That's the biggest number we've seen since April, and as Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman reports, big numbers like that might be around for a while.


Mitchell Hartman: Every economist I reached today was surprised by just how lousy job growth was.

Bernard Baumohl: There is something odd about the November release.

Bernard Baumohl is with the Economic Outlook Group.

Baumohl: The November report was stunning in just how depressing the job market is. It's wholly inconsistent with what we've seen in other data.

Data like increasing consumer spending and manufacturing activity. But smooth out those statistical ups and downs in the employment report, and we'd still need 50,000 more jobs a month just to keep up with the normal growth in the workforce, not to mention re-employ people laid off in the recession.

Which is why Chris Varvares at Macroeconomic Advisers predicts the unemployment rate will remain stubbornly high.

Chris Varvares: We still don't breach the 9 percent level until some time in 2012.

That's still nowhere near what we used to think of as normal, full-employment: only 5 percent of people looking for work. Plus, the search for jobs is about to get more desperate, as millions of people run out of extended federal unemployment benefits. Denver resident Dana Parker's checks stop next week. Until now, she hasn't looked at minimum-wage or temp jobs.

Dana Parker: I will look harder for things like that. I don't know how I could possibly be looking any harder but I will consider part-time work.

She'll be competing in a market where there are still around five job seekers for every available, even low-paying, job.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

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

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...