When will unemployment go back down to 5%?

Job seekers fill out applications for employment during a job fair in San Francisco, Calif.

Jeremy Hobson: [Now let's get to] the big jobs report that the Labor Department released this morning. Here are the headlines: Unemployment remains the same, 9.1 percent. And the economy added zero jobs last month. Let's bring in Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial, who's with us live every Friday from New York. Good morning, Chris.

Chris Low: Good morning.

Hobson: Well zero jobs. That seems like a new one.

Low: It is actually a new one. It's the first time there's been no change in nonfarm payrolls since 1945.

Hobson: Wow. And what's the reason for it?

Low: In part, we can blame the Verizon strike. If not for the strike, it would have been up 45,000. But behind the strike there's really widespread weakness. Almost half, 48 percent of companies shrank in August -- 52 percent grew. So there are job losses all over the place, including government, which cut 17,000 workers this month.

Hobson: And Chris, we're talking about 9.1 percent unemployment and a lot of people are now looking out a year, two years down the road and saying we're going to be about the same at that point. When can we get back down to 5 percent?

Low: Well, that's right. Even the White House yesterday posted its new forecast showing about 9 percent unemployment at the end of next year. I think the answer to that question is in the answer to what caused the recession and the sluggish recovery, which is debt. It's very much like the 1930s and the 1970s in the sense that we've had this debt binge and it takes years to work through it. Good news is we've had about half the number of requisite years under our belt already. The bad news, of course, we probably have another five years to go at which point the unemployment rate will fall much faster, but it still takes another maybe 5 years after that to maybe get down to five.

Hobson: Five more years. Chris Low, chief economist with FTN Financial, thanks so much.

Low: You're welcome.

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