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Job losses keep going and going . . .

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KAI RYSSDAL:It’s the 6th of November, which makes it 23 months since the recession officially started. The folks who set the that date, the National Bureau of Economic Research, they picked it in part because December of ’07 was the last month in which this economy had a net gain in employment. Since then we’ve lost 8.5 million jobs, including 190,000 in October. The unemployment rate hit 10.2 percent last month. Pretty much any way you slice it, this is the worst job market this country has seen in 26 years.

Marketplace’s Steve Henn reports the silver linings are hard to find.


Steve Henn: In October, American employers eliminated 190,000 jobs. Not good, at all. But compare that with the rate that the U.S. economy was shedding jobs six months ago and this is a sea change.

John Silvia: Definitely, definitely. If you look at the data over the last three months compared to the last year, clearly the job losses are getting smaller and some sectors like education and health are actually adding jobs.

John Silvia is chief economist at Wells Fargo. But Silvia was still surprised by the big jump last month in the unemployment rate.

Silvia: It does suggest that there’s a lot more structural challenges out there in terms of job creation in the U.S. economy than I think many people expected.

Silvia worries that economic growth alone may not put millions of Americans back to work. That some jobs in construction or manufacturing may not come back.

Silvia: So there seems to be a big mismatch of skills in American society for the jobs that are available.

A construction worker for example can’t just jump into a job in health care. Dean Baker’s at the Center for Economic Policy Research.

Dean Baker: What that means is we are probably going to continue to see the unemployment rate rise further. And the really discouraging part is we’re probably not going to see the unemployment rate start to come down till as soon as next summer. So we are looking at a pretty bad story there.

Baker says the one bright spot is that firms added 44,000 temporary workers last month. But so far there’s no sign they are going to make those employees permanent any time soon.

In Washington, I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

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