Judging by the reaction, this morning’s employment report, which showed a net decline of only 11,000 jobs and 0.2 percentage point drop in the unemployment rate, is being received as a sign the job market is on the mend. While the rapid deceleration in job losses is certainly welcome news, some of the details of the report highlight what still must be considered a significant degree of struggle for the U.S. labor market. One important example: although the unemployment rate is in line with that of the early 1980s recession, the length of time laid off workers have remained out of work is much longer now compared to any postwar economic downturn. Indeed, the median duration of unemployment surged past 20 weeks during November 2009 and 38 percent of unemployed workers still looking for a job have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer.

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