The nation's unemployment rate in November dropped to 8.6 percent, down from October's 9 percent. The unemployment figures released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, the lowest since March 2009, were the result of 315,000 workers dropping out of the labor force. When the government calculates the jobless rate it counts only people who are actively seeking work.
The government said the economy added 120,000 jobs last month, less than the 150,000 economists say are needed each month just to keep up with the growth of the workforce.
"At this rate of job growth, it will be more than 20 years before we get back down to the unemployment levels we had before this recession," said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute. "A shrinking workforce is not the way we want to see unemployment drop," she declared. "At this rate of growth we are looking at a long, long schlep before our sick labor market recovers."
This morning's government report was full of other unsettling statistics.
Fourteen million workers remain officially unemployed, but some 26 million are actually unemployed, underemployed or have stopped looking for work.
The numbers of the long term jobless continue to rise. Defined as those who have been out of work for more than 27 weeks, they totaled 5.7 million, an enormous 43 percent of the total number of unemployed.
To make matters worse, unemployment insurance coverage for the long-term unemployed is set to expire Dec. 31. During January alone, 2 million desperate job seekers will be cut off from their lifelines if Congress does not approve an extension of emergency federal benefits. Over 6 million would lose those lifelines during the remainder of 2012.
This morning's report from the government came at the end of a week during which Republicans in Congress put forward their so-called jobs plan, a collection of bills that restricts union organizing rights, slashes government programs designed to guarantee the health and safety of both workers and the public, along with measures that would weaken or eliminate environmental protection.
Two hundred jobless workers let the GOP know what they thought about its jobs plan as they flooded the halls of Congress with 75,000 petitions demanding that Congress act now to extend unemployment benefits and create jobs. They then rallied to kick off a weeklong series of actions that will see tens of thousands of jobless people descend on the nation's capital.
Plans are underway for unemployed people from every state in the union to move into tents set up in view of the Capitol. On Dec. 8, say unions and community groups, there will be a huge rally of the unemployed, joined by tens of thousands of working union members, community activists, religious leaders and others,
The jobless figures released today show that, as expected, minorities and youth are being hit the hardest.
While the official jobless rate for white workers was 7.6 percent, for African-Americans it was 15.5 percent, for Latinos it was 11.4 percent and for teenagers it was 23.7 percent.