March unemployment report: More bad news

None of the numbers in the March unemployment report are good:

* Official unemployment stuck in the 5.8 percent range.

* Manufacturing jobs declining for 36 consecutive months.

* About a fifth of unemployed workers without a job for 27 weeks or longer.

* More than 2.6 million private-sector jobs gone since March 2001.

* Fewer people working than at any time since late 1999, the longest period without a growth in the number of jobs for 20 years.

* The unemployment rate for African American workers (10.2 percent) twice that of white workers.

* One-sixth of all teenagers without jobs.

* Five million “discouraged” workers who have given up the search for non-existent jobs and are no longer included in the official count of the unemployed.

* Unemployment among college graduates the highest since April 1993.

* Wage growth in 2002 slowed by about 1.0 percent because of rising unemployment.

The White House response to the March unemployment report: More tax cuts for the rich to “grow the economy.”

And there are other numbers – those showing the number of workers who have run out of unemployment benefits and become what the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls “exhaustees.”

In February, more than 325,000 workers exhausted their state-funded benefits and became eligible for benefits under the Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation (TEUC), the federally-funded program that pays benefits for a maximum of 13 weeks. The number of “exhaustees” has now increased for 24 straight months when compared to the same months in the previous year and is the highest level for any February on record.

One more statistic: Not only is the number of workers exhausting their state benefits increasing; so, too, is the percentage of recipients who exhaust their benefits. The “exhaustion rate” in February 2003 was 50 percent, a record for a February. (The exhaustion rate for the 12-month period ending in February 2003 averaged 43 percent, the highest rate ever since record-keeping began in 1973.)

The TEUC program is set to end May 31. Unless Congress acts before then, no new workers will be able to draw these benefits after that date. Congress will be taking its Easter recess soon.

What better time to talk to your Representative about this and other questions?

The author can be reached at fgab708@aol.com