Unemployment jumps

Although the Labor Department’s latest employment report, released Nov. 2, didn’t rattle the stock market, it did show that another 415,000 men and women lost their jobs in October, bringing the official count of the unemployed to 7.7 million. That number has grown by 2.2 million since Oct. 2000 and is now 1.5 percentage points higher than it was a year ago.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney called the report “grim news” that confirms what working families are already experiencing. He said all of the gains in employment since December 1996 had been erased in the ten months since George W. Bush entered the White House.

Last month’s decline in payrolls in the private sector caused the nation’s unemployment rate to soar from 3.9 percent, the lowest point in a generation, to a five-year high of 5.4 percent.

October’s massive shedding of jobs was the largest single-month decline since 1975. The AFL-CIO says that employment in manufacturing, which declined for the 15th consecutive month in October, “has fallen to levels last seen in November 1965.”

October declines in service employment represented the biggest one-month decline since records were first kept in 1939. The Fiscal Policy Institute says this increase was fueled, in part, by the destruction of the World Trade Center, which wiped out the jobs of some 88,000 low-income workers, two thirds of whom earned less than $23,000 annually.

According to the New York State Department of Labor, 125,000 people lost their jobs because of the WTC disaster. Of that number, 16 percent worked at bars and restaurants, 14 percent at hotels and 5 percent worked in air transportation. Only 4 percent worked in Wall Street brokerage firms.

The impact of a slowing economy left its mark on those still working as the workweek in manufacturing declined by one-tenth of an hour and average weekly wages declined by 77 cents, the first drop in years. Analysts expect the combination of reduced hours and income to result in a significant decline in productivity for the fourth quarter of 2001.

The AFL-CIO says the official unemployment statistics undercount the actual number of unemployed. They do not include the some 1.5 million people the Labor Department says were “marginally attached” to the labor force in October, even though that number grew by a half-million in the course of the last year. Nor do they count “discouraged” workers, now numbering 330,000. And perhaps the biggest sham of all is that part-time workers – now 4.5 million – even those who work but one hour a week, are counted as being employed.

The AFL-CIO says that an accurate count of the unemployed should include half of those forced to work part-time because they can’t find full-time jobs, plus the marginal and discouraged workers. Using that method, unemployment would stand at 11 million and the unemployed rate would jump to 8 percent.

But there were some bright spots in the jobs picture: Detective, guard and armored-car services increased by 8,000 jobs in September and 20,000 in October.