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In Case You Were Insufficiently Depressed About the Job Numbers


In April, a "mere" 322,000 people lost their jobs. That was part of the whole "bad news, good trend" thing that had everyone talking about green shoots. In May, economists predicted a pretty similar result: 350,000 lost jobs. They got it wrong. We lost 467,000 jobs in May. The unemployment rate rose to 9.5 percent. And that actually underplays the problems. It's always worth remembering that the unemployment rate is, at best, a partial indicator of people who are unhappily unemployed. Tim Fernholz explains:

Keep in mind that when we say 9.5 percent, we're talking about people who have lost their job and are looking for a new one. But when you factor in people who "currently are neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the recent past" "plus total employed part time for economic reasons," and you get a rate of 16.5 percent unemployment -- nearly one in five potential workers has lost significant wages and work in the current economic environment.

And, as Billy Mays would have said, that's not all! We've also got about 9 million workers who are part-time because they can't find full-time work. That's up from 5 million workers in June. On the bright side -- and yes, there is a bright side -- banker pay has rebounded to 2007 levels. As Kevin Drum says, "It's good to see that not everyone is suffering."

Graph credit: Calculated Risk.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 2, 2009; 3:51 PM ET
Categories:  Economy  
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Jeez. Imagine how bad it would have been without the stimulus.

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | July 2, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

As Paul Krugman and others argued loudly, the 2009 stimulus was extremely small in the 1st half and not much bigger in the second half.. Nearly all of it was job related. Most will not begin until 2010.

Obama believed that he said today. We will start a recovery quickly and, like Reagan's job program in the 1980s (his military buildup) need jobs to keep it going. But he didn't have the quick early stimulus of Reagan's tax cut. And, of course, the crisis is much worse. Obama bailed out Goldman, Citi, AIG, GM, and the like. He has relied totally on Wall Street advice, and he has been disastrously misled.

Posted by: jhough1 | July 2, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure the 9.5% without jobs are comforted by that...

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | July 2, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

It gives me extreme anxiety and tired head.

Posted by: danw1 | July 2, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Oh come on, Ezra, it's not that bad! Obama has created or saved something like eleventy billion jobs! We'd all be unemployed if Obama hadn't saved our jobs!

Posted by: wapo9 | July 2, 2009 6:05 PM | Report abuse

You mean _only_ about one in five Americans are not able to find work?

_Only_ one in five?

Quick! We need an amnesty for 20 million illegal aliens who are all illegally WORKING in the USA!

Then we can try for TWO out of five Americans unable to get work!

Posted by: klaatu1 | July 2, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Well, golly, gee whiz, young fella!

You got told MESSIAH was just a tool of the Daley/Chicago mob.

You got to listen more carefully. You'll get fooled again, and again, and again ..

Good luck. You appear to need it.

Posted by: russpoter | July 2, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, if your chart is correct, we are in deep, deep, deep trouble.

Posted by: rexsolomon | July 2, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

The best part about that chart is how SMOOTH the line is for the current recession compared to how JUMPY it is for the previous recessions.

(...that means something's probably slightly screwy about it, ie they smoothed the data? consecutive time points are always noisy)

Posted by: goinupnup | July 2, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: TPdBLY2b | July 2, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Obama is an economic illiterate and he is driving the economy into the ground. This is his creation now. No one wants higher taxes on individuals and businesses...that is stupid and the opposite of what we need for a recovery. Those like me will be shielding our hard-earned income to keep it from the parasites, led by Obama.

Posted by: DaMan2 | July 2, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

when i watch the news on TV i would like to see some unemployment say instead of 6 newsmen discussing the news i see one relaying the truth let us see some job loss on the news networks

Posted by: johnjamj | July 2, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse

That Graph is particularly UGLY considering that we are fighting 2 Wars & have now passed an Economic Stimulus Package. Perhaps when the Automakers start rolling out Small cars & the clunker law goes into affect it will improve. However with the job losses...who will be brave enough to BUY a new car?

Posted by: digtldesk | July 2, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

...and you have no idea how much I need to quit kicking myself for not taking that job offer from Goldman Sachs.

Posted by: RPW3 | July 2, 2009 8:01 PM | Report abuse

If the Government numbers say 10%, you can bet the farm that the REAL number is easily DOUBLE THAT...

Two words:

CASH CUSHION--- Drop everything and build one, if you havent already.

Posted by: misssymoto | July 2, 2009 8:16 PM | Report abuse

The acerbic assigns responsibility without determining the most salutary set of actions. First and foremost was rescuing the banks. The economy, now in recession, will eventually right itself, with government munificence vaccinating the poor against the urge to riot.

Posted by: Martial | July 2, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

I voted for Obama, but now think we should have gone with Hillary. What on earth is Obama thinking? What is the matter with him and his advisors? If we need a new WPA and civilian conservation corps, since this is beginning to resemble the 1930s, why isn't he starting one? What good did bailing out a bunch of billionaires in New York do?

Posted by: skylark1 | July 2, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Why be cute? As the premier financial "Welfare Queen" of the era, Goldman Sachs meager average pay salary of $700,000 in no way adequately compensates their employees for their part in "liberating" tens of billions from the Treasury and Fed, for their adept skill and diligence in reaping the rewards of "massaging" financial market asset values, and, most importantly, for their dynamic and "unselfish" leadership in taking charge of the nation's fiscal and monetary policies through their courtesan surrogates of Summers, Geithner and Bernanke!

Posted by: dgward44 | July 2, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Unemployment is not at 9.5%. That is a lie. That is the number of unemployed that are on "the books." People who work for themselves are not on the books. Many people in construction are not on the books. Most real estate people are not on the books. The people on the books are people that receive unemployment. Many Americans have jobs without any type of benefits. Unemployment is easily double that, easily 18+%. At the time of the Great Depression, unemployment was 26%. Not much higher than it is now. And, don't forget, in 1929 America was not a debtor nation as it is today, and we had a manufacturing base, which we no longer have. No, folks we are in worse shape today. Finally, when you have such a huge gap between production and demand you are approaching a total collapse. Well, the gap today is much wider than it was prior to the collapse of 1929. You can't have demand unless you have wages. For wages you need good jobs.

Posted by: zydeco | July 2, 2009 8:55 PM | Report abuse

I find it astonishing that on the day we learn that nearly half a million people lost their jobs in June (I believe the report covers June, not May - correct me if I'm wrong!) - the WSJ is reporting it's a banner year for bonuses on Wall Street.

A banner year - one of their best ever! WTG Wall Street for bouncing back so fast!

I wish the middle class workers had ANYONE rooting for them, like Goldman had their guy Paulson manipulating the system for their benefit.

Posted by: anne3 | July 2, 2009 9:04 PM | Report abuse

But are people like me counted in that number? I do not have a job, and in the last 6 months have turned down two. I am looking for employment, but will only do so if it fits in with my family/lifestyle, etc. We don't have the pressure, as my husband is working (at a job he HATES, but again, we don't want to change our family life for something that one of us will not be happy with).
I know that I am personally unusual in this economy (the reality being that I'm in an industry that has a large number of foreigners in it...and companies are NOT sponsoring visas/H1Bs - so there's little competition but lots of jobs). But..I do exist.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | July 2, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Ezra knows full well that Obama is destroying our economy, but he's still got his greasy lips plastered to Obama's backside, hyping the healthcare plan that will be as lousy as Obama's economic plans. Ezra's secret is, he believes that Americans should be denied health care, if they aren't part of an elite he values as meriting survival.

Again, Ezra never criticizes fascist Obama, Ezra wanted fascist Obama in the whitehouse, knowing full well that he would destroy the economy.

Posted by: jenn3 | July 2, 2009 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Pretend for a moment that you know some math and can intuitively infer, from the posted curve, the arc which surely cometh.

This arc described is the initial inflection. See the moment of the arc 8 months after peak of highest employment. See the sudden plunge from that point to locking into the present slope of the graph, at about 11 months from peak employment (roughly February).

From the present inflection as of July 1 2009, we can reasonably extrapolate from a mean of the 1990 and 2001 curves (11 year cycle) that this recession is about 5 orders of magnitude deeper and longer than the other two 11-year-cycle recessions.

If this is true, we will see a bottoming-out of the unemployment curve at about -8.5 percent, about 65 months from the point of peak employment.

If I am properly doing the math, that's roughly 24 percent unemployment (including those who stopped looking, gave up, part-time employed because they can get no better etc etc etc) in mid-winter of 2011.

Please check the math and adjust as necessary. Post to WaPo page 12 if math checks out and the paper is still in circulation.

Posted by: klaatu1 | July 3, 2009 1:12 AM | Report abuse

"We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work ... After eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started ... And an enormous debt to boot!"

— Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, commenting on the failures of the New Deal after two terms of FDR

Obama et al are succeeding wildly at their plans to prolong a crisis that will soften up the American people, and stampede the herd, for a massive health care bill, which is on top of the massive "Tax and Kill" bill known as cap and trade. I just read that a town in Ohio has canceled their jobs faire. So many companies have pulled out, there are no jobs to highlight at the job faire.

Solution? Let's raise more taxes so Obama can have more luaus and eat more waygu beef at $100/lb. Let's threaten people that look like they might want to fly their planes, or make a profit, and tell them this is not the time.

Obama has terrorized the economy.

Posted by: Bellamia | July 4, 2009 3:52 AM | Report abuse

Obama said that WITHOUT the stimulus unemployment would rise as high as 9%. So thanks to the stimulus/porkulus bill it's worse by half a percentage point. So far.

In fact there's nothing in the "stimulus" bill that will put people back to work, even after the spending kicks in. Y? The stimulus bill threw a lot of money that we don't have at Congressional Democrat pet projects that have been bottled up for decades. Thanks to Obama over 60% of federal spending is BORROWED. In effect the stimulus bill devalues the US dollar by >60%. We are not looking at a recession, boys and girls: look at the chart above. Every recession since WWII bottomed out before this. We are talking DEPRESSION, as in "Great Depression", with at least a decade of negative growth and high unemployment. Now, couple with that the collapse of the SSA and Medicare fund during the same time period and you are looking at something that the US has never, ever experienced, not even in the 1930s. The complete and utter collapse of the US economy.

But I could be wrong. Maybe Obama is right: if he flaps his arms REAL HARD he can fly.

Posted by: orionca | July 4, 2009 4:26 AM | Report abuse

Job loss...Been there. Done that. Yep, still 'there'. My heart goes out to those
still getting 'pinked'.

For me, losing my job was one of those defining moments in life. I knew I had a
choice: I could choose to lose my way (my mind) or rise to the challenge and
follow what my Spirit tells me to do, always remembering that I am more than a
statistic on the news.

I'll share with you what I was told the day I got "set free" (laid off) from my
job: "This is a new chapter in your life. WRITE ONE HELL OF A CHAPTER!" And I did just that! Will you?

So if you just need a break from the doom and gloom, let me send you a FREE (no
strings, really!) book download. Sign up now: www.noexpertsneeded dot com

Yes, times are tough, but it doesn't mean that we can't still 'give back' to one another. This is simply my way...

take care,
Louise Lewis, author
No Experts Needed: The Meaning of Life According to You!

Posted by: NoExpertsNeeded | July 4, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Complementary chart here:

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | July 4, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

There have been many others, including The Layoff List at that saw this issue months ago and it is finally getting the attention of MSM. Why it has taken so long for this to be made aware to the public is beyond me. This is a two-party problem, not one of either, since both parties are corrupt and they could care less about about the unemployed. The unemployed don't feather a politician's nest like the failed banks and other financial criminals.

Posted by: layofflist | July 6, 2009 7:05 AM | Report abuse

Obama-Biden has sunk for good. Their record breaking spending has done zero for the American People. They transferred 2 Trillion of taxpaper wealth to their elite backers with zero oversight.

These two should be tarred, feathered and ridden out on a rail.

Palin '12

Posted by: jabailo | July 6, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Just wait until the Cap and Trade Bill is passed. Please read it if you haven't and let your Sentator know how you feel.

I believe we need to work on green and alternative energy, BUT in a measured and thoughtful manner. As it stands, this was quickly and carelessly pushed through Congress and is now in the hands of the Senate.

Posted by: CashOut | July 6, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

"Not only is the national unemployment rate, now 9.4%, likely to climb into double digits later this year, but it is also expected to remain there well into 2010, economists say. That would prolong the misery of the unemployed, squeeze retailers and other businesses, and add millions of dollars in government costs and lost productivity. It could even threaten the recovery itself."

I think the lawmakers should take some drastic measures to deal with this problem. I believe unemployment is the root cause of the the housing crisis as well.With high job losses, house owners are unable to pay back the loans which they thought they would repay through their fat pay checks every month.

Aggressive efforts should be taken by the government to improve the job market and revive the housing sector.

Recently read an article on a similar premise.

Posted by: rubrik1978 | July 6, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

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