More Grim News in the Sept. Jobs Numbers


unemployment office; file photo

Paul Solman: Today’s unemployment data are grim. I began to write “startlingly grim” but then realized that, for those of us on-the-record pessimists with regard to green shoots and recovery, the numbers aren’t startling at all. Having been on the road all year – in Detroit, Elkhart, Chicago, a Manhattan job fair – I’ve run into almost nothing encouraging, save that the situation isn’t as bad as it was. But then, today’s official revisions of last year’s data – March to March – adds nearly ONE MILLION jobs lost during that year that hadn’t been tabulated. I.e., improvement is from an unimaginably grim base.

Look, not only did another quarter of a million jobs disappear in September — more than in August, more than expected, more surely than would suggest any sort of recovery — but 800,000 more people LEFT THE WORKFORCE. Officially, that’s 800,000 people who, when asked, said they aren’t looking for work and haven’t in the last year. The hopeful interpretation: They all retired happily and are now peacefully trout fishing, the hurly-burly done. More likely: Many of them have simply given up and aren’t even counted in the unemployment number any more. If they were, unemployment would have shot beyond 10 percent this month, instead of creeping up to 9.8 percent.

We’ve expanded before on the various official “U“s: U-3, the widely reported number — up to 9.8 percent. But all the other U’s rose as well in September and the most inclusive — U-6, which includes those “marginal workers” who haven’t looked for work in the past month, plus those working part-time (even just a few hours a week) but looking for full-time — U-6, I repeat, is now at 17 percent. That’s nearly 30 million Americans. Not counting all those who have dropped out entirely (haven’t looked in a year).

Plus, hours worked went down to their lowest number ever recorded: 33 hours.

All in all, it’s evidence for the downward spiral of less spending, less debt, less commerce, fewer jobs. I wish I could report otherwise. But I can’t.