Friday, January 8, 2010

The club you don't want to join

Apparently, I'm in good company.

Those of us severed from our jobs by the Great Recession now are spending a longer time out of work: 29.1 weeks, according to today's December jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor. That's up from 28.6 weeks in November.

And the Labor Department said the percentage of workers who found themselves unemployed for six months or more also was up last month -- to 39.8 percent, vs. 38.7 percent in November. These so-called long-term unemployed -- 4 in 10 jobless workers -- numbered 6.1 million in December. (The total number of unemployed workers last month was 15.3 million.)

Meantime, for those of us in the job category known as "information," which includes newspapers hammered by buyouts and layoffs over the past year, our time out of work averaged 30.4 weeks in December, according to a separate report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's more than seven months without a job.

The Labor Department report -- showing another 85,000 jobs lost -- was seen as disappointing after some improvement in November: "U.S. Job Losses in December Dim Hopes for Quick Upswing," said a New York Times headline; "Economy Still Bleeding Jobs," said the Wall Street Journal.

And the talking heads on CNBC's "Squawk Box" this morning sounded concerned as they cited some of the data deep in the report: that the labor force was declining rather than growing; that the U6 rate -- the broadest measure of unemployment that includes workers discouraged by few job prospects and part-timers who'd rather be working full time -- "ticked up for the first time in awhile." (Listen in particular to Mark Zandi at about 5:20 into the segment and Steve Liesman at 5:42.)

Yesterday, I hit the six-month mark in my unemployment. The shock and embarrassment of being laid off has been replaced by the shock and embarrassment of not being hired.

I bet I'm in good company there, too.

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