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January 12, 2009

The National Employment Situation

There are three stellar summaries of the national employment situation regularly coming out of Washington D.C.

First Dean Baker writes the Jobs Byte. Dean co-directs the widely respected Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).

Over at the Economic Policy Institute Heidi Shierholz is doing great work tracking the labor market, taking over for Jared Bernstein (Jared left to become chief economist for the Vice-President elect).

And starting this month over at the Center for American Progress (CAP), Heather Boushey has taken over duties analyzing the employment situation. Heather is a graduate of the economics department of the New School for Social Research, has worked at EPI and CEPR and joins CAP after a working on the staff of the Joint Economic Committee.

Now on to the numbers. The top line numbers were grim (here is the official summary). Payrolls declined in December by more than half a million jobs and the unemployment rate surged four tenths of a percent to 7.2%. But as Dean, Heidi and Heather all note deeper down in the data even those with a job are under intense pressure.

The number of people reporting part-time employment because they can't find full time work reached 8 million, an increase of 3.4 million since the recession started in December 2008. Likewise hours of work are down sharply here is Dean Baker:

"With the length of the average workweek getting shorter, the decline in hours worked has been even more rapid than the drop in employment. From September to December, the index of hours worked for production workers fell at a 9.4 percent annual rate. This rate of decline in hours would be equivalent to losing 12.8 million jobs over the course of a year, if the length of the workweek was constant."

The most current data we have for Pennsylvania is for November, when the commonwealth shed 26,000 jobs as the nation shed over a half million jobs. The December numbers for Pennsylvania will be out by the 27th of January (if not earlier the state releases the numbers a day earlier usually). All signs point towards another bad month in terms of job losses in PA when the numbers do finally come out.

--Mark Price

Posted by Price at January 12, 2009 10:00 AM


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