The number of unemployed persons (13.9 million) and the unemployment rate (9.1%) were essentially “unchanged in May,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, even though the rate increased. The reality is that the labor force, at 153.7 million, was unchanged over the month, with the private sector adding only 83,000 jobs, while state and local governments sacked another 28,000 because of budget cuts.
“While the private sector has added more than 2.1 million jobs over the past 15 months, the unemployment rate is unacceptably high and faster growth is needed to replace the jobs lost in the downturn,” said Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for the White House.
The average duration of unemployment rose to 39.7 weeks – the longest in history, in what politicians are still calling a recovery, as the U.S. economy remains weak with no “recovery” in sight for millions of displaced workers. There aren’t enough jobs to reemploy U.S. citizens who want to go back to work, let alone absorb new graduates as taxpayers into the economy. The real rate of unemployment is much higher – some critics have at more than 18%.
In May, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) increased by 361,000 to 6.2 million; their share of unemployment increased to 45.1%. The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was essentially unchanged in May at 8.5 million. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut or because they were unable to find a full-time job.
The latest data continue to show just how deeply ingrained the Great Recession is, with employers reluctant to add jobs, even though Gross Domestic Product is growing again, albeit slowly.
The response from both Democrats and Republicans to those out of work and critics is a disappointing combination of ideological budget posturing and political prevarication as both parties maneuver for advantage in the upcoming election.
People are smarter though than the pols think: Consumer views of current conditions are grim. The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index decreased in May and now stands at 60.8 (1985=100), down from 66.0 in April. Those claiming business conditions are “good” decreased to 14.6% from 15.5%, while those claiming business conditions are “bad” increased to 37.1% from 35.9%. Their appraisal of the labor market was also less favorable than last month. Those stating jobs are “hard to get” increased to 43.9% from 42.4%, while those stating jobs are “plentiful” increased to 5.6% from 5.1%.