Jobless: The rate climbs to 6.1 pct., a five-year high.

September 6, 2008

No need to tell Gilberto Ramos yesterday’s depressing statistics about the job market.”I’m a little upset now, because I’m actually experiencing it,” said Ramos, 44, of South Philadelphia.

On Aug. 29, Ramos became one of the 592,000 American workers added to the unemployment rolls last month, according to the dismal report from the U.S. Labor Department.

With 9.4 million now out of work, the unemployment rate rose to 6.1 percent – a five-year high – while the economy shed 84,000 jobs in August, the eighth straight month of job losses and more than analysts expected.

The bad news comes on the heels of two intense weeks of political convention activity as presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama kick their campaigns into high gear.

Standing in front of the state employment office in South Philadelphia, Ramos said the economy was at the top on his list of issues.

“I’m looking to vote Democrat,” he said, “because I think the Republican Party has taken care of their own and not the needy in America.”

Every unemployed person who walked out of the CareerLink office around lunchtime yesterday blamed the Bush administration for the state of the economy – and most said they were leaning toward Obama.

That’s not a surprise, political analysts said yesterday.

“Any bad economic news helps the Democrats,” said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

“I think that the emotional punch of unemployment figures is much more powerful than any other economic data,” he said.

Although there was hiring in health care and mining, jobs were lost in manufacturing, staffing, construction and retail, the report said.

“We’re losing jobs in all kinds of industries now,” said Roger Kubarych, chief U.S. economist at UniCredit Global Research in New York. “This is the clearest recessionary signal we’ve seen.”

Yesterday’s report brings the total decline in payrolls so far this year to 605,000. The economy created 1.1 million jobs in 2007.

The percentage of the unemployed still without jobs after six months rose to 19.5 percent, up from 17.4 percent a year ago.

And while the official unemployment rate is 6.1 percent, up from 5.7 percent last month and 4.7 percent a year ago, a larger group is also up. This group, which includes workers too discouraged to look for jobs and people who are working part time because they can’t find full-time positions, rose to 10.7 percent, up from 10.3 percent last month and 8.4 percent a year ago.

Also, the deteriorating labor market raises the likelihood the Federal Reserve will postpone any increase in interest rates until next year.

Yesterday’s figures increase the risk that President Bush will become the first president since Richard Nixon to oversee two recessions.

However, the Bush administration expressed optimism.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez pointed to strong second-quarter growth to suggest that the economy was stronger than it appeared.

“The fact that we grew 3.3 percent in the second quarter is very different to the scenario that the really bleak forecasters would have you believe,” he said.

Outside the CareerLink office, there was ample evidence of what is known as the misery index – the sum of the unemployment and inflation rates.

It is 11.7 percent, the highest since 1991.

That was the last time Ramos had to look for a job.

Ramos said he had worked for his previous employer for 51/2 years when he was laid off. He said he believed his boss was bringing in less-expensive, immigrant workers to maintain the buildings. Immigration is an issue for him, along with the economy.

“I’m a family man, three kids. I have a newborn,” he said. His children are 6, 23 months and three weeks.

When his bosses laid him off, “I begged them” not to, he said.

He hasn’t had health insurance for four years. His fiancee, the mother of his three children, has insurance at work, and the children are covered through a government-funded program.

“Just the thought of having a toothache terrifies me,” he said.

Welder Stanley Michael Harrison, 51, lost his health insurance when he lost his job Aug. 10.

The company had been sold earlier, he said, and at first he was transferred internally, from a job paying $17 an hour to one paying $9.50.

“Nobody wants to pay,” he said.

Harrison blamed Bush and said the country couldn’t survive another four years with the Republicans.

“The whole country will go down,” Harrison said, his point echoed by Frank Dietrick, 55, a paralegal from South Philadelphia, out of work for a year.

Laid-off customer service representative Maria Jones, 51, of Southwest Philadelphia, lost her job in March, but just started looking now.

“I hope it is going to be easy,” she said, but given her age and the economy, she’s worried.

That’s why, for her as a voter, the economy and health care are the two top issues.

“At first, I was leaning toward Obama,” she said, “but I’m still listening.”

Our Perspective:

The economy still is the number one issue that is foremost in peoples mind. With a rising cost of living, (gas, utilities, food, health care being the hot button issues), the American people are focusing on who will provide the best leadership to turn this economy around.

Who is going to implement programs to reverse the tide of growing unemployment?

This is a very important presidential election. Be sure to familiarize yourself with both candidates views. Business as usual is no longer acceptable, for it has led us to this point. The new president must be able to think outside the box and implement programs that will restore confidence and jump start our economy.

Let us know your thoughts? Email


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