Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 4, 2009; 9:27 AM  

The job market continued its long, steep decline in August, with the jobless rate soaring to 9.7 percent and employers continuing to shed jobs, albeit at a slower rate than expected.

This Story
  • Unemployment Rises to 9.7 Percent; 216,000 Jobs Lost in August
  • Stimulus Credited for Lifting Economy, But Worries About Unemployment Persist
  • Stimulus Status

Analysts generally believe that economic output began rising by late summer. But new Labor Department data released Friday morning shows that that improvement isn’t yet flowing through to the job market, as employers remain highly reluctant to add staff.

The rise in the unemployment rate rose to 9.7 percent in August, from 9.4 percent in July, resumed a steep upward path that has been only rarely interrupted since the recession began in December 2007. Employers shed 216,000 net jobs, significantly better than the revised 276,000 jobs lost in July and less than the 230,000 decline that forecasters expected.

The tally now stands at 6.9 million jobs lost since the beginning of the recession in December 2007. A broader measure of joblessness rose even more sharply than the headline unemployment rate. An expanded unemployment rate that includes people who have given up looking for a job out of frustration and who are working part time but want a full-time job rose to 16.8 percent, from 16.3 percent.

The rate of job losses has been declining, if haltingly, since winter. The August numbers, bad as they are, do offer hope that job losses will continue tapering off. Economists generally consider the job loss numbers to be a more reliable month-to-month barometer of the economy than the unemployment rate, and that measure indicated the slowest rate of job loss since August 2008.

The report also said that the average workweek was unchanged at 33.1 hours. Employers have cut back on hours in the current downturn, in addition to cutting jobs entirely, and are expected to have existing employees work longer hours before bringing new people onto their staffs. The hours-worked number confirms that employers have stopped cutting back hours but gives no evidence they are starting to expand hours yet.

Among the most positive signs in the report, average earnings for non-managerial workers rose 0.3 percent in August, the Labor Department said.

The job losses, though lower than in recent months, remained broad-based. The construction industry cut 65,000 jobs, in line with the recent trend. Manufacturing companies cut 63,000 jobs. The health-care sector, as it has throughout the recession, added jobs.

 

WASHINGTON — The nation’s unemployment rate climbed to a four-year high of 5.7 percent in July as employers cut 51,000 jobs, dashing the hopes of an influx of young people looking for summer work.

Payroll cuts weren’t as deep as the 72,000 predicted by economists, however. And, job losses for both May and June were smaller than previously reported.

July’s reductions marked the seventh straight month where employers eliminated jobs. The economy has lost a total of 463,000 jobs so far this year.

The latest snapshot, released by the Labor Department on Friday, showed a lack of credit has stunted employers’ expansion plans and willingness to hire. Fallout from the housing slump and high energy prices also are weighing on employers.

The increase in the unemployment rate to 5.7 percent, from 5.5 percent in June, in part came as many young people streamed into the labor market looking for summer jobs. This year, fewer of them were able to find work, the government said. The unemployment rate for teenagers jumped to 20.3 percent, the highest since late 1992.

The economy is the top concern of voters and will figure prominently in their choices for president and other elected officials come November. The faltering labor market is a source of anxiety not only for those looking for work but also for those worried about keeping their jobs during uncertain times.

Job losses in July were the heaviest in industries hard hit by the housing, credit and financial debacles. Manufacturers cut 35,000 positions, construction companies got rid of 22,000 and retailers shed 17,000 jobs. Temporary help firms _ also viewed as a barometer of demand for future hiring _ eliminated 29,000 jobs. Those losses swamped job gains elsewhere, including in the government, education and health care.

In May and June combined, the economy lost 98,000 jobs, according to revised figures. That wasn’t as bad as the 124,000 reductions previously reported.

GM, Chrysler LLC, Wachovia Corp., Cox Enterprises Inc. and Pfizer are among the companies that have announced job cuts in July.

GM Friday reported the third-worst quarterly loss in its history in the second quarter as North American vehicle sales plummeted and the company faced expenses due to labor unrest and its massive restructuring plan.

On July 15, GM announced a plan to raise $15 billion for its restructuring by laying off thousands of hourly and salaried workers, speeding the closure of truck and SUV plants, suspending its dividend and raising cash through borrowing and the sale of assets.

GM also said it would reduce production by another 300,000 vehicles, and that could prompt another wave of blue-collar early retirement and buyout offers.

Meanwhile. Bennigan’s restaurants owned by privately held Metromedia Restaurant Group, are closing, driving more people to unemployment lines.

All told, there were 8.8 million unemployed people in July, up from 7.1 million last year. The jobless rate last July stood at 4.7 percent.

More job cuts are expected in coming months. There’s growing concern that many people will pull back on their spending later this year when the bracing effect of the tax rebates fades, dealing a dangerous blow to the fragile economy. These worries are fanning recession fears.

Still, workers saw wage gains in July.

Average hourly earnings rose to $18.06 in July, a 0.3 percent increase from the previous month. That matched economists’ expectations. Over the past year, wages have grown 3.4 percent. Paychecks aren’t stretching as far because of high food and energy prices.

Other reports out Friday showed stresses as companies cope with a sluggish economy.

Spending on construction projects around the country dropped 0.4 percent in June as cutbacks in home building eclipsed gains in commercial construction, the Commerce Department reported.

And, manufacturers’ business was flat in July. The Institute for Supply Management’s reading of activity from the country’s producers of cars, airplanes, appliances and other manufactured goods hit 50, down from 50.2 in June. A reading above 50 signals growth.

The news forced Wall Street to reassess its initial positive reaction to the jobs data. The Dow, which opened higher, slid about 80 points by midmorning.

The Federal Reserve is expected to hold rates steady next week as it tries to grapple with dueling concerns _ weak economic activity and inflation.

In June, the Fed halted a nearly yearlong rate-cutting campaign to shore up the economy because lower rates would aggravate inflation. On the other hand, boosting rates too soon to fend off inflation could hurt the economy.

Our Perspective:

Businesses continue to cut jobs in reaction to what is going on with the economy. Steps need to be taken to rebuild confidence and get the ball rolling again.

The economy is foremost in peoples’ mind. We will all have a voice come November to cast our vote as to which direction we see as the most beneficial. Do not get caught up in the commercials you see. There is plenty of information in articles and on the internet, which will allow you to learn more about both candidates and make an educated decision.

Let us know your thoughts? you can email george@hbsadvantage.com

U.S. Initial Jobless Claims Rose 22,000 to 378,000  

As reported in Bloomberg .com

March 20 (Bloomberg) — The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance rose last week and the total number on benefit rolls reached the highest since August 2004, signs that firings are increasing.

Initial claims for benefits increased 22,000 to 378,000 in the week ended March 15, more than economists forecast and the highest since the week of Jan. 26, from 356,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said in Washington. The number of people staying on benefits rose to 2.865 million from 2.833 million.

U.S. companies are cutting staff as the biggest housing slump in a quarter century, tighter credit and mounting financial losses push the economy toward a recession. The Federal Reserve, noting labor markets had “softened” as it cut interest rates earlier this week, said it would act “as needed” to promote growth.

“This is pretty much what it looks like heading into recession,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in New York, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “It’s a bad number for the Fed. This is something that might keep them cutting rates.”

Treasuries were little changed after the report, with the benchmark 10-year note yielding 3.33 percent.

Weekly claims were forecast to rise to 360,000 from 353,000 initially reported in the prior week, according to the median projection of 39 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from 345,000 to 380,000.

From a company’s perspective

Many companies look to firing or laying off employees to address a downfall in the economy. This may address an immediate need but many fail to realize that this decision lives with them for 4 years.

First, if an employee collects, the payments will be paid out of the State mandated company’s account. The state unemployment programs are set up to mirror that each company has their own checking account.

The state assigns a rate that tells you how much will be put into the account and then notifies you how much has been paid out in claims.

The amount paid out directly affects the balance or reserves held in the account and have a direct relationship in determining what your rate will be over the next 4 years. The state makes a calculation based on the dollar amount of claims paid out, the reserves needed to support future claims as they relate to the taxable wage base.

 Confused yet?

That is the way the states want you to view it.

Should you have any questions about the unemployment or claim process, feel free to contact us. We deal with these issues on a daily basis.

george@hbsadvantage.com

We find many clients have been assigned the wrong rate and our overpaying unemployment taxes.

To learn more visit our website.

www.hbsadvantage.com

We look forward to discussing this with you.