Numbers show only a slight drop in the number of new unemployment benefits applications last week. With growing concerns about the economy and repercussions of a recession that still haunts millions, the weak employment numbers are just more fuel to the fire.
On Thursday, the Labor Department released its adjusted weekly numbers. Those numbers show a 3,000 difference between last week and the week prior. Many insist it’s the four week average that should be the focus – and those numbers are up. In fact, they’ve not been this high for several months. This is not good news for the Obama Administration as both the president and the Romney campaign prepare for upcoming debates, which will then be followed by the election.
Using weekly applications as the preferred method of determining layoffs, historically any numbers higher than 375,000 equate to weak hiring trends; currently, the number rests at 377,750. Most don’t need that measure though as millions continue to look for work in an environment where good news is rare.
Nearly three weeks ago, the August employment numbers were released and many economists were shocked to learn only 96,000 jobs were added. This follows a slightly better July number of 141,000 new jobs. Unemployment won’t be dropping anytime soon. The only reason unemployment fell to 8.1% is because millions stopped looking for work. That sentiment of discouragement and disappointment is spreading faster than a head cold in flu season.
The Labor Department has tracked layoff numbers for just eleven years and the lay off numbers for July were the lowest recorded by the agency. And it gets worse – few economists are hopeful for any kind of recovery on any level through the end of the year, especially considering the economy is nearing a standstill in terms of growth.
Many are hoping last week’s announcement by the Fed to buy $40 billion in mortgage back securities every month until the economy improves will be just enough of a band aid to bridge the country into a stronger position. Even analysts who were confident of that last week might be waning. Consumers had no faith to start with; to say their confidence is waning is moot. “Right now, I have $31,000 in credit card debt, much of which is late penalties and interest hikes” said one frustrated job seeker.
I don’t know why I even worry about it anymore. My credit’s shot and even if they sue me, they can’t get blood from a turnip. I wouldn’t even be able to buy common sense on credit right now if my life depended on it.
He’s not alone in his thought process either. Even Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said unemployment is a grave concern and that he’s sure there’s “enormous suffering” around the nation.
In a note to his clients on Thursday, Jim Baird of Plante Moran Financial Advisers said, “Businesses clearly remain reluctant to aggressively boost their workforces”.
And it gets worse. Last week, the Pew Research Center reported that the median income in the U.S. is significantly worse now than it was during the recession (remember, analysts say it ended in 2009). Using the Census Bureau data sets, the median income for American households in 2009 was $52,195 (note: this figure is adjusted into 2011 dollars). Last year, the median income fell $50,054, which equates to 4.1 percent over the past two years alone. “The decrease in household income from 2009 to 2011 almost exactly equaled the decrease in income in the two years of the recession,” the Pew report stated.
During the Great Recession, the median U.S. household income (in 2011 dollars) dropped from $54,489 in 2007 to $52,195 in 2009, a loss of 4.2 percent. By this yardstick, the recovery from the Great Recession is bypassing the nation’s households.
Remember, two more reports by the Pew Research Center revealed that both the poverty rate and median household wealth are also worse under Obama’s policies than they were under the recession. A record number of 15% of Americans are on food stamps under the Obama Administrations and many have growing concerns of what it will ultimately mean for the nation as a whole. 47 million are using food stamps every month and some say the stigma has been removed by renaming the federal aid program. This, they say, is one reason more Americans are swallowing the pride and signing up. One analyst said,
In addition to the difficult job market, this is because of changes in the program that began in October 2008, including expansion of benefits and elimination of the cap for child care expenses.
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