The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its latest unemployment numbers Friday and, coupled with the lowered expectations of the Federal Reserve and the potential expiration of the unemployment extension benefits for millions, those numbers could become even worse when the December unemployment rate is calculated. The Department of Labor noted that only 39,000 jobs were created in the month of November, far less than they expected, and with large retail lay-offs pushing the numbers, the jobless rate rose to 9.8 percent, or, in human terms, 15.1 million individuals.
The jobless rate moved upward .2 percent from its position at 9.6 percent for the three previous months. And although October seemed to see an uptick in job creation (the estimates were readjusted to show an actual increase of an additional 21,000 non-farm jobs to 172,000), there is little doubt that most of those jobs were created by companies hiring for the holiday season (and, subsequently, laying off a month later after the stocking up for and through Black Friday). Companies like Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, hire in October and see an attrition of new hirees all the way through to the new year, with the largest number losing their jobs in the lay-offs coming after New Year’s Day in anticipation of the annual January-February slowdown.
Many of those will also not be eligible for unemployment benefits.
But the .2 percent increase pushed the total number of official unemployed to 15.1 million, an increase of some 300,000 former workers.
Just before the monthly jobless rate and unemployment figures were released, the Federal Reserve released its economic forecast for next two years. According to the Fed’s projections, the unemployment rate will remain at or above 9 percent throughout 2011. And the rate isn’t expected to fall below 8 percent through 2012.
While all the bleak federal news about the unemployed was making headlines, those who face a far less abstract impact from those numbers were facing a discontinuation of part or all of their income. Government authorization of funds for unemployment extensions expired on Nov. 30, so unemployment benefits for those in the Tier categories of the extensions and emergency extensions were halted, meaning that within days benefit payouts would stop.
Regular unemployment benefits, of course, would be unaffected. However, estimates place the number of those losing some form of benefits extension at around 2 million by the end of the year. If no reauthorization is agreed upon in Congress by February, the number could reach as many as 4 million. Added to the 99er population (those who have exhausted all unemployment extension benefits for which they are eligible, which, for some, could reach 99 weeks of assistance) already in existence, estimated to be in excess of 2 million, a tripling of the long-term and benefits-less unemployed could occur. One Huffington Post article concluded that the number of 99ers could increase by an additional 4 million in the next year — due to individuals on benefits simply seeing them exhausted — even if unemployment legislation does pass within the next few weeks.
Part of the problem is job creation. At present, there exists a surplus of five job seekers for every available job position. (This does not include the so-called “discouraged” jobless, those who have basically stopped attempting to find gainful employment altogether, taking themselves out of the competition, which would make the disparity even larger.) In an economy that has been seeing marginal improvement for months, the latest unemployment figures and projections bodes a slow crawl out of the Great Recession and a jobless rate population of around 15 million for some time to come.
“Employment Situation Summary,” BLS.gov