Worsening Unemployment


The new unemployment figures were released yesterday. The news isn't good. My fellow Atlantic correspondent, Conor Clarke, has already put the new figures in context and points to David Leonhardt's perspective. The AP's Christopher Rugaber has a particularly nice take.

The past year has put more than six million workers on the unemployment roles. 6.4 million Americans "want a job," and the total ranks of the unemployed have swelled to more than 15 million people, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  9.7 percent of Americans over age 16 are out of work, up from 5.7 percent last year. And the broader U-6 rate of unemployment which includes "marginally attached workers" inched higher to 16.5 percent in June up from 10.1 percent last year.

The crisis has wiped out nearly a decade of jobs gains. Rugaber cites a startling statistic: There are currently 131.7 million American jobs, slightly less than the 131.9 million figure for May 2000. "It's the first time since the Great Depression that a recession has wiped out all the jobs created during the previous business cycle," writes Rugaber,citing Economic Policy Institute economist, Heidi Shierholz. Business Week's, Michael Mandel shows that private sector job creation was anemic over the boom - dubbing it "a lost decade for jobs" - noting that virtually all job creation came from government, education, and health care.

Unemployment's impact remains extremely uneven by gender, race, class, and occupation.

Race: The unemployment rate for whites is now 8.7 percent, up slightly from last month's 8.6 percent. The rate for blacks is down slightly from 14.9 percent last month to 14.7 percent.

Gender: Men continue to experience higher rates of unemployment than women - 10.6 percent, up from 10.5 percent), vs. 8.3 percent, up from eight percent, for women. This reflects the concentration of men in manufacturing jobs. 

Human Capital/Education: Unemployment remains considerably uneven by education or human capital level. The unemployment rate for college graduates is 4.7 percent, down slightly from 4.8 percent last month. It remains half that for high school (only) graduates, 9.8 percent, and a third of 15.5 percent rate for those without a high school diploma.

Occupation and Class: And there remain huge differences in unemployment by occupation or class.

Blue Collar Jobs: The highest rates of unemployment remain concentrated in working class occupations. Over the past year, more than 2.2 million members blue collar workers (production, maintenance, transportation, construction, and natural resource workers) joined the ranks of the unemployed; and 3.6 million working class jobs have been eliminated. The unemployment rate for production, transportation, and moving occupations is 13.9 percent. For production workers it's 16.3 percent, up from 15.6 percent last month and 7.3 percent last year; movers and transportation workers, 11.6 percent, up from 7.2 percent last year; and construction and extraction jobs, 17.8 percent, up from 9.1 percent a year ago.

Service Jobs: The unemployment rate for service workers is 10.2 percent, up from 9.4 percent last month and 6.5 percent last year. More than 1.1 million service workers have joined the ranks of the unemployed over the past year.

Professional, Technical, and Creative: Unemployment is up for professional, technical, and creative workers, but remains far lower than for working class or service jobs. For management and business occupations - including hard-fit financial jobs - the unemployment rate is 4.8 percent, up from 2.5 percent last year; and for professional and technical occupations it is up 5.1 percent from 2.9 percent a year ago. This is the first time in recent memory the unemployment rate for professional and technical workers has exceeded 5 percent. 1.2 million professional, technical, and creative workers joined the ranks of the unemployed this past year.

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Richard Florida is Co-founder and Editor at Large of CityLab.com and Senior Editor at The Atlantic. He is director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at NYU. More

Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative ClassWho's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He's also the founder of the Creative Class Group, and a list of his current clients can be found here
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