5 Hard Lessons of June's Job Losses

Can worker re-training succeed?

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The U.S. job market suffered a punishing June, according to new labor statistics. The economy lost an aggregate of 125,000 jobs, even as 83,000 jobs were added to the private sector. Additionally, 625,000 Americans left the labor force. The unemployment rate dropped from 9.7 to 9.5 percent, but the decrease was due to the number of unemployed people who have been out of work so long that they are no longer considered job-seeking, and thus are not counted in the unemployment rate.

  • The Long-Term Decline in Job Growth  The New York Times' Michael Powell reports, "The median forecast from economists and economic forecasting firms was that the nation would add 110,000 private-sector jobs. The economy needs to add about 130,000 to 150,000 jobs a month just to keep pace with new workers entering the market. The labor pool is already packed with 15 million Americans looking for work.  ... Private job growth has risen every month this year. But that growth slowed to a worrisome trickle in May, as the economy created just 33,000 jobs that month, according to revised figures released Friday. By way of comparison, the economy has lost 7.4 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007."
  • 'The Recovery is Losing Steam'  So declares the New York Times' David Leonhardt. "The overall picture isn’t so much of a double-dip recession as it is of a badly wounded economy recovering at a slow pace. But that’s not much to get excited about it. If the Senate and the Federal Reserve were waiting for more information to decide whether the economy needed more help, they just got it."
  • Job Crisis Demands Action  The Washington Post's Ezra Klein frets, "It's true that when the National Bureau of Economic Research dates the end of the recession, it will probably have ended months ago. And it's true that the financial crisis has been over some time. But we really do remain in a jobs crisis. The fact that things are getting better most months, though worse in some months, obscures both how bad the situation is and how rapid our improvement has to be to really make a dent in it. But in the Senate, Republicans and Ben Nelson are objecting to using emergency legislative powers to pass further unemployment benefits, and there seems to be no appetite to try to intervene in this crisis in any further way."
  • Manufacturing Struggles to Rebuild  The New York Times' Motoko Rich writes, "Factory owners have been adding jobs slowly but steadily since the beginning of the year, giving a lift to the fragile economic recovery. And because they laid off so many workers — more than two million since the end of 2007 — manufacturers now have a vast pool of people to choose from." But those employers complain that the sought-after manufacturing skills are scant among the unemployed. "They are looking to hire people who can operate sophisticated computerized machinery, follow complex blueprints and demonstrate higher math proficiency than was previously required of the typical assembly line worker." Because of the paucity of hire-able skilled workers, even sectors able to grow are unable to.
  • Can Worker Re-Training Work?  The Economist's Democracy in America explores the subject: "This would suggest that retraining workers for new jobs might produce substantial returns. But government job-training programmes have at best a mixed record of success in America. ... part of the problem with attempting to recruit highly-skilled workers in Cleveland these days may be the reduced mobility of America's workforce due to the ongoing slump in housing prices.Still, it's striking that Congress may be grudgingly willing to spend on extending unemployment benefits, but not on doing anything geared towards addressing the structural reasons why Americans are unemployed."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.