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Tilting at Windmills

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December 5, 2008

EMPLOYMENT PICTURE TURNS EVEN UGLIER.... It wasn't too long ago when it would take a year to lose a half-million jobs. Now, it's happening in just a month.

Skittish employers slashed 533,000 jobs in November, the most in 34 years, catapulting the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent, dramatic proof the country is careening deeper into recession.

The new figures, released by the Labor Department Friday, showed the crucial employment market deteriorating at an alarmingly rapid clip, and handed Americans some more grim news right before the holidays.

As companies throttled back hiring, the unemployment rate bolted from 6.5 percent in October to 6.7 percent last month, a 15-year high.

Job losses were widespread, hitting factories, construction companies, financial firms, retailers, leisure and hospitality, and others industries.

The 533,000 number is the worst in a single month since December 1974.

Economists had forecasted a loss of 320,000 jobs in November, making the news that much more painful. Adding insult to injury, the estimates from the last two months were revised downward. All told, 2.7 million jobs have been eliminated since the recession began, and more than 10.3 million people are currently out of work.

Not surprisingly, consumer confidence is in freefall: "We have recorded the largest decline in consumer confidence in our history," said Richard T. Curtin, director of the Reuters/University of Michigan Survey of Consumers, which started its polling in the 1950s. "It is being driven down by a host of factors: falling home and stock prices, fewer work hours, smaller bonuses, less overtime and disappearing jobs."


Steve Benen 9:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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Ouch indeed.

There isn't a painless way out of this mess. The next months are going to change the way all of us live. Nobody is going to emerge unaffected.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 5, 2008 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

so much for the M.B.A. president ... like so many have said, everything Bush touches turns into a turd pile ... and he just looks around in a stupor, not knowing what to do

Posted by: sjw on December 5, 2008 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

The Nobody Could Have Anticipated administration does it again. Heck of a job, Bushies.

Posted by: Ghost of Joe Liebling's Dog on December 5, 2008 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

The 533,000 number is the worst in a single month since December 1974.
And the president then was Republican Jerry Ford, coming off of six years of another Republican, Richard Nixon. The (R) after a Republican's name stands for "Recession."

Posted by: Dennis-SGMM on December 5, 2008 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

I had someone tell me the other day that the income/earnings numbers are not as bad as people (i.e. Dems) would say. Of course she also said most people don't carry big credit card debt either. Did I say she was Republican...

Posted by: ET on December 5, 2008 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

And back in 1974 America still had a lot of manufacturing plants. I know, I worked in a few. They were a fallback position for a lot of us.

This cushion no longer exists, and it's getting worse. An auto-parts plant (Lear) here in the Tampa Bay area is packing up & moving to Mexico.

Many of the rich (in my opinion) want to change the U.S. to the Mexican model. Raise all the boats? Screw that! I got mine, buddy, maybe I can buy your girlfriend if you're a peasant.

Posted by: BuzzMon on December 5, 2008 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

that current Onion commentary by the dickwad 'president' isn't even funny.

no one in the last fifty years or more has "slouched toward bethlehem to be born" as has this dimbulb disaster.

mass murderer, nero-fiddler, thug and crook, village idiot. nothing -- no metaphor -- completes the picture of utter disaster of his 'leadership' the last eight years. he should be in prison for life.

Posted by: neill on December 5, 2008 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics tables, total nonfarm employment in January 2001 was 132,469,000. Now it's 136,167,000, a gain of 3.7 million.

It's estimated that our economy needs to create between 130,000 and 150,000 net new jobs per month, just to keep pace with the growth of the working-age population. That would mean that over the eight years of Bush's Administration, our economy would have needed to produce between 12.5 million and 14.5 million new jobs, just to stay even.

So Bush has been a miserable failure with respect to job growth, just like he's been with just about everything else (besides making rich people even richer).

But wait, it gets worse.

If you only look at private nonfarm employment, the January 2001 and current numbers are 111,634,000 and 113,623,000.

The private economy has grown by less than 2 million jobs during the Bush years.

And the way things are going, the next two months might slice even that meager gain in half.

For comparison purposes, private employment went from 90,824,000 to 111,634,000 during the Clinton years, a gain of 20.8 million. Governmental employment also grew by 1.9 million (as opposed to 1.7 million under Bush), but for the Clinton economy, that was just icing on the cake, rather than practically half of the entire (cup)cake in Bush's case.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on December 5, 2008 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

The figure was tempered by the fact that 422,000 workers left the labor market, likely discouraged by their inability to find a job. The unemployment rate only includes people actively looking for work. - WaPo

Tempered? That brings the category of "marginally attached" (unemployed but not counted) to 1.9 million. Add this to the 10.3 that the BLS considers "unemployed" and you get 12.2 million.

And here's an interesting quote from the BLS report: The current category, "Searched for work and available to work now," will be changed to "Marginally attached to the labor force." This is strictly a change in title, and not in definition

Paul Krugman insists the government doesn't "cook the books", but I don't know a better term for it.

Posted by: Danp on December 5, 2008 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

Soon, we will all be jobless. God bles George W Bush for this !

Posted by: Cool Analyst on December 5, 2008 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

W did not fail at his anointed task. Just like "heck of a job [fill in the blank], his sole task was to wreck the infrastructure of this country's government. Guess who benefits?

The haves and the have mores...

Posted by: pokeybob on December 5, 2008 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

You might not have noticed but the rest of the world is in a deep recession too. It seems the whole damn world was living off the American consumer. Nobody connected the dots. As factory jobs moved oversease and American incomes declined American consumption was increasingly supported by cashing out real estate equity and running up unsustainable credit card debt. Guess what, American consumers are all tapped out. Rebuilding the world's economy is going to be a long slow process.

The first step might be floating the Auto Makers a loan, but who is going to buy the new cars?

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 5, 2008 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Barney Frank was correct the other day when he said Obama needs to be more actively engaged. Bush seems determined to do nothing and hand over an economy that is in free fall. Unless the Dems start thinking very creatively right now, we will be in a full-scale, 1930s-style depression by early next year.

Posted by: g. powell on December 5, 2008 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

One final thought. Auto sales numbers recently released indicate that sales of foreign cars are way down. It isn't like the American consumer abandoned the American companies en mass. They have abandoned Toyota, Nissan, and the rest as well.

In this economy why would you buy a car unless you had no choice?

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 5, 2008 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

God Bush America!

And he did.

1974. Hmmm? Hadn't we just spent billions on a war that we would "lose" in 1975?

I thought war was good for the economy?

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on December 5, 2008 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

The election's over - no need to cook the books any more...

Posted by: Ethel-To-Tilly on December 5, 2008 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Amazing that Elaine Cho found these numbers. She must have run across them while cleaning out her office.

She has run an "All is Well" campaign for almost 8 years.

But, there will be a hiring program at Preston Hollow in Dallas - Lawn and cleaning crews - Have your Green Card available.

Posted by: berttheclock on December 5, 2008 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

A snippet from an AP release this morning:

“The new figures, released by the Labor Department Friday, showed the crucial employment market deteriorating at an alarmingly rapid clip, and handed Americans some more grim news right before the holidays.”
“Job losses in September and October also turned out to be much worse. Employers cut 403,000 jobs in September, versus 284,000 previously estimated. Another 320,000 were chopped in October, compared with an initial estimate of 240,000.”

So, the Labor Department revised upward unemployment numbers from September and October. 119,000 more in September than previously reported, 80,000 more in October. The two most critical months at the end of a hotly contested election campaign and the Labor Department is off their estimates by nearly 200,000 unemployed workers. How odd……………..

Posted by: steve duncan on December 5, 2008 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Drastically cut credit lines as well. If you're carrying, say, three cards with credit lines of 6K apiece that are now 4K apiece, you may well be maxed out on at least one.

Posted by: jayackroyd on December 5, 2008 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Dave Henderson corrects the innumeracy you and CNBC suffer from:


"The current 6.7 percent unemployment rate is still well below the 7.4 percent rate that President clinton's economic advisers were calling for a major reduction in the U.S. government's budget deficit."

I am surprised how illiterate is the Obama camp.

The economy is trying to restore the Clinton policies, and for some reason the Obama camp, who supports Bill, is constantly accusing them of Hooverism! We do not need a Republican party, the Dems cover both sides of the aisle just fine. Bill "Hoover" Clinton has married Hillary "Obama" Clinton, and they will battle this out until the economy wins, and Bill's policies come back.

How long will it take for Obama and Krugman to realize that their passion for massive increases in government share is just another form of the same bubble.

Posted by: MattYoung on December 5, 2008 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Ironic or maybe the appropriate word is iconic. The middle class is bailing out one corporation after another with our tax moneys, then proceeds to lose those same jobs they are PAYING to keep. American corporations really do understand how to make money.

1. Sell widget to consumer.
2. Sell shares to investors.
3. Sell poverty to government.
4. Sell jobs to other country.
5. Buy private jet and $6,000 shower curtain (enron).

Wow great gig�. Where do I sign up?

Posted by: tinkeroom on December 5, 2008 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Heckuva job, Bushie.

Now go away,

Posted by: Zorro on December 5, 2008 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Dave Henderson corrects the innumeracy you and CNBC suffer from

You did notice that the very first comment corrected Henderson's contention that the percentage loss was smaller than those of the 1980s, and Henderson acknowledged that he was wrong, didn't you?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on December 5, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

"The current 6.7 percent unemployment rate is still well below the 7.4 percent rate that President clinton's economic advisers were calling for a major reduction in the U.S. government's budget deficit."

Not a valid comparison. Clinton stepped into office when the economy was already well into recovery from the 1991 recession, unemployment had peaked in June of 1992 and the 7.4% rate that Clinton inherited was already a decline. Unemployment is at 6.7% and may well cross the 7% line by the time Obama takes the oath of office (it just jumped 0.2% in one month and we still have about five and half weeks to go). Far from being in recovery, the economy is in the middle of a recession that some are predicting will run at least through the first year of the Obama administration and unemployment statistics are expected to keep rising for some period after that, with a possibility of hitting double digits by early 2010.

It is one thing to attack the deficits when the economy is on the upswing, even if it risks stalling the recovery (something Bush should have done five years ago) and quite another to attack deficit spending while the economy is falling into a well of uncertain depth.

Posted by: majun on December 5, 2008 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

g. powell,

Here I must respond. Obama needs to do exactly what he has been doing.

Isn't it enough, that he resigned his senate seat to try to get ready for what's ahead of him?

Why? I ask Why, should he take control when Bush is still getting a paycheck? Do you honestly think he should work for free?

It's not his fault that the American people are not demanding their representatives to submit articles of impeachment against Bush, nor demand that he steps down.

If people want to keep falling for the okey-doke republicans, then so be it!

If people keep wanting to vote based on favoritism, instead of intelligence, who's fit for the job, then so be it!

Just like Sarah Palin, what does she bring to the table? So what she's a governor, but so was Bush! She's still dumb like a fox, yet smart like a fox. Most of your people in public office have law degrees, medical degrees, Palin doesn't even have a community college degree!!!!!! And the classes she did take, she got C's, just like the D she got in Macroeconomics. It's obvious she failed Political Science, she doesn't even know the 3 branches of government, nor their functions, she couldn't name a landmark case.

As far as I'm concerned, the republicans can run a successful campaign, but they can't govern.

But then, when you look at the tactics they like to use, Lee Atwater, this is how they win. They always challenge people's patriotism, they find dirt on their opponents, and if they opponent is a minority, yup, they use the race card.

Posted by: Annjell on December 5, 2008 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, the economy is in a tailspin. The worst I've ever seen in my life.

Yet, Bush still wants free-trade with Columbia, Panama....

Our jobs have been going away at a rapid pace since Boy George took office.

Everytime I call my internet service provider, or let alone my credit card company - I end up in Philipines or India.

I don't like buying canned tuna anymore (product of Thailand), I have noticed everytime I open a can of tuna, there's no more chunks of tuna. It looks like I get tuna scraps in the can. As if what is left on the chopping table in put in the cans.

We don't make anything anymore.

I saw it coming when contractors were being outbid by cheaper wages, or when I used to go to fast food drive thru's and my order was screwed up every time due to language barriers.

Posted by: Annjell on December 5, 2008 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

And this is after the Congress and President approved two large stimulus packages in 2008. What next, a $1trillion stimulus package on top of the ongoing federal deficit?

How long do we have to wait (echoing MattYoung above) before somebody realizes that the government can't stimulate the economy without taking money from it first, either as tax or as borrowing?

Posted by: marketeer on December 5, 2008 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK


We wouldn't be in this position if Boy George had sold war bonds to pay for the wars going on.

This is the only time in our history that we didn't sell war bonds to fund a war, and then shipped jobs overseas and then brought in illegal immigrants for exploitation with lower wages for the jobs left behind.

I believe all of this was done as a cover-up. Keep the Americans minds on something else so they won't be able to stop what we're doing.

However, I ask you, did you know about the private contractor Triple Canopy? They hire mercenaries from Peru at pay rate of $30 USD a day in Iraq.

That's less than minimum wage in any state for the U.S.

Posted by: Annjell on December 5, 2008 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK



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