Jobless Rate in December Was Half the HIGH OF THE GREAT RECESSION

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

The U.S. concluded 2016 with a jobless rate of 4.7 percent in December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. That's up 0.1 percent from the month before, but half of the high that the nation hit -- 10 percent in October 2009 -- during the Great Recession. The number of jobless is down by more than half from that recession peak, too.

Businesses claimed to create 144,000 new jobs in December, while governments added 12,000, BLS said, citing its separate survey of firms. That brought total claimed new private-sector job creation last year to 1.95 million.

The latest numbers show the economy continues to recover from the recession, also known as the Bush Crash, since the policies and positions of the prior GOP George W. Bush government and its corporate backers, from 2001-2009, brought it on.

BLS reported 7.53 million people were jobless in December, up 120,000 from the month before, but down almost 400,000 from the end of 2015. At the depths of the crash, in October 2009, there were 15.35 million unemployed.

Not all the December data was rosy.

“In order to keep up with the growth in the labor force, the economy would need to add 881,000 jobs,” the Economic Policy Institute said. “And while the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in December, it would actually be 6.1 percent if missing workers” – those who are jobless, who are so discouraged they stopped looking or who work part-time but really want full-time employment – “were included.”

The lowest-paying services again led in creating jobs in December and during 2016: Health care (+63,300 jobs in December and +421,700 in the year) and bars and restaurants (+29,600 in December and +346,600 in the year). Overall, all services created a net of 132,000 jobs in December.

Factories, which generally have higher-paying -- and more-unionized -- jobs, added 17,000 workers in December. That brought factories to 12.275 million jobs at the end of 2016, still below the 12.32 million workers they employed at the end of 2015, but above the 11.46 million they employed in January 2010, their low point during the crash. December's data still left 630,000 (4 percent) of factory workers jobless.

Primary metals plants, such as steel, employed 383,900 workers in December, 2,000 fewer than the month before and almost 14,000 fewer than a year before. Before the crash hit, they reached 467,200 workers in July 2006, then descended to 346,600 in November 2009.

Construction firms shed 3,000 jobs in December, leaving them with 6.699 million workers. That's 14,000 more than a year before. At the depths of the crash, when the bottom dropped out of the construction market, particularly for homes, there were 5.5 million on-the-job construction workers in February 2010, and joblessness there was in double digits.

And while construction joblessness was 7.4 percent (670,000 workers) in December, construction union leaders say that understates unemployment in their sector, since a worker toiling for one day during the BLS survey week is counted as employed for the full month.

Mass transit systems – buses and subways – employed 459,900 workers in December, down 4,600 from a month before. The December figure for mass transit meant that for the first time since 2008, employment at mass transit systems shrunk, though their growth was minimal from 2014 to 2015.

Government grew by 12,000 jobs in December and 180,000 in the year, to 22.223 million. But virtually all December growth – and much of the yearly growth -- was in schools.

State universities and colleges added 6,600 jobs in December and 13,000 for the year, to 2.448 million. Local schools added 7,000 jobs in December and 49,000 for the year, to 7.862 million. Both figures are below their pre-recession peaks, as are other state and local government jobs.                                                  



Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Press Associates

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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