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

Failing Bridges Hold Public Hostage

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) gave the public just a few hours’ notice before closing a major bridge in March, citing significant safety concerns.

The West Seattle Bridge functioned as an essential component of  the city’s local and regional transportation network, carrying 125,000 travelers a day while serving Seattle’s critical maritime and freight industries. Closing it was a huge blow to the city and its citizens. 

Yet neither Seattle’s struggle with bridge maintenance nor the inconvenience now facing the city’s motorists is unusual. Decades of neglect left bridges across the country crumbling or near collapse, requiring a massive investment to keep traffic flowing safely.

When they opened it in 1984, officials predicted the West Seattle Bridge would last 75 years.

But in 2013, cracks started appearing in the center span’s box girders, the main horizontal support beams below the roadway. These cracks spread 2 feet in a little more than two weeks, prompting the bridge’s closure.

And it’s still at risk of falling.  

The city set up an emergency alert system so those in the “fall zone” could be quickly evacuated if the bridge deteriorates to the point of collapse.

More than one-third of U.S. bridges similarly need repair work or replacement, a reminder of America’s urgent need to invest in long-ignored infrastructure.

Fixing or replacing America’s bridges wouldn’t just keep Americans moving. It would also provide millions of family-supporting jobs for steel and cement workers, while also boosting the building trades and other industries.

With bridges across the country close to failure and millions unemployed, America needs a major infrastructure campaign now more than ever.


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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work