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by James Parks, Dec 3, 2010

Photo credit: Kieran Bennett  

Today’s news that only 39,000 jobs were created last month lifting the unemployment rate to 9.8 percent should be sounding alarm bells all over Capitol Hill, where  congressional Republicans are blocking restoration of unemployment benefits for long-term jobless workers.  More than 890,000 people (and counting)  have lost their unemployment benefits (UI) since Dec. 1.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said of today’s report:

The disconnect between Washington and working families is dangerous and alarming. We need to get serious about investing in job creation now and we need an immediate, one-year extension of jobless benefits. Without dramatic action to invest in America and create jobs, our economy will not see the robust and sustained recovery we need to put millions of Americans back to work.

Every day of inaction by Congress means that more people will fall out of the system during the toughest job search of their lives–unable to pay the bills, put food on the table, or celebrate the holidays. This is further damage to our communities and our weakened economy–and it is unworthy of our great country.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported this morning that 15.1 million are officially jobless, up 276,000 from last month. Manufacturing lost another 13,000 jobs and retail trade jobs fell 28,000–an especially troubling figure at the start of the holiday shopping season.

The jobless rate has been 9 percent or more for the past 19 months–the longest it has been this high since World War II, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). 

The number of jobs created is a significant drop from October, when 151,000 jobs were added. Private-sector job growth was less than a third its already anemic rate in the previous month. The economy needs to add about 150,000 new jobs each month to keep up with the growth in the labor force. But to lower the nation’s unemployment rate to 6 percent by 2013, the economy needs to add 350,000 jobs a month.

Long-term joblessness continues to be a crisis, with nearly 6.3 million workers jobless for six months or more. Nearly 44 percent of unemployed workers have been jobless for 27 weeks or more.

Mark your calendars for Dec. 7. That day, you can show your solidarity with jobless workers by replacing your Facebook and Twitter images with our jobless avatar here. And change your status to: “In Solidarity with Jobless Workers.” 

The number of workers who are underemployed, which includes those who are too discouraged to look for work or are working part-time out of economic necessity, remained nearly the same at 17 percent in November. Overall, nearly 27 million U.S. workers who want to work cannot find a job or full-time work.

Citing the loss of 13,000 manufacturing jobs, Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) called today’s jobless numbers “dreadful.”   

After a period of stability in manufacturing earlier this year, we have begun to see a steady decline, which America can ill afford. We need jobs, and we need them now.  Over the long run, we need to reduce our national debt, but over the short term, we need to reduce our trade deficit and invest in  America.  Both parties appear to be tone deaf to what’s happening in real America.

“What is infuriating is that this recession was unnecessary — it was caused by deregulation and indifference to speculation,” said EPI President Lawrence Mishel.

 Plus its depth and duration have been deepened by political forces resisting efforts to generate the millions more jobs we have needed. Unfortunately, there’s much more pain ahead in the pipeline.

On Wednesday, some 300 unemployed workers from around the nation came to Capitol Hill to tell their stories and urge Congress to act now to maintain UI benefits for long-term jobless workers. But Republican lawmakers vowed to continue blocking help for job seekers. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said they would use Senate rules to block new unemployment help and every other bill until the Senate passes n extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. Other Republican lawmakers have even claimed killing the extended benefits program will actually spur the jobless to look harder for work.

One of the unemployed workers,  Russ Myer, a 35-year-old former marketing copywriter from Portland, Ore., and father of a 4-year-old son, says that infuriates him.

First, there is the obvious inequity in calling for tax breaks and denying workers help. That is incredibly hypocritical and infuriating….This  so-called tough love idea that if we cut off benefits it will spur people to go out and look even harder for work…that the unemployed simply sit around on the couch and collect their checks is a cruel misconception.

Extending UI benefits through 2011 would create or save some 488,000 payroll jobs, according to Mishel and EPI economist Heidi Shierholz. The extension also would generate more than 12 million weekly work hours for those who already have jobs, which means that extending benefits would support a total of 723,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

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