This Christmas brought some unwanted gifts to the American households that depend on the wages earned through paid employment for most, if not all, of their incomes.
New data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the national unemployment rate reached 5 percent in December 2007, the highest level since 2005. Moreover, the jump in the unemployment rate that occurred between November and December was the sharpest since the September 11th attacks. Overall, 7.7 million Americans spent this Christmas jobless and actively seeking work.
At the same time, December also saw job growth grind to a virtual halt. Nationwide, the economy experienced a net gain of just 18,000 jobs, while the private sector recorded a net loss of 11,000 jobs. Declines in the construction and manufacturing sectors appear to be the main forces weighing down the labor market. To add insult to injury, these anemic numbers are apt to be revised downward in coming months.
Ironically, at a time of rising unemployment and declining job growth, the federal government cut away at the public structures designed to help unemployed workers weather economic downturns. In the final hours of the congressional session, the House and Senate allowed the Trade Adjustment Assistance program to expire (despite strong objections from Sen. Elizabeth Dole ) and failed to pass the Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act. Moreover, the omnibus budget appropriations bill reduced funding for most workforce development programs programs below their 2007 levels.
More unemployment, fewer jobs and less help — there are not exactly the gifts for which people hope.
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