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Unless Government Takes Bold Action, Unemployment Will Worsen

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The nation added some 162,000 jobs in March, the second month to see job growth since the recession began in 2007, according to data out today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The jobless rate remains unchanged from February at 9.7 percent, with 17 million U.S. workers jobless.

Temporary help services grew the most last month, adding 40,000 jobs in March. Manufacturing employment also increased, growing by 17,000 jobs, and totalling 45,000 jobs in the first three months of 2010. After losing an average of 72,000 jobs per month in the past 12 months, construction remained steady at 15,000 in March. African American and Latino workers continue to be hardest hit, with unemployment for blacks at 16.5 percent and Latinos at 12.6 percent.

Although the March report is a big improvement from the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost each month during 2009, job growth is effectively stalled and long-term unemployment is eating away at people’s pocketbooks and the nation’s economy. More than two in every five unemployed workers in this country have been unemployed for more than six months. And the situation is getting worse. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) increased by 414,000 over the month to 6.5 million. In March, 44.1 percent of unemployed persons were jobless for 27 weeks or more.

When both unemployed and underemployed workers are counted, there are still some 26 million people without full-time work—a 16.9 percent underemployment rate.

Some 150,000 new jobs a month are needed just to keep pace with the growth in the labor force, and a stunning 11 million jobs must be generated to return to pre-recession employment levels. Yet there are more than six workers for every one job. Such massive numbers of new jobs aren’t going to materialize on their own.

As economist Heidi Shierholz from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) says, an increase in the March payrolls doesn’t change the basic fact that

unless policymakers take bold action, all key signs point to a very long, very slow recovery for jobs.

EPI released a report this week that shows how unemployment can worsen even with an economic “recovery” under way. “For Job Seekers, No Recovery in Sight” argues that further action to create jobs should remain the top priority for the nation’s policymakers.

Time to face up to the facts. The private sector is not creating jobs. Just the opposite. A new survey from ADP employer services shows private-sector employers cut 23,000 workers in March. Small businesses fared the worst, cutting 12,000 jobs. Large companies cut 7,000 workers and mid-sized groups cut 4,000.

As part of the AFL-CIO Good Jobs Now campaign, we are calling for Big Banks to resume lending to help credit-starved communities create jobs. Clearly, small businesses are not getting the credit they need to expand and hire workers.

We are backing a bill co-sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) to save or create nearly 1 million local jobs. Developed with mayors, county officials and others, the Local Jobs for America Act will provide $75 billion over two years to local communities to stave off planned cuts or to re-hire workers laid-off because of tight budgets. Funding would go directly to eligible local communities and nonprofit community organizations to decide how best to use the funds. More than 100 co-sponsors have signed on. (Click here to urge your representative to become a co-sponsor.)

Another key part of the AFL-CIO Jobs Agenda is extending the lifeline for jobless workers. Because of the action of one senator, Republican Tom Coburn from Oklahoma, the Senate left for a two-week recess without extending unemployment insurance (UI), meaning 200,000 workers a week will lose their safety net. The AFL-CIO union movement supports extending UI and COBRA health care benefits for another 12 months to prevent working families from bankruptcy, home foreclosure and the loss of health care.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner this week said the nation’s jobless rate is “still terribly high and is going to stay unacceptably high for a very long time” because of the damage caused by the recession.

It doesn’t have to be for a very long time if Congress and the White House take action. Time to get to work.


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