FAST FACT: Latest Unemployment Numbers

January 9, 2010 posted by Kyla Bender-Baird

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest national unemployment figures this morning. The story they tell is an interesting one. Unemployment remains unchanged at 10% as does the number of unemployment persons (15.3 million). At first glance, there seems to be a glimmer of hope. But the Associated Press points out that those two stats alone don't give the whole picture. These numbers remain unchanged not necessarily because the economy is swinging up but because people are no longer looking for work:

Lack of confidence in the economic recovery led employers to shed a more-than-expected 85,000 jobs in December even as the unemployment rate held at 10 percent. The rate would have been higher if more people had been looking for work instead of leaving the labor force because they can't find jobs. The sharp drop in the work force -- 661,000 fewer people -- showed that more of the jobless are giving up on their search for work.

The total national unemployment rate, when calculated to include those marginally attached to the labor force and people working part-time for economic reasons is 17.3%. Another recent BLS report also confirmed that the length of unemployment varies by racial group:

Unemployed blacks have been jobless for longer periods than unemployed workers in other groups. In 2008, the median duration of unemployment for blacks was 12.1 weeks, compared with 10.2 weeks for Asians, 8.8 weeks for whites, and 8.4 weeks for Hispanics.

While the unemployment rate currently stands at 9% for whites, blacks are experiencing an unemployment rate of 16.2%. Finally, metropolitan area unemployment figures show a much starker reality than national statistics. Seventeen areas recorded unemployment rates of at least 15%, with the majority located in California and Michigan. The highest unemployment rates can be found in El Centro, CA (29.2%) and Yuma, AZ (21.1%).


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