Growing Unemployment

October 12, 2008

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment reached a five-year high of 6.1% in August and remained at that rate in September. This amounts to over 9.3 million workers officially counted as unemployed, a number larger than the populations of Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston combined.

While mass layoffs are taking place throughout the economy, they are hitting certain sectors of the workers especially hard. Manufacturing workers lost 51,000 jobs last month and 442,000 over the past 12 months. Construction lost 35,000 jobs in September and retail also experienced heavy losses. Unemployment of black workers has already reached 11.4% and unemployment of Hispanic workers has already reached 7.8%.

Unemployment has steadily increased over the last several months and economists admit that they expect unemployment rates to continue rising.

Particularly severe effects of prolonged unemployment can be expected because of the gutting of social programs. Typically, unemployment insurance lasts only 26 weeks, leaving workers without a livelihood at all after that time. Welfare, food stamps and other income-support programs have also been slashed to the bone. In addition, workers who lose their jobs are usually deprived of health insurance, while most states have cut out Medicaid for the unemployed.

These conditions are entirely unacceptable. These conditions bring out the need for the workers to launch new struggles to protect and extend unemployment insurance and other income-support programs until everyone is guaranteed a job or a livelihood.