Friday, March 5, 2010

Unemployment Still High

The new unemployment numbers are out, and the "good" news is that the unemployment rate has stayed at 9.7% and the rate of job losses is slowing. The not so good news is that when you read the actual figures you realize that the 9.7 figure doesn't include those who have given up looking for work or had their hours cut. Also, the slowing of job losses could be explained by there simply being fewer jobs out there left to lose. Any way you cut it, it still sucks in the job market.

It's not a political thing--anyone who thinks Bush or Obama caused this recession doesn't really get that economic forces greater than any president are clearly at work here (and of course, the recession is world-wide). But it is depressing, and makes me wonder how much longer it can go on until we see some sustained improvements. Already this thing has gone on since the end of '07--we're in the third year of it. Already the longest (and by some measures the most severe) recession since the 1930s.

On a personal note, this downturn has hit close to home. Along with a bunch of my colleagues I was laid off from my last job in late 2008, and it seems about a dozen of my friends have lost jobs at some point during this recession. A handful of others kept their jobs, but took pay cuts. This really makes the "recessions" of 2001 and 1991-92 pale in comparison.

Eventually these things have to end--though I don't think government action can do it, rather government action can only alleviate the pain by extending unemployment benefits or trying to hire some extra people. What eventually does happen is businesses run out of inventory, investors start to see bargains, consumers start to buy more as their needs can't be ignored for too long. The cycle has to turn before long.

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