The Labor Department reported on Friday that only 96,000 new jobs were created in September and the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.4 percent. The employed share of the population actually declined for the second month in a row as many Americans, disenchanted with the weak labor market, gave up looking for jobs altogether. Since late December 2003, when the federal Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation program expired, an estimated 3 million unemployed individuals have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits. Below is a sampling of what America is saying about the unemployment rate.
New York, N.Y. – The New York Times
October 12, 2004 – Opinion Editorial
"Mr. Bush is the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a decline in payroll employment. That's worse than it sounds because the economy needs around 1.6 million new jobs each year just to keep up with population growth. The past year's job gains, while better news than earlier job losses, barely met this requirement, and they did little to close the huge gap between the number of jobs the country needs and the number actually available.
"Unemployment – Mr. Bush will boast about the decline in the unemployment rate from its June 2003 peak. But the employed fraction of the population didn't rise at all; unemployment declined only because some of those without jobs stopped actively looking for work, and therefore dropped out of the unemployment statistics. The labor force participation rate – the fraction of the population either working or actively looking for work – has fallen sharply under Mr. Bush; if it had stayed at its January 2001 level, the official unemployment rate would be 7.4 percent."
Fort Collins, Colo. – Fort Collins Coloradan
October 5, 2004 – Letter to the Editor
"I was laid off 14 months ago when Celestica closed a plant and moved production overseas. Due to extra coverage I received under NAFTA, my unemployment insurance just now ran out…
"My insurance ending translates into a lowered unemployment rate in the state of Colorado. As a master's-level manufacturing engineer, I'm starting a job assisting a tile setter; that will appear statistically as a job created…
"In the state of Colorado, the average change in annual wage for someone getting back into the workforce is a loss of $17,400."
Kansas City, Mo. – Kansas City Star
October 6, 2004 – Letter to the Editor
"When Clinton took office in January 1993, the rate of unemployment was 7.3 percent. So 5.4 percent when he ran for re-election in 1996 was a significant improvement. During his second term, unemployment continued to drop, ending the year 2000 at 3.9 percent.
"When George W. Bush took office in January 2001, the rate of unemployment was 4.2 percent and has continued to increase to the current 5.4 percent."
Hampton Roads, Va. – Daily Press
October 3, 2004 – Outlook Section
"Unemployment for young adults is typically 40-50 percent higher than the national average, and the current economy is no exception – about 10 percent of adults under 25 are jobless and looking. … Young people are financially stressed and unemployed."
Michigan – Newhouse News Service
October 8, 2004 – Commentary
"The fact is that a national unemployment rate below 6 percent is historically rare. The U.S. rate hasn't climbed above 6.2 percent for the better part of a decade, and it's been hovering in the 5.4 percent to 5.7 percent range for most of the year.
"Yes, one measure of employment shows the country with 913,000 fewer jobs than it had in January 2001. But that measurement excludes new business startups, excludes people who work from their homes, and excludes farm workers. How much sense does that make?
"According to the 'household survey' that does take account of such 'new economy' jobs, our economy boasts about 2 million more jobs today than it did four years ago.
"A 'recession' whose unemployment 'high' of 6.2 percent was lower than the best performance of previous recoveries isn't much of a recession. Considering all the shocks the country went through in 2001, the recession was remarkably mild and short-lived.
"For almost two years, including today, the combination of the unemployment rate, interest rates and the inflation rate has been at a level so encouragingly low as to have been unimaginable for most of the nation's history."
Asheville, N.c= – The Asheville Citizen-Times
October 8, 2004 – Editorial
"Yes, the national unemployment rate has seen decreases in recent months. Unfortunately, the number of low-wage jobs with little to no benefits has significantly increased, while the number of well-paid production jobs has declined…
"The poor state of the economy is further illustrated in recent national polls. Poll results find that a large number of Americans report that they are not as well off financially since Bush became president. A telephone poll of residents in Western North Carolina supports this finding.
"When asked if their family was 'worse off,' 'about the same,' or 'better off' than they were a year ago, nearly 30 percent of the sample responded that they were 'worse off.' When asked whether the number of working-age adults who are currently unemployed in WNC will increase, decrease or stay the same over the next year, more than half of the sample responded that unemployment would increase. Roughly 25 percent of working adults were worried 'a little' about losing their job, while 25 percent were worried 'to some extent' or 'a great deal.' Twenty percent were 'somewhat' to 'very' dissatisfied with the work they do."
Seattle, Wash. – The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
October 6, 2004 – Editorial
"In the larger view of the economy, the Congressional Budget Office predicts solid growth. It says that investment by business should lead that expansion. But so far, at least, the data is inconclusive. President Bush on Monday, signing the latest tax cut extension, said job creation is accelerating with nearly 1.7 million jobs created since last August 2003. The White House says the 5.4 percent unemployment rate is "below average for the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s."
"But that 'acceleration' is mild when compared with the 2.7 million non-farm jobs lost over the past four years.
"Recent news is not reassuring. New layoff announcements in September surged 45 percent, according to the outplacement firm Challenger Grey & Christmas."