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Stuck in First Gear

Unemployment Remains High in September

SOURCE: AP/Julie Jacobson

Mark Cozart of Las Vegas reads listings for job opportunities at a job fair on October 5, 2010, in Las Vegas. The private sector added jobs last month, but not enough to bring down the near-record-high unemployment rate of 9.6 percent.

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The labor market remains stuck in first gear and is in danger of stalling altogether. The private sector added 64,000 jobs last month, far less than half as many as necessary just to keep pace with population growth. While this is a significant improvement over going in reverse, it’s insufficient to bring down the near-record-high unemployment rate of 9.6 percent.

The federal government shed 77,000 temporary Census workers last month and local governments laid off 76,000 workers as policymakers have faced declining tax revenues due to high unemployment and high foreclosures. This is exactly the wrong time for state and local governments to drag down our economy.

Today’s papers led with the story that in New Jersey, the governor has decided to abandon an $8.7 billion project (of which New Jersey would only pay about a third) that would add capacity to the 100-year-old tunnel connecting New Jersey and Manhattan. This is exactly the kind of project that we need right now: Put people back to work and address our deteriorating infrastructure.

Heather Boushey is Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress.

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