Meltdown 101: Unemployment by the numbers

Unemployment since 1993
Unemployment since 1993

The most amazing piece of  information I have read yet on the Jobs Melt Down.  I thought all of you would appreciate the work that went into this journalist’s informative piece.  Chef Sheila

7.2 percent…….

The headline unemployment rate for December is the number every TV newscaster, economic blogger and talk radio host focused on Friday. That rate, the highest in 16 years, translates into 11.1 million Americans without jobs.

But 7.2 percent doesn’t capture how many people are out of work. By another measure — from the same employment report — as much as 13.5 percent of the labor force is either unemployed or underemployed.

The 7.2 figure everyone knows measures something very specific: the portion of people in the work force who wanted to work, looked for a job last month, but weren’t working during the first week in December.

It’s a tricky definition. It includes the stay-at-home mom who started sending out resumes when her husband’s company had its second round of layoffs, but it doesn’t count the out-of-work auto worker in Michigan who’s so frustrated, she’s given up looking.

It doesn’t include 1.9 million unemployed people who looked for work in the last year, but not the last month. It doesn’t include 8 million people working part-time either because they couldn’t find full-time work or because their hours had been cut.

Add them in and you’re looking at 21 million unemployed or underemployed workers, representing 13.5 percent of the labor force.

Deep in Friday’s employment report, and in others from recent weeks, you’ll find details like these that offer a fuller view of the American jobs landscape. Here are some highlights, by the numbers.



11.1 million: People unemployed in December 2008.

11.9 million: People unemployed in November 1982, the final month of the last recession of more than a year.

10.8 percent; 111.1 million: Unemployment rate and total work force in November 1982.

7.2 percent; 154.4 million: Unemployment rate and total work force in December 2008.

January 1993: Last time the unemployment rate was this high.

61.0 percent: Portion of the total population that had jobs in December.

January 1987: Last time the portion was this low.



7.2 percent: Adult men

5.9 percent: Adult women

9.5 percent: Female heads of households

5.1 percent: Asians

6.6 percent: Whites

9.2 percent: Hispanics

11.9 percent: Blacks

20.8 percent: Teenagers

15.3 percent: Construction workers

17 percent: Agriculture workers

2.3 percent: Government workers



4.9 percent: National unemployment rate in December 2007.

2.6 million: Jobs lost nationally in 2008.

1.9 million: Jobs lost in the last four months alone.

791,000: Factory jobs lost in 2008, roughly half of them in the last four months.

522,000: Retail jobs lost in 2008, more than half of them in the last four months.

22,000: Automobile dealership jobs lost in December alone.



2.6 million: People who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer.

2.5 million: People who were trying re-enter the work force after leaving work for reasons such as parenthood or retirement.

1.9 million: People who wanted to work, were available for work and had looked for work in the last 12 months, but had not looked in the last month.

6.3 million: People working part-time because of slow work or business conditions.



33.3 hours: Length of the average workweek at private, non-farm businesses in December, the shortest since these records were first kept in 1964.

5 cents per hour: Average December increase in private, nonfarm pay. The increase, which is in inflation-adjusted dollars, is largely due to declining prices for consumer goods — not increases in actual take-home pay.



16: Minimum age to be included in the labor force. The numbers also don’t include anyone who’s in prison or other institutions, or in the armed forces.

15.7 percent: Portion of the labor force in 2007 that was foreign-born. The government doesn’t ask about the legal status of workers in its employment surveys.

47.7 percent: Portion of the net increase in the labor force from 2000 to 2007 attributed to foreign-born workers.



60,000: Number of households interviewed in the monthly Census Bureau survey the unemployment rate is extrapolated from.

40 percent: Portion of companies in the survey of businesses, from which payroll and job loss numbers are extrapolated, with fewer than 20 employees.



23.4 percent: November unemployment rate for El Centro, Calif.

2.8 percent: November rate for Iowa City, Iowa.

By ELLEN SIMON, AP Business Writer Ellen Simon, Ap Business Writer Fri Jan 9, 8:24 pm ET


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36 responses to “Meltdown 101: Unemployment by the numbers

  1. Scary, scary, another thing not reported in the jobs numbers are the self employed and free lancer.

  2. horsedooty

    I have always thought that the numbers are skewed because they don’t take into account the vast numbers of people that are now not able to draw unemployment benefits and may have not been looking for work.

  3. Nannymm

    It probably doesn’t include the guy who shovels my driveway in winter and mows my law in summer. He lost his job when a local business closed 2 yrs ago. His unemployment benefits are long gone and his job prospects are dismal. So he has taken to walking around with a snow shovel in winter and a lawn mower in summer, knocking on doors and offering his services. It looks like one small step away from a depression to me; to him it must be a depression already.

  4. Gene Robinson: Gay Bishop Giving Obama Prayer

    New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, a vocal gay rights leader, will open President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration with a prayer on Sunday’s kick-off event at the Lincoln Memorial.

  5. dnd

    Another thing that skews the numbers is that the Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps changing what construes “unemployed.” I think the last time was 2006. So historical references have some degree of error.

    Suffice to say things are bad and getting worse.

  6. dnd

    “Ending several years of restraint by the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado in ordaining openly gay and partnered priests, Bishop Robert O’Neill will ordain Mary Catherine Volland, along with three others, to the priesthood at St. John’s Cathedral on Saturday. ”

  7. dog's eye view

    Good piece Sheila, very informative. Thanks.

    Ohio’s Geo Voinovich retiring; his seat up in 2010. Joins Missouri’s Kit Bond and 2 other GOP senators. (Who? Anybody know off hand? Chris Cilizza has a sloppy WaPost piece in which he never mentions who the other 3 are …)

    I would think Ohio and Missouri will be very competitive for Dems.

    Maybe they could pick up 60 by 2010, and they are so close to it now. (Do not think that Maine’s Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins will join the rest of GOP in any partisan intransigence….Further, if he does stick around for 2010, McCain’s seen the writing on the wall and it is not unthinking hardline conservatism, even in Arizona. I was amazed how FEW McCain stickers I saw in Phoenix/Tucson/Scottsdale. Way more Obama, even there.)

  8. dog's eye view

    PS: my smarter friend said we probably weren’t seeing that many McCain stickers since he did not have to contest the state. But you would expect some pride in the hometown son, hmm?

  9. dog's eye view

    PPS: re today’s column: we do indeed appreciate the work product of “this journalist’s piece: it needs an attribution. What is the source (with link), and who wrote it?

  10. Thanks for all the good news! 😦

    Just look at that graph and place the Bush’s presidency over top of it…. ” ya done a heck of a job there Bushie”

    btw: Every time I think about Obama taking office this month it makes me really happy….even with all this bad news.

  11. dog's eye view

    Don’t call us Baby Boomers.

    A lot of us are “Cuspers”, born between 1954-1965. Like our PEBO cusper in chief.

    That separates us from many at another site, does it not? Maybe it explains something, maybe not….

  12. horsedooty

    I am just the “other side of the line” from the boomers. (born in 1945) and the boomer line is 1946. So I am LEFT out but thankfully I am at least a lefty.

  13. dog's eye view

    You are a prize, no matter what your birth year, doots!

    And you are damn old in Rance years (as am I!)

    Frosty out there this morning.

  14. horsedooty

    frosty here also 30F Rance is on a tear this AM Been barking at the front door for most of the morning. Nothing there….

  15. dnd

    Sen. Kerry is heaping praise on Sen. Clinton at the SOS confirmation hearing. Good for him, given that he wanted that job and probably thinks he’s more qualified.

  16. dnd

    What is a “cusper?” I need to know because I’m one, though it’s not making me feel any younger 😉

  17. chefsheila

    Good Morning Everyone.

    I’m in Palm Springs and raring to go now. What a holiday season….

    dnd, “Cusp”er is borrowed from Astrology. Its a term reserved for those that are born right on the edge of and outgoing and incoming zodiac sign. Those that are born onthe cusp, usually show characteristics of both signs. The incoming sign showing a stronger tie.

    So yes, it does seem that we can be divided so.

  18. dog's eye view

    Palm Springs again — how nice! Sheila: got to drive through a little of the territory after sunset — it’s pretty even at night. Enjoy!!

    As you know, Clinton SOS confirmation hearing on MSNBC; she’s speaking now.

  19. dnd

    That Christopher Hitchens on Bill O’Reilly link is great. The “ticking time bomb” argument is total BS. If intelligence knows there’s a ticking time bomb, they know where it is.

  20. chefsheila

    I’m locked out of WordPress for now. Here is the credit. I thought it was there….but I’ve been on a tight schedule too.

    At least I got something done for the blog…although I felt strained by the job. 😉

    By ELLEN SIMON, AP Business Writer Ellen Simon, Ap Business Writer – Fri Jan 9, 8:24 pm ET

  21. chefsheila

    Thanks Brian

  22. Pingback: New Perspectives on the Unemployed « Labor Law Guy

  23. DerRen

    Cuspers is the term which is most often used to describe those of us who are in-between Generation X and Generation Y. Admittedly, those who on in-between, or on the cusp, of all generations are called Cuspers, but the term is mainly used for those on the cusp of GenX/GenY.

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