The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its monthly unemployment report for May 2011 Friday. The press release highlights the number of unemployed, 13.9 million, and the unemployment rate, 9.1 percent. The BLS has historical data that can clarify the American unemployment situation even more.
The number of people in the labor force represents the sum of working and unemployed Americans. The record high was in October 2008 with 154,953,000 in the labor force, according to the BLS. That represents the peak of a trend that saw 12.7 million Americans enter the labor force since January 2000. May 2011’s number was 153.7 million.
One group of non-working Americans that does not appear in that statistic are the discouraged workers. Discouraged workers do not appear in the unemployment rate as calculated by the BLS. These are Americans that want to work but have stopped looking in the prior four weeks. That number never exceeded 534,000 Americans until November 2008. The record high was in December 2010 with 1.3 million Americans. In May, that number was 822 thousand.
Another statistic is the participation rate, the percentage of Americans able to work who have jobs. 64.2% was the May rate, a record low. The record high is 67.2%, achieved several times in the period 1997-1999. That’s a loss of 4 million jobs.
The final stat worth a look is the number of workers unemployed over 27 weeks. This means that they have gone through at least one round of unemployment benefits. The number has been recorded since 1948 and in mid 1983 the record was set at 2.9 million. Until recently, that is. The new record was set in May 2010, 6.7 million long term unemployed Americans. In May of 2011, that number was 6.2 million Americans.
Long term unemployment. That is what concerns me and it ought to concern you. In the last year only 500,000 Americans moved out of that category, 7.6%. In that same period, the numbers of discouraged workers set a record high and is now only 261,000 down from the May 2010 number. The participation rate is at an all time low.
Americans cannot find work. Many have given up and record numbers have been unemployed for over six months. Hard core unemployment is real and needs to be addressed.
Upstate New York resident Charles Simmins brings 30 years of accounting and finance experience and a keen interest in military affairs to the news of the day. His years of experience working with the personnel of the Secretary of Defense’s New Media activity on Bloggers’ Roundtables provide insights often overlooked by other reporters.