News Release

Beyond the New Unemployment Numbers

SHEILA COLLINS
Professor of political science at William Paterson University in New Jersey and a member of the National Jobs for All Coalition executive committee, Collins is coauthor of Washington’s New Poor Law: Welfare ‘Reform’ and the Roads Not Taken, 1935 to the Present. She said Friday afternoon: “The official rate announced today is 6 percent. That’s 8.6 million people, up by half a million people since last month. The official numbers grossly understate the number of unemployed and underemployed people. There are 4 million people who only work part-time because they cannot find full-time work and another 4.5 million who have become so discouraged that they have stopped looking for work. If President Bush’s thrust on welfare is to push more people into the low-wage labor market, that will further increase the number of unemployed and underemployed people.”
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ELLEN FRANK
Professor of economics at Emmanuel College in Boston and author of the forthcoming book Money Illusion, Frank said today: “Last week the Commerce Department reported above-average GDP growth, leading people to think the recession had ended. April’s unemployment figures show that the U.S. economy is still quite fragile. The employment numbers should serve as a reminder that policy-makers need to focus on the economic plight of actual people, rather than on fluctuations in aggregate GDP numbers that we don’t fully understand. Whether we call it a recession or not, 6 percent unemployment has real economic consequences. In the late 1990s, low unemployment rates allowed U.S. workers to achieve substantial gains in income, after nearly 15 years of declines in [real] wages and job security. A return to 6 percent unemployment rates will likely reverse those gains…”
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WILLIAM SPRIGGS
Director of the National Urban League Institute for Opportunity and Equality, Spriggs said: “Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the Black unemployment rate jumped to 11.2 percent, the third straight month of increases. It is a full three percentage points higher than it was in April 2001. The unemployment rate for Hispanics increased to 7.9 percent, also the third straight month of increases, though it is only 1.6 percentage points higher than April of last year. The unemployment rate for women who serve as the household breadwinner now stands at 8.6 percent, up 2.3 percentage points from last year. The share of long-term unemployed, those who have been unemployed over 27 weeks, is now up to 17.6 percent of the unemployed. So, not surprisingly, the average length of unemployment has now risen to 16.6 weeks, a full four weeks longer than one year ago. Despite rapid growth in the economy for the first quarter, as recently reported by the Commerce Department, the report today clearly shows the labor market lagging behind…. The [welfare] legislation that just cleared the House Education and Workforce and Ways and Means Committees does not reflect a need to adjust that program to changes in the labor market. Clearly, with 1.6 million fewer jobs in the economy this April than last, the current political posturing of increasing work requirements looks like Washington politics as usual — removed from the realities of people’s lives.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167