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290,000 Jobs Created in April, Jobless Rate Worsens to 9.9 Percent

May 6th, 2010 | Tula Connell

Some 290,000 jobs were created in April, the fourth straight month in more than year the nation has seen gains in employment. Yet the unemployment rate worsened to 9.9 percent from 9.7 percent in March, according to data released this morning by the Department of Labor. The total unemployment figure, which includes those who are discouraged or underemployed, worsened to 17.1 percent in April, from 16.9 percent in March—some 27 million U.S. workers without jobs or full-time work.

Yet economists say the increase in the unemployment rate can be viewed as good news because it means that more than 800,000 workers entered the labor force, many of them formerly discouraged workers who had stopped looking for work.

April job growth came in manufacturing, 44,000 jobs; service jobs, 166,000; construction, 14,000 and mining, 7,000. The jobs increase also was bolstered by the federal government’s hiring of 66,000 temporary workers to help complete the U.S. Census. The April jobless rate for black workers is 16.5 percent, for Hispanic, 12.5 percent and worsened for white workers, to 9 percent.

April’s jobs increase is a far better scenario than the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost each month in the past year—but nowhere near what the nation needs to fill the 11 million job deficit created by the past few years of economic maelstrom.

Especially bad new is the continued worsening in the number of long-term unemployed workers. In April, some 6.7 million U.S. workers were out of a job for 27 weeks or longer, compared with 6.5 million in March. In April, 45.9 percent of unemployed workers had been jobless for 27 weeks or more.

These data make it all the more essential that Congress extend the lifeline for jobless workers by extending unemployment insurance (UI) for a year, a move that is a key part of the AFL-CIO Jobs Agenda. Congress has passed several UI extensions, but only for up to 30 days. The length of time it takes to get a job in this economy, however, clearly shows much more time is needed.

A new report out from the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers documents the challenges for unemployed workers in this economy.

In short, “No End in Sight: The Agony of Prolonged Unemployment” concludes:

While the worst phase of the Great Recession may be behind us, the vast majority of jobless Americans have not found new jobs.

The report finds only 21 percent of those unemployed and actively looking for a job in August 2009 found employment by March 2010. An even smaller number (13 percent) found full-time employment. Sixty-five percent who found employment searched for at least seven months. Twenty-eight percent looked for more than a year.

Among those still searching for work—many for more than a year—are millions who have never been without a job and who have at least a college education. And the jobs they’re taking do not fit their skills nor financial needs.

It is clear that many took their new jobs out of need rather than desire. The majority (61 percent) said their new job was “something to get you by while you look for something better,” while just 39 percent agreed with the statement that their new position is “something you really want to do and think it is a new long-term job.”

As part of the AFL-CIO Good Jobs Now campaign, we are calling for Big Banks to resume lending to help credit-starved communities create jobs. Clearly, small businesses are not getting the credit they need to expand and hire workers.

We are backing a bill co-sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) to save or create nearly 1 million local jobs. Developed with mayors, county officials and others, the Local Jobs for America Act will provide $75 billion over two years to local communities to stave off planned cuts or to re-hire workers laid-off because of tight budgets. Funding would go directly to eligible local communities and nonprofit community organizations to decide how best to use the funds. More than 100 co-sponsors have signed on. (Click here to urge your representative to become a co-sponsor.)

*This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO Blog on May 7, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tula Connell got her first union card while she worked her way through college as a banquet bartender for the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee (they were represented by a hotel and restaurant local union—the names of the national unions were different then than they are now). With a background in journalism—covering bull roping in Texas and school boards in Virginia—she started working in the labor movement in 1991. Beginning as a writer for SEIU (and OPEIU member), she now blogs under the title of AFL-CIO managing editor.

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