Real Unemployment at 12.7%

Real Unemployment at 12.7%

The official unemployment rate for March was 6.7 percent, unchanged from February, but real unemployment ticked up to 12.7 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Friday. That number counts workers forced to settle for part-time jobs and those unemployed for so long that they have given up looking for work. The Senate is expected to vote Monday to resurrect benefits that expired last Dec. 28 for the long-term jobless. “This will impact several million American workers who are at the end of their ropes financially,” Sanders said. Passing the bill is “the morally right thing to do” and “good economics,” the senator added, but he cautioned that the measure faces an uncertain fate in the Republican-run House.

This bill to extend long-term emergency unemployment benefits for 2.2 million Americans would restore benefits that expired nearly three months ago.The benefits, about $300 a week on average, help jobless workers fill up their gas tank to get to a job interview, feed their families, pay the rent and heat their homes.

Each  week that the Congress fails to act, an additional 72,000 Americans are losing their unemployment benefits. Today, about 4 million Americans who are currently looking for a job have been unemployed for more than 6 months. In the wake of a slow recovery from the recession that began in 2007, long-term unemployment is near a 60-year high.

House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans today oppose extending the benefits, but when George W. Bush was President, Republicans, including Boehner, voted for emergency unemployment benefits five times  Now that Barack Obama is in the White House, many congressional Republicans oppose extending these benefits. Since 1958, Congress has never failed to pass emergency unemployment benefits when long-term unemployment has been as high as it is today. Today, there are nearly three job applicants for every one job opening.  There simply aren’t enough jobs out there for the more than 10 million Americans who are actively seeking work.

The long-term unemployment rate today is more than double what it’s been at any other time Congress has let emergency jobless assistance expire. For example, hundreds of people applied last month to work at a Sam’s Club in Oxford, Ala., that won’t be opening until August. In January, more than 5,000 people waited in line for just 1,500 jobs at an outlet mall in Palm Beach, Fla. That same month, 1,600 people in Hagerstown, Md., applied for just 36 job openings at a dairy farm to process milk and ice cream. Last December, 10,000 people applied for just 750 flight attendant jobs at Southwest Airlines and more than 23,000 Americans applied for just 600 jobs at Wal-Mart in Washington, DC.

If Congress fails to extend emergency unemployment benefits, 240,000 American workers will lose their jobs by the end of this year. The overall economy will be hurt because when people lose their unemployment benefits, they don’t go to the grocery store, they don’t buy clothes, they don’t go to the pharmacy.  Businesses lose customers, they lose money, and they fire even more people.