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EconomicPolicyInstitute October 10, 2008

Steady U.S. job losses now in ninth month

As Wall Street took a dive, troubles in the real economy were underscored by the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics last week. The release marked the ninth month of job losses. Total payrolls are down 760,000 since December 2007, but excluding the jobs gains in the public sector reveals that private-sector employment is actually down 969,000 jobs since the beginning of the year. Immediately after the new data were released, senior economist Jared Bernstein issued a statement noting that “these numbers clearly portray a recessionary job market that has been taking a toll on working families’ living standards.” Later that day, Bernstein and economist Heidi Shierholz analyzed the remarkable loss in their most recent Jobs Picture. They wrote that many of those lucky enough to find work are involuntarily settling for part-time employment. Shierholz and Bernstein said the numbers justified an extension of Emergency Unemployment Compensation. “If lawmakers truly want to balance their legitimate concerns for improving credit markets with those of working families struggling to deal with long-term joblessness, it would be unconscionable for them to leave town without passing this expansion,” they wrote. Unfortunately, Congress adjourned without taking action.

Jobs and health insurance, state by state

Two EPI Snapshots highlighted how job and health insurance losses are widespread throughout the United States.

Last week, economist Robert Scott showed how the country’s trade deficit in non-oil exports is costing Americans jobs in every state. In 2007 alone, 5.6 million jobs were lost or displaced due to the deficit, amounting to $437 billion. Traditional manufacturing states, like Ohio and the Carolinas, were hit hard, but states reliant on jobs in technology–like California and Minnesota–are also experiencing dizzying job losses. One of the hardest hit states, Michigan, lost more than 300,000 jobs or job opportunities (7.5% of its total employment). An accompanying report detailed these numbers and showed how unfair trade practices play a major role in the problem.

This week, economist Elise Gould offered an interactive map that shows the continuing cutbacks in employer-sponsored health care for Americans in every state. The map reflects the percentage change in the coverage of the under-65 population, contrasting 2000/01 to 2006/07. The news wasn’t pretty–41 states saw losses of 7% or more, and only Hawaii–where employer coverage is mandated–experienced an increase. Additionally, the map details changes in coverage of children and workers–both groups showed losses in many states. This Economic Snapshot also linked to an EPI Briefing Paper that detailed how these losses fit into a seven-year trend of eroding benefits.

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