Report | Jobs and Unemployment

The Economy in Numbers

Policy Memorandum #133

The wild, day-to-day fluctuations of the stock market have dominated much of the recent economic coverage, but it is essential to keep the longer-term trends in mind as we move forward with crafting a rescue plan for the economy. Below is a snapshot of the economy’s health that looks at a variety of important measures.

There were 9.5 million unemployed workers in September 2008, up 25% from 7.5 million in January, and up 40% from 6.7 million in March 2007.i

Job Openings
There were 2.9 unemployed workers for every job opening in August 2008, up from 1.9 in January and 1.8 one-year ago.ii

Median Wages
Median weekly wages for a full-time worker have fallen by 1.6% over the last year.iii

There were 265,968 home foreclosures in September 2008 alone, 21% higher than last September. There were 765,558 foreclosures in the third quarter of this year, 71% higher than the third quarter last year.iv

In September, 17.1 million workers were underemployed (too discouraged to look for work, unemployed, or working part time but wanting full-time work), a 31.7% increase from the 13 million underemployed workers a year ago, and up 21% from 14 million in January 2008.v

Trade Deficit
As of August 2008, the annualized trade deficit ($711 billion) equalled 5.0% of national output. In contrast, the trade deficit equalled 3.9% of national output in

Pension Loss
An estimated $2 trillion in pension wealth has been lost in the past year and a half because of the financial crisis.vii

Business bankruptcy filings rose 67% in September from a year ago. Combined business and individual filings in the past year reached a total of 799,531.viii

Total employment has fallen by 760,000 since December 2007, with a loss of 969,000 jobs in the private sector.ix

—With research assistance from Kathryn Edwards


i. BLS Current Population Survey, Labor Force Statistics – Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Level and Rate, September 2008.

ii. BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey – Seasonally Adjusted, Total Non-farm Openings, September 2008.

iii. BLS Current Population Survey, Labor Force Statistics – Median weekly earnings, full-time Employment, wage & salary workers, September 2008.

iv. RealtyTrac – U.S. Foreclosure Market Report , September 2008.

v. BLS Current Population Survey, Labor Force Statistics – Underemployed workers are total of unemployed, involuntary part-time, and marginally attached workers, September 2008.

vi. U.S. Census Bureau, Foreign Trade Division – U.S. Total Trade Balance in Goods and Services

vii. Testimony of Peter Orszag, head of Congressional Budget Office on 10/7/08 before House Committee on Education and Labor

viii. AACER – Automated Access to Court Electronic Records press release

ix. USDOL Employment Situation Report, Establishment Data, September 2008

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