Unemployment Now Worse than During Great Depression

 Despite the Republican rhetoric of "jobs jobs jobs," the country is stunningly lacking them. We knew it was bad, but the latest US Unemployment Report, released Friday, proves that we are in the worst slump since the 1930s. This puts it in perspective:

About 6.2 million Americans, 45.1 percent of all unemployed workers in this country, have been jobless for more than six months - a higher percentage than during the Great Depression...

Here's another problem: more than 1 million of the long-term unemployed have run out of unemployment benefits, leaving them without the money to get new training, buy new clothes, or even get to job interviews.

If you need a visual, here's a terrifying chartfrom Business Insider. And for another perspective, The New Republic has published an illuminating piece comparing the onset of the Great Depression to the political circumstances we face now: 

There was no economic reason that the government could not have spent on this scale in 1931, as opposed to 1941; the obstacles were political. Then, as now, politicians in Washington were obsessed with the budget deficit. They never would have countenanced such spending, apart from the threat to the nation posed by Hitler and the Axis powers. The New Deal deficit spending helped boost the economy and bring the unemployment rate down to single-digit levels, but fear of deficits limited the scale of New Deal programs and caused Roosevelt to reverse course and cut back on spending in 1937, just as the economy was gaining momentum.

Unfortunately, the country seems destined to follow the same course in the current slump as it did in the 30s. The May jobs report should have provided the sort of stiff kick that is needed to revive discussion of additional stimulus. Instead, it seems to have barely shaken Washington’s ongoing obsession with deficits.

The repercussions of the global financial crisis are still part of the problem, to be sure -- as this report notes, the UK, China and Europe are all experiencing a broader slowdown. Housing prices are still falling, and big lenders are only just beginning to be taken to task for the mortgage crisis (if at all). But another big issue is the extinction of many types of manufacturing jobs that have been cornerstones of the economy since the industrial revolution -- a disappearance that makes it necessary to focus on newer industries like technology and clean energy. Here's another interesting perspective.


AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at June 6, 2011, 3:36am