The U.S. Labor Department released March 2009 unemployment numbers today. The most common number being reported by the corporate media is the U-3 number: 8.5%. As I’ve written before, this number is used to undercount how bad un- and underemployment really are in America. The more complete number, called U-6, is at 15.6% this month, up from 14.8% last month and 9.1% in March 2008. That 15.6% number is the highest ever recorded (going back to 1994).
663,000 jobs were eliminated last month, as the Con 2008-09 recession continues to deepen. The underemployed are becoming a large problem: The average work week in March dropped to 33.2 hours, a new record low.
Previous months’ numbers were updated: January came out much worse than originally thought; February was unchanged. January’s job loss number went from an initial 655,000 to 741,000.
Since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has lost a net total of 5.1 million jobs, with almost two-thirds of the losses occurring in the last five months.
At this point, I still don’t thinkthe Obama administration has done enough to pull the economy out of its deep recession. We still don’t know what millions of mortgages and other financial instruments are really worth. The credit markets are still largely frozen. Banks are walking away from houses, leaving their previous owners stuck with properties that are upside-down in value. These unemployment numbers will continue to get worse for the forseeable future. I expect the U-3 number to get above 10% and the U-6 number to bump up against 20%. Combine those numbers with millions of workers that aren’t on the official rolls of companies and we’ve got huge problems.