Jobless rate jumps to 5-year high

September 5, 2008 6:55:01 PM PDT
The governement today offered new evidence that the U.S. economy is hitting rock bottom. 84,000 people around the country lost their jobs last month, sending the national unemployment rate to a 5-year high in August -- 6.1 percent

The unemployment rolls grew by 592,000 in August. 2.2 million Americans have become jobless in the past year.

As more people scramble to find replacement jobs, workers like Miles Yep face more competition. A retail worker, Yep has been unemployed for a year.

"I send out like 20 to 30 letters a month and it's kind of a hit or miss thing," Yep said. Yep gets about a 5 percent response rate for his job inquiries.

Yep is not alone.

An estimated have been unemployed six months or longer. That number increased by 163,000 in August and by 589,000 in the past year.

The unemployment rate that is 6.1 percent doesn't even capture those not looking for work, so this is becoming a larger and larger share of folks," University of California Labor Center economist Sylvia Allegretto said. "Once you're out of the labor pool and no longer looking for work, you're not even counted in the unemployment statistics."

For others, a job search means moving away. Legal assistant Patricia Kirby is moving to New Orleans in order to find a job.

The 6.1 jobless rate also does not reflect much higher minority unemployment rates, 10.3 percent for African-American men and 9.1 percent for African-American women -- compared to the high 4 percent range for whites.

"When the economy heads south, minorities especially take it on the chin, and this report shows that with a very high unemployment rate for Hispanics and African-American," Allegretto said.

Job seekers have mixed feelings about the future.

"I think hopeful, (I'm) trying to be hopeful, but again, discouraged," Yep said.

California's jobless rate will be updated in two weeks. At 7.3 percent, it is already at a 12-year high.


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