Unemployment Rate Climbs to 8.9 Percent

Employers slashed fewer jobs in April than they had in six months.


Although employers slashed fewer jobs in April than they had in six months, that didn't mean that they were hiring new workers. As a result, the unemployment rate climbed from 8.5 percent to 8.9 percent, the Labor Department reported this morning. If the underemployed and those who have given up searching for jobs were included, the rate would be 15.8 percent.

The 539,000 jobs that were cut last month is far better than the 620,000 jobs that analysts were expecting to see slashed, or than the 663,000 jobs that were cut in March. Still, the numbers underline that the recession is the deepest the United States has experienced in years. April was the 16th consecutive month that jobs had been shed, and the unemployment rate is higher than at any time since 1983. So far, the recession has lasted longer than any downturn since World War II.

While the official unemployment rate is 8.9 percent, the percentage of people who are hoping to find work is even higher. That's because of the way the government defines being unemployed. The category applies to jobless people who have actively looked for work in the past four weeks, which must include actions like completing applications and going to interviews. Excluded from the unemployment rate, therefore, are people like "discouraged workers" who want work but have given up looking and those who have taken up part-time work but would prefer full-time. Including those workers pushes the unemployment rate to 15.8 percent.

Many analysts say that they expect economic growth to become positive and the country to officially emerge from recession by the end of this year or the beginning of 2010. They agree, however, that unemployment is a lagging indicator, meaning that even once the economy begins to grow again, unemployment is likely to rise. The chief economist of the International Monetary Fund said recently that unemployment rates won't start getting better until the end of 2010, with levels not returning to normal until 2012 or 2013.