American Workers See New Lows at the Year’s End

With employment declining, it is clear that economic growth alone will not translate into rising fortunes for America's workers, says David Madland.

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New employment numbers released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the smallest increase in job growth since August 2003, over four years ago, and the highest unemployment rate in over two years. The increase in unemployment to 5.0 percent in December, paired with a meager 18,000 jobs added to the economy, make 2007 the weakest year for job growth in the past 4 years. The monthly employment figures are the latest sign of a weakening economy, and mark the end of a year of relatively gloomy news for workers.

The increase in the unemployment rate to 5.0 percent in December 2007 from 4.7 percent in November 2007 is also the biggest one-month jump since October 2001. And during 2007, unemployment increased 5.0 percent from 4.4 percent, the biggest yearly increase in unemployment since December 2001, when unemployment increased by 1.8 percent.

During 2007, the economy added a meager 1.3 million jobs, and job growth was less than 1 percent. By contrast, the economy in the late 1990s was adding 3 million jobs per year and job growth was over 2.5 percent. Even in 2006, also a relatively weak year for employment, job growth was 1.7 percent, the economy added 2.3 million jobs, and unemployment decreased 0.4 percent.

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David Madland

Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project