Center for American Progress Action

Record Unemployment Should Be a Clarion Call for Action

Record Unemployment Should Be a Clarion Call for Action

Now with the biggest unemployment increase in 20 years, it’s time for Congress to take action to strengthen the economy, writes David Madland.

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The unemployment rate jumped in May by half a percent, rising from 5.0 to 5.5 percent, the biggest increase in over 20 years, according to figures released today by the Department of Labor. The last time the unemployment rate increased by this much was February 1986.

The economy also lost 49,000 jobs during May, and has now lost 324,000 jobs so far this year, making this the worst five-month period of job loss since June 2003, and the first period of five straight months of job loss since 2003. The Department of Labor also revised downward their employment estimates for March and April, meaning that the economy lost 15,000 more jobs than previously thought in those months.

These jobs numbers come at the same time that workers’ pain from the housing market is hitting new highs. The Mortgage Bankers Association yesterday reported that roughly 1.3 million homes were in foreclosure at the end of the first quarter of 2008. The foreclosure rate increased by 0.43 percentage points in the first quarter, and now stands at 2.47 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis.

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David Madland

Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project