Getting Out of the Deep Unemployment Hole

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The employment figures released by the Department of Labor today show mixed news for workers. Unemployment fell to 9.7 percent in January 2010 from 10.0 percent in December 2009. Only 20,000 jobs were lost last month, and temporary employment increased, which is a harbinger of future job growth. This slowing of labor market losses, combined with last week’s positive GDP figures, show reasonably strong signs that the economy is starting to recover. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the same figures show that the economy lost over 1 million more jobs during the recession than previously estimated and that unemployment—especially long-term unemployment—remains at troublingly high levels. More than 14 million Americans are out of work, there are six job seekers for every available job, and 4 in 10 unemployed workers have been pounding the pavement searching for a new job for at least six months, a record level.

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