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November’s Drop in Unemployment News Leaves Vulnerable Groups Behind

Today’s jobs data seemed to have some good news – overall unemployment dropped to 8.6 percent, a level of unemployment we haven’t seen since before the start of the recovery.  However, our analysis shows some troubling trends. Despite the decreased unemployment in November, single mothers, black women, and black men saw their unemployment rise. And the reason for the drop in overall unemployment isn’t a big surge in the number of Americans finding work. In fact, more workers dropped out of the labor force last month than found jobs—and all of the workers who left the labor force last month were women and female teens.

More numbers behind the headlines:

  • Public sector losses continue. Last month the public sector lost 20,000 jobs for a total of 568,000 jobs lost in the public sector since the recovery began in June 2009. Nearly 66 percent of the public sector losses over this time are women’s job losses.
  • Women lost jobs and have higher unemployment compared to the beginning of the recovery. Since June 2009, women have lost 46,000 jobs while men have gained more than 1.26 million jobs. While their unemployment dropped this month, adult women still have an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent – higher than when the recovery began in June 2009 (7.7 percent).
    Job change in the recovery (June 2009 - November 2011)
  • Unemployment rose for vulnerable groups. Single mothers saw their unemployment rise to 12.4 percent, up slightly from October. Black women and men also saw increases in their respective unemployment rates. Black women now have an unemployment rate of 12.9 percent and black men have an unemployment rate of 16.5 percent – much higher than adults overall.
  • Long-term unemployment remains at historic levels. In November, 5.6 million Americans were still looking for work after more than six months. Nearly half of jobless women and men (46.2 percent for women and 47.5 for men) had been unemployed longer than six months. The chart below shows the rise in long-term unemployment since the start of the recession.
    Percent of jobless workers who were unemployed after 27 weeks

All of this data comes at the time when Congress is considering a critical piece of legislation for unemployed workers – an extension of federal emergency unemployment insurance benefits. The importance of the extension of benefits is clear – in 2010, 3.2 million people (including over 900,000 children and 1 million women) were kept out of poverty thanks to unemployment insurance benefits. If Congress fails to extend emergency unemployment insurance programs, 6 million workers will lose access to benefits in 2012, making it difficult or impossible for their families to make ends meet. In addition, as families losing benefits cut back on their purchases of goods and services, roughly half a million jobs could be lost over the year if unemployment benefits are allowed to expire.

Earlier this week Senator Harkin promised “no Christmas for Congress” unless UI is extended. That seems only fair.

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