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Economy in Brief

U.S. Unemployment Situation Varies Greatly For Many Reasons
by Tom Moeller June 7, 2010

Contained in Friday's employment report, which showed that the total civilian unemployment rate fell, was an increase in a broader measure which includes marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons. This series slipped to 16.6% from the 4Q '09 high of 17.3%, but the high levels suggest digging deeper into the report for a fuller appreciation of the jobs picture, and it's not good.

To start, the average duration of unemployment rose to a record high of 34.4 weeks, up ten weeks from last year's average. The increase reflected an increase in the percentage of those unemployed for 27 weeks or more rising to 46.0% from 31.1% last year.

By industry, the unemployment rate for construction stood at 20.1% versus its high of 27.1% in February. These figures are not seasonally adjusted (NSA) so an upturn during winter was followed by a normal drop come spring. But the y/y figure compares to 19.2% one year ago and a range of 5%-to-8% before the recession began. In manufacturing, unemployment stood at 10.3% versus 12.1% for all of last year and more than double the 2007 average. In transportation, the rate also was double-digit but in the financial industry it stood at 6.8% versus 3.0% in 2007. Unemployment in government sector lagged all these rates.

By age, the unemployment rate for teenagers stood just under its record high last month at 26.4%. For teenage males it was 28.1%. For those aged 25 or over, the rate also was near its record at 8.4% which was more than double the 2007 average. For adult men, the unemployment picture was more discouraging. Overall the rate of 10.5% compared to 8.8% for women. For men over-25 the rate was 9.1% versus 7.6% for women. For both, these rates are double the 2007 low.

By race the unemployment figures indicate an even sharper divergence. The white unemployment rate of 8.8% compared to 15.5% for African Americans. For teenage blacks the rate jumps to an even higher 38.4%; 39.7% for women compared to 25.0% during all of 2007. For whites the unemployment rate overall was 8.5% last month, double the '07 rate. For teenage whites the rates also was a healthy 25.1% and was 26.2% for males.  

Education pays. For adults with less than a high school diploma the unemployment rate totaled 13.6% last month compared to 10.3% for those graduates but no college. Having attended some college helped and lowered unemployment further but graduating dropped the unemployment rate to 4.4%. The unemployment rate for adult whites with a BA degree or higher stood at 4.1% while for Asians it was 4.8% last month. For Hispanics or Latinos the rate was 5.9% and for blacks the rate totaled 7.2%. All of these rates are roughly double the 2007 average.

The figures referenced above are available in Haver's USECON database. Additional detail can be found in the LABOR and in the EMPL databases.

Unemployment Rate (%) May April 2009 2008 2007
Total 9.7 9.9 9.3 5.8 4.6
By Industry
Construction 20.1 21.8 19.0 10.6 7.4
Manufacturing 10.3 11.1 12.1 5.8 4.3
Financial  6.8 7.6 6.4 4.0 3.0
Government 3.4 3.4 3.6 2.4 2.3
By Age
16-19 Years 26.4 25.4 24.3 18.7 15.7
25 & over 8.4 8.3 8.0 4.6 3.6
By Race
White  8.8 9.0 8.5 5.2 4.1
Black or African American 15.5 16.5 14.8 10.1 8.3
By Educational Attainment
Less Than High School Diploma 15.0 14.7 14.7 9.0 7.1
High School, No College 10.9 10.6 9.7 5.7 4.4
Bachelor's Degree or Higher 4.7 4.9 4.6 2.6 2.0
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