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November Unemployment Matches 1980s Record

November Unemployment Matches 1980s RecordWith the U.S. unemployment rate rising to 9.8 percent in November,  the Department of Labor is concerned that economic recovery isn’t progressing as quickly as it would prefer.  For the 19th consecutive month, unemployment has stayed above nine percent — the longest streak on record, beating out previous highs in the 1980s.   Despite optimistic predictions that the nation would add 150,000 jobs in November, just 39,000 new jobs were added during the month, bringing unemployment up from 9.6 percent to 9.8 percent.

The Federal Reserve has decided to stay the course, saying the “economic recovery is continuing, though at a rate that has been insufficient to bring down unemployment.”   Worries about steady high unemployment were the main motivation behind the Fed’s decision to launch a second round of economic stimulus in November with a new bond-buying program.  Progress on reducing unemployment has been “disappointingly slow,” according to the Fed.

The persistent level of high unemployment shows that many Americans are still suffering, even though the National Bureau of Economic Research says the recession officially ended in June 2009.   The economy lost more than eight million jobs during the recession.  “To anyone around the dinner table, it means little,” says Lawrence Mishel, president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute.  “The fact is, unemployment is going to remain flat for a year.”

“With the jobless rate stuck at 9.8 percent, the economy needs all the help it can get,” said Sung Won Sohn, economist at California State University.  Because nearly 40 percent of the unemployed have been jobless for more than six months, there is growing fear that the cause may be more profound than the deepest recession in more than 70 years.

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