In August 2009, the unemployment rate reached 9.7%, the highest seen since 1983. Despite some early signs that the United States may be coming out of the current economic recession, the unemployment rate continued to rise, reaching 9.8% in September. While listening to the news about the current unemployment rate, it was easy to hear that many economists, business owners, and even consumers were surprised to see this increase.

During September, a total of 263,000 new jobs were lost, this is up from the 216,000 jobs lost in August 2009. Not only was there an increase in jobs lost, the long-term unemployed figure rose by 450,000 people during the month. At the end of September, there were 5.4 million people that had been jobless for at least 27 weeks.

Although the Cash for Clunkers program received much praise and was lauded by many as a universally successful project, employment in the transportation industry trended downward yet again.

Other industries experiencing job loss during September include:

  • Construction employment – 64,000 jobs lost
  • Manufacturing – 51,000 jobs lost
  • Retail – 39,000 jobs lost
  • Government – 53,000 jobs lost
Despite the losses in the construction and manufacturing industries, the September losses were less than the 66,000 and 53,000 monthly averages (respectively).

The healthcare industry continues to see gains in employment, despite the stalled health care reform plan. Overall, the industry gained 19,000 jobs with 15,000 coming in the ambulatory health care services fields. Although the recession has affected most industries, across the board, healthcare jobs have increased by 559,000 since the recession started.

With unemployment creeping towards 10% on a national level, certain areas of the country would like to see an unemployment rate of 9.8%. Metropolitan area unemployment rate reports lag one month behind the overall data. In August 2009, El Centro, California faced a 28.7% unemployment rate with Yuma, Arizona coming in with the second highest unemployment rate in the nation – 26.1%.

Sixteen metropolitan areas dealt with unemployment rates above 15% in August 2009 including seven cities in California and four in Michigan. Residents of North Dakota are riding out this recession with relative ease. Bismarck, ND has a jobless of 3.3% in August. Fargo, ND’s August 2009 unemployment rate was just a tad higher at 4.1% for August 2009.

One upside (if it can really be called an upside) to the September 2009 unemployment report is that wages slightly increased. “Falling prices mean that those workers who are employed are seeing real wage growth. Hourly wages grew by one cent in September and the average quarterly rate of annual wage growth was 2.5 percent. From August 2008 to August 2009, the nation’s consumer price index—urban wage earners and clerical workers—declined by 1.9 percent.” Source: Center for American Progress

As the funds from the Recovery Act continue to be doled out to businesses, government agencies, and other institutions across the nation, we can only hope that the jobless rate stops its climb and begins to taper off.

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