The U.S. Department of Labor has released the unemployment figures for August 2009. Overall, the unemployment rate in the nation reached 9.7% during the month. This is highest unemployment rate since 1983. There were a total of 216,000 jobs lost during the month.

The current recession began in December 2007 and since that time, 6.9 million jobs have been lost. Although the numbers are staggering, the drastic increases in unemployment rates seen earlier this year have moderated a bit.

Although declines were still seen in the construction and manufacturing industries, losses in the financial sector have slowed a bit. Employment in transportation and warehousing, retail, and leisure and hospitality saw little change when compared to July 2009 while health care employment increased.

As negative unemployment numbers continue to make headlines, people are beginning to question the Obama's stimulus package. However, it is important to note that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was not intended to be an economic stimulus. Instead, its focus is to lead the economic recovery efforts in the nation.

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, stimulus is “something that rouses or incites to activity.” The stimulus checks that many Americans received last year were just that – a stimulus. The purpose of those checks was to incite consumers to spend.

A recovery, on the other hand, is not a simple activity. Instead, it is a process. The economic recovery process has begun with help from the Recovery Act. We didn’t dig ourselves into this recession overnight and we’re certainly not going to see a quick turnaround.

One employment sector that is receiving special attention from the Recovery Act is clean energy. With the funding of the Green Jobs Act of 2007 and the creation of DOE grant programs, renewable energy companies are receiving funds, which will ultimately increase employment in the industry.

I often cite a recent study from the Pew Charitable Trusts that shows that jobs in the clean energy industry rose, significantly, between 1998 and 2007. The recession didn’t start until December 2007 so it is likely that these numbers have tempered a bit, but the trend should continue as we begin to recover from the recession.

August unemployment at 9.7%
The unemployment rate hit 9.7% in August, the highest since 1983.