419,000 Jobs Vanish

240,000 jobs lost in October; September revised from 159,000 to 284,000; August from 73,000 to 127,000. That’s 419,000 jobs less than we thought we had a month ago. It’s 651,000 less than there were three months ago. And because we need 140,000 new jobs each month just to keep place with population growth, that’s over 1 million fewer jobs than the economy would need to maintain unemployment where it was three months ago. Unfortunately, everyone expects this quarter and next quarter to be worse than last quarter. On top of that, unemployment is a lagging indicator: because of the transaction costs in firing and hiring workers, companies exhaust their other cost-cutting opportunities before laying people off, and they don’t hire again until they are certain that the economy is growing again.

More than 22% of the unemployed have been out of work more than six months, which is usually when unemployment benefits expire. For this and other reasons, only 32% of the unemployed were receiving state benefits in October. These are more reasons to expand unemployment benefits in multiple directions, at the very least for a limited time period. Alan Krueger has described the other ways our unemployment insurance system is broken.

Unfortunately, there is fear that President Bush (remember him?) will veto the stimulus package, including extended unemployment benefits, that the Democrats want to pass in November, thereby accomplishing nothing except delaying it by two months. Sigh.