- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2009

Jose Hurey, 39, is trying to move from refinishing chairs to cooking good food.

More importantly, he’s been trying for a year to move from jobless to gainful unemployment after being laid off by a furniture company.

“Me personally, I’m just ready to work,” the father of two from Alexandria said Wednesday while visiting his counselor at the Arlington Employment Center. “Everything is tight right now.”

The country is full of Jose Hureys - willing, able … and totally out of luck.

That’s why President Obama is convening a “jobs summit” Thursday.

Nearly three times as many Americans have lost their jobs in this recession as in the 1981-82 downturn, formerly considered to be the worst since the Great Depression.

Total employment plummeted 3.1 percent (2.8 million jobs) during that Reagan-era recession, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In today’s economy, employment has collapsed 5.9 percent (8.1 million jobs) since December 2007.

The current jobless rate of 10.2 percent is still below the postwar peak of 10.8 percent in 1982, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

“Both the decline in jobs and the increase in the unemployment rate have been more severe than in any other recession since World War II,” Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told the Economic Club of New York in a speech last month.

Private-sector payrolls have plunged more than 7 percent since December 2007. The collapse has been so steep that private companies employed 2 million fewer workers in October than 10 years earlier.

It is another one for the record books - the worst drop in private-sector employment since the 1925-35 period, according to research by Charles McMillion, chief economist of MBG Information Services.

Even at the bottom of the 1981-82 recession, private employment was 10 million workers, or 18 percent, higher than a decade earlier.

This recession has hit men especially hard. With the male-dominated industries of manufacturing and construction shedding 2.1 million and 1.6 million jobs, respectively, the unemployment rate for men 20 and older, such as Mr. Hurey, has soared from 4.4 percent to 10.7 percent. The jobless rate for women in that age group has risen from 4.3 percent to 8.7 percent.

“I’ve got a fiancee and two kids,” Mr. Hurey said. “Seeing her having to hold down the house is real rough because I was used to helping provide for my family.”

The Federal Reserve Bank’s Beige Book Report, released Wednesday, spoke of “further layoffs, sluggish hiring and high levels of unemployment in most … districts.”

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