- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 2, 2009

The long-running recession appeared to deepen in June as employers increased layoffs to a total of 467,000 nationwide from 322,000 in May, increasing the unemployment rate to a 26-year high of 9.5 percent, the Labor Department reported Thursday morning.

The huge job losses in nearly every industry in June bring the total of jobs shed during the recession to 6.5 million. Jobs have been eliminated at a record rate since the credit crisis broke out last fall, but the monthly rate of job loss has trailed off a bit to an average of 436,000 since April from an average of 670,000 between November and March, the department said.

So many jobs have been lost in this recession that the nation’s overall employment level of 131,692,000 is the lowest since May 2000, according to the Employment Policy Institute, a labor think tank.

“This is the only recession since the Great Depression to wipe out all jobs growth from the previous business cycle, a devastating benchmark for the workers of this country and a testament to the enormity of the current crisis,” said institute economist Heidi Shierholz.

While jobs continued to disappear at an alarming rate, the unemployment rate did not continue its steep climb last month, inching up to 9.5 percent from 9.4 percent in May. That appeared to be because more than 350,000 workers became discouraged and dropped out of the labor force during the month.

The federal government joined in the job-shedding trend last month with the layoff of 49,000 workers temporarily hired to prepare for the 2010 census. That left virtually no place to hide in the labor force.

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Manufacturing and construction continued to shed workers at a prodigious rate. Since the beginning of the recession in December 2007, manufacturing has shed nearly 2 million jobs, and the auto industry in particular has lost 335,000 jobs. Construction employment has fallen by 1.3 million.

But workers in the vast service sector have suffered as well. The biggest category of service workers in professional and business jobs has shrunk by 1.5 million during the recession, with much of that among temporary workers. The finance industry, at the epicenter of the recession, has lost nearly a half-million jobs.

Only health care and education continued to post job increases, although hiring in health care is down to an average of 21,000 a month from 30,000 last year.

For workers still on the job, hours have been cut and incomes are shriveling. The average workweek shrank to a record low of 33 hours last month. The average annual increase in hourly earnings has slipped below 3 percent. And because of the shorter hours, most workers’ take-home pay barely budged last month.

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