WASHINGTON – There’s no relief from the jobs crisis – for everyday Americans or lawmakers facing the midterm elections.
The most rampant layoffs of teachers and other local government workers in nearly three decades more than offset weak hiring in the private sector in September, resulting in a net loss of 95,000 jobs. Unemployment remained stuck at 9.6 percent.
The jobless rate has been at or above 9.5 percent for a year and two months, the longest stretch since the Great Depression. The “underemployment” rate, which counts those with part-time jobs who would rather work full time, now exceeds 17 percent.
The glum economic picture came Friday in the Labor Department’s last monthly jobs report before the November election. Voter frustration over jobs threatens to cost Democrats control of the House and perhaps the Senate.
“We have to keep doing everything we can to accelerate this recovery,” President Barack Obama said. “The only piece of economic news that folks still looking for work want to hear is, ‘You’re hired.’ And everything we do is dedicated to make that happen.”
The combination of limp hiring by businesses and more government layoffs expected means unemployment could rise to 10 percent again this year or next. When Obama took office in January 2009, the unemployment rate was 7.7 percent.
Republicans pointed to the weak jobs report as evidence of Democrats’ failed economic policies. They argued that the $814 billion stimulus has contributed to bloated federal deficits but done little to create jobs. Most economists say job losses would have been deeper and unemployment higher if not for the tax cuts and additional government spending.
“As Americans, we have to decide: Do we want another two years of job-killing policies out of Washington?” said House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio.
In an Associated Press-GfK poll taken in September, 92 percent of Americans said the economy was an extremely or very important issue. And 79 percent said the economy was in bad shape.
September was the fourth straight month in which the economy has lost jobs. Layoffs of government workers, including temporary Census Bureau employees, drove the decline. Most census jobs have already expired, but others have lasted longer.
In all, the economy shed 159,000 jobs in the public sector, including 76,000 at the local level.