WASHINGTON – A half-million American jobs disappeared last month, the worst mass layoffs in more than a third of a century, as economic carnage spread ever faster.
In Idaho, unemployment hit 5.8 percent in November, up from 2.6 percent a year ago. Layoffs swept across the Gem State’s economy, leaving a record 44,100 workers without jobs.
Unemployment last month rose to 6.9 percent in the Coeur d’Alene area, 7 percent in Bonner County and 15.6 percent in the St. Maries area.
November joblessness numbers in Washington are due out later this month.
Staring at 533,000 lost jobs, economists were anything but hopeful. Since the start of the recession last December, the economy has shed 1.9 million jobs, and the number of unemployed people has increased by 2.7 million – to 10.3 million now out of work.
Some analysts predict 3 million more jobs will be lost between now and spring 2010 – and that the once-humming U.S. economy could stagger backward at a shocking 6 percent rate for the current three-month quarter.
“The economy is in a free-fall,” said Richard Yamarone, of Argus Research. “It is as if someone flicked off the switch on hiring.”
“It’s a mess,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com. “Businesses, battening down the hatches, are concerned about their survival and are cutting workers.”
President-elect Barack Obama said the crisis “is likely to get worse before it gets better,” and no one was going to argue that point. Economists predicted the unemployment rate, which rose to a 15-year high of 6.7 percent in November, could soar to as high as 10 percent before skittish employers begin hiring again.
The jobless rate would have bolted to 7 percent for the month if not for the exodus of 422,000 people from the work force for any number of reasons – going back to school, retiring or simply abandoning job searches out of sheer frustration. When people stop looking, they’re no longer counted in the unemployment rate.
The rate was at 4.7 percent just one year ago, 6.5 percent in October.
Employment shrank in virtually every part of the economy – factories, construction companies, financial firms, accounting and bookkeeping, architectural and engineering firms, hotels and motels, food services, retailers, temporary help, transportation, publishing, janitorial and building maintenance, and even waste management.
The few fields spared included education, health care and government.
The United States has already been in recession for a year, and may not be out of it until spring 2010 – making for the longest downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s, economists are now saying. Recessions in the mid-1970s and early 1980s lasted 16 months.
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