We Just Hit a Nineteen-Month Record for High Unemployment [Updated]

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Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Despite predictions that the economy would add 150,000 jobs in November, the latest report shows only 39,000 additional jobs were added last month, bringing unemployment up from 9.6 percent to 9.8 percent — a bad sign for President Obama as the Democrats haggle over tax cuts and unemployment benefits with Republicans. For the nineteenth straight month, unemployment has been above 9 percent — the longest streak on record, beating out previous highs in the eighties. Not exactly the exceptionalism we were hoping for. More than 15 million Americans are out of work, and 6.3 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer. The Democrats have made extending unemployment benefits a priority as Congress decides on tax cuts. But it remains to be seen if these numbers will help their cause, with the argument that more Americans need a safety net, or hurt it, with the Republicans arguing for tax breaks when dollars are tight.

Recent economic signs have shown promise — with busier factories, growing auto sales, and a solid start in holiday shopping. In fact, Wall Street, which just experienced its largest two-day rally in three months, was hoping for an upbeat jobs report to continue this week's streak and push the S&P 500 to a two-year high. Instead, stock futures have already fallen on the news that private companies created only 50,000 jobs, the smallest gain since January. Government jobs, on the other hand, dropped by 11,000. Another grim record, which could work against extending benefits to the unemployed, is that high of 1.3 million "discouraged" workers who reported not looking for jobs because they believe there are none available. And these numbers won't help dissuade them.

Disappointing Job Growth in U.S. as Jobless Rate Hits 9.8% [NYT]
Obama gets bad news on the unemployment front [USAT]