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AFL-CIO Now

New Jobs Numbers Send Mixed Message

The nation’s unemployment rate jumped to 9 percent in April, up from March’s 8.8 percent, according to the latest government figures. But the monthly payroll survey shows the economy added 244,000 jobs, the largest monthly gain in five years.

Economists say the more reliable economic health indicator is the payroll survey and today’s number is relatively good news, but still far from what’s needed to put Americans back to work at pre-recession levels. Says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

The monthly job growth is welcome news, but the economic recovery and job market remain fragile.

He adds that proposed deep federal budget cuts and continuing job losses in state and local government:

could jeopardize prospects for sustained job growth, given ongoing weakness in the housing market, high levels of consumer debt, and weak income growth for the middle class.

Young people (24.9 percent), African Americans (16.1 percent) and Hispanics (11.8 percent) continue to suffer the highest jobless rates.

Job gains were spread across industries, including retail (57,000), hospitality and leisure (46,000), health care (37,000), manufacturing (29,000), management and technical services (11,000), mining (11,000) and computer design (8,000).      

Today’s numbers follow yesterday’s announcement from the Labor Department that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week rose to the highest level in eight months. In addition, gas prices are soaring and food prices are climbing.

While working families face increased economic pressure, U.S. corporations are raking in record profits. Figures released yesterday show that in 2010, the 500 largest U.S. corporations saw their profits rise by 81 percent—the third largest gain in the history of the Fortune 500.  Says Trumka:

This could not be a clearer reminder that for a handful of Americans, times have never been better, while for most of our country, joblessness and economic insecurity are becoming the new normal. 

He says lawmakers should be taking every necessary step to create good jobs now to address economic inequality and insecurity, including investing in infrastructure and job creation, insisting that corporations and the super-wealthy pay their fair share of taxes and improving rather than cutting the social safety net of Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. 

Instead we see state and national politicians doing everything they can to destroy jobs, heighten economic insecurity, and transfer more of our country’s wealth to the richest Americans.  The House Republican budget proposal would cost about 900,000 jobs in 2012, 1.3 million jobs by 2013, and 1.7 million or more jobs by 2014.  It would constitute the single largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in U.S. history.

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