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Continuing Jobless Claims at 20-Year High

The number of jobless Americans receiving benefits hit its highest point in over 20 years last month, and new claims for jobless aid unexpectedly rose again last week, the government said on Thursday.
Continuing Jobless Claims at 20-Year High
Thu Jul 10, 9:02 AM ET Add Business - Reuters to My Yahoo!

By Tim Ahmann

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of jobless Americans receiving benefits hit its highest point in over 20 years last month, and new claims for jobless aid unexpectedly rose again last week, the government said on Thursday.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance rose by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 439,000 last week from a revised 434,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said. Economists on Wall Street had expected claims to edge down a bit to 425,000 from the 430,000 originally reported for the week ending June 28.

The department also said the number of unemployed workers who remained on the benefit rolls after filing an initial claim jumped by 87,000 to 3.82 million in the June 28 week, the highest level since February 1983.

Economists cautioned that the July 4 Independence Day holiday and auto plant shutdowns made it more difficult to draw conclusions from the claims report. Nonetheless, they said it showed persistent labor-market weakness.

"It was a holiday week so we don't take it too seriously. But there's not good news for economy with the rise in the number of people making insured employment claims," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's Rating Service in New York.

"It's a continued jobless recovery," he said.

Jay Bryson, global economist at Wachovia Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina, agreed. "This would be a sign that the job market in general remains pretty sluggish, and we wouldn't expect that to improve until growth starts to pick up," he said.

Market reaction to the data, and a separate report showing a 0.8 percent rise in import prices in June, was muted.

A Labor Department aide cautioned against relying too heavily on the latest initial claims figure in gauging the jobs market, noting the auto plant shutdowns for annual retooling could be affecting the figures.

"I really think we're in a period now when any one week should be interpreted cautiously," he said, adding the four-week moving average of claims would provide a better labor-market barometer. Still, he noted the department's seasonal adjustment process had anticipated the plant shutdowns.

The four-week average of initial claims, which smoothes weekly volatility, rose by a slight 1,000 to 426,750.

It was the second consecutive weekly gain in initial claims, which reached their highest level in five weeks.

It was also the 21st consecutive week that claims have been over the 400,000 level, which economists say separates jobs' growth from loss.

The department said it was the longest string of weeks with claims over the 400,000 level since a jobs market downturn that ended in July 1992.

While most economists expect the economy to pick up over the remainder of the year after a spiritless start, they warn that labor market conditions may be slower to improve.



Two weeks ago it was reported at only at an all time high in ten years. What shall we do? Hey I know... Let's create enormous tax breaks for the rich, and they'll use all that extra money to hire these poor unfortunate people (not). How's my driving? Call 1-800-BUSH-DRIVES-COUNTRY-INTO-DITCH...
Joblessness 10.Jul.2003 13:29


Who cares! Who wants to participate in capitalism anyway? We should all be living in mud huts eating vegtables.

interesting original anlaysis 10.Jul.2003 13:41


I came across this analysis which calculates the annualized rates of job growth for the past 12 presidents. Quite an interesting idea and somewhat surprising. I expected that republicans would be along the bottom (because giving the wealthy tax cuts does not, in reality, create any jobs) but I was suprised to see how stark the discrepancy was. Anyway, definitely an interesting analysis for anyone who is interested...

Annualized Rate of Job Growth
Annualized Rate of Job Growth
Annualized Rate of Job Growth (First 29 Months in Office)
Annualized Rate of Job Growth (First 29 Months in Office)

It seems scary, BUT... 10.Jul.2003 16:08


These unemployment figures reflect only those receiving unemployment, right? There are those who are looking for work but don't "count" because they aren't "in the system." So the unemployment rate is actually quite higher than that.

BUT, everything always goes up and down. The Stock Market, employment rates, etc. The economy is always making little changes here and there.

Looking over a period of a generation, I think we're doing fairly well. Our standard of living is certainly high. I mean, "poverty" now wears two-hundred dollar sneakers and owns big-screen TV's and has cell phones.

Everything will be okay.

But these tax breaks for the rich don't really amount to much. They're not enough for "the rich" to invest in businesses. What, they'll buy another car or something? Big deal.

yep 10.Jul.2003 17:33


No one's counting me in those figures as far as I can tell. Unemployment ran out ages ago, and although I don't really want to "participate in capitalism", food beyond ramen and dumpster diving would be nice.

is that right... 10.Jul.2003 17:41

this thing here

>I mean, "poverty" now wears two-hundred dollar sneakers and owns big-screen TV's and has cell phones.<

really? is that right...

>Everything will be okay.<

whatever you say...

>But these tax breaks for the rich don't really amount to much. They're not enough for "the rich" to invest in businesses. What, they'll buy another car or something? Big deal.<

is that so.

you don't seem know much about poverty and unemployment, and how when you're out of work and poor, how hard it is to say "it's no big deal"...

.... 10.Jul.2003 17:59


While I doubt that the poor here are ALL going around in 200 dollar sneaks and cell phones, that is poverty in America. In other countries (yes, there ARE other countries besides the great republic) poverty is fetid water and perhaps the windfall of a few grains of rice.

no. 10.Jul.2003 19:36

this thing here

take a drive thru rural appalachia and the rural south and inner city detroit and south side chicago and south east d.c. and ask the people if their shoes cost $200 dollars and if they own big screen televisions and if they're happy being poor and if they think it's no big deal and if since their water isn't fetid and they aren't as poor as bangladeshi's they should be glad they can't afford medicine. don't be so goddamn ignorant about poverty in your own country...

Well, okay, but 10.Jul.2003 22:58


One of the interesting things about poverty is that not all people living in poverty at any given time actually stay in poverty all their lives. Know what I mean? I've lived "in poverty" before, but I haven't stayed "in poverty." There are ample opportunities, it seems, to change our economic status as our lives unfold. That's one of the great things about this country, the opportunities to do what we want. Nobody ever said life would be easy. It isn't. It's never been easy for me, whether I had money or not. One can be happy with or without money. That's all an inside job, and that's really all that matters.

To this thing here 11.Jul.2003 01:30


Hailing from the rural south, and having visited other areas, I am well aware of what poverty in America looks like. I didn't mean to imply that i disagreed with you about poverty in America- which is previlant beyond the comprehension of most Amerikans, who's trust in corporate media belies the image of poverty here; I was simply pointing out that, while one may not have been as exposed to Amerikan poverty, one cannot deny the existance of poverty in other countries, if only pointed out when images of the next country to be "liberated" are shown to pump up the war machine. Whichis hopelessly ironic.

Justyou 11.Jul.2003 08:30


"Poverty" has always existed in all cultures and always will. In fact, a state of "poverty" is the norm for most of the world. My point is, if one does not want to live in poverty, this country is the best place to be living in to change that status. We have an extremely high standard of living here with opportunities unknown to most others in the world.

no, poverty hasn't always existed 11.Jul.2003 10:42


Poverty is a recent development, a by-product of what we call civilization. Of the hundreds of thousands of cultures that have existed on this planet there has only been 1 that we are aware of that has practiced war and genocide (as we know it), has concepts of corruption and crime (as we understand them), and that results in poverty. It was a culture that began some 8,000 years ago (not so long ago really) in the middle east and now comprises 99.9% (more really) of the world's population. Poverty is not just a state of not having enough; it is a state of having less than others. In most cultures (what we now refer to mostly as tribal cultures) the people all shared, because they recognized the value in keeping the community strong. In times when there was not enough to eat, they all had not enough to eat. While from a standpoint of privilege we can say that they would be in poverty the reality for them would be quite different, because there is happiness in unity and equality that our positions of privilege (or lack of privilege) isolate us from in civilization. That may seem off-topic, but it really has everything to do with jobs, or in a broader sense, finding a life with meaning. Really high unemployment may even be a really good thing in many ways for this country because it will start people questioning the fundamental assumptions of this country.

Someone 11.Jul.2003 14:01


I think I should introduce you to my longtime girlfriend, I think you might get on with her quite well.

Someone, how do you know? 12.Jul.2003 16:02


Someone --
How do you know what life was like for people 8,000+ years ago? Are you saying that people didn't starve? Or that some didn't have less than others? Is it possible that in these primitive societies, (like other species) the weak were simply left to die rather than burden the community? Where do you get your insight? Were you able to assess all of this wisdom by looking at an archaelogical ruin of a firepit and some tools?


reponses 13.Jul.2003 00:55


James, perhaps you should just introduce your girlfriend to this site (if she isn't already familiar with it). Perhaps she and I have found our personal truth from some similar sources.

Dagny, there are large fields of knowledge devoted to the subject of human history such as anthropology and archeology. I can dig up some old posts that are on this site with lists of sources if you are interested. We have access to large amounts of information regarding the myriad of ways humans have lived on this planet. No, they didn't starve, for several reasons (although, these are broad generalizations and didn't hold true for every culture; there have been hundreds of thousands of cultures afterall, all living somewhat differently). 1) Food was abundant in any area where humans settled (which was on of the reasons those areas were settled) 2) Most tribal societies did not allow members of the tribe to starve. If food was scarce, everyone shared equally so that all could survive. This addresses your point of "burden" which is itself a very "civilized" concept. Human societies historically and traditionally have seen value in preserving the strength of the community. There is strength in numbers and in diversity of knowledge and skills. So the concept of self-preservation, which is defined very narrowly in western societies in particular, and fairly narrowly in eastern societies, was much broader in tribal societies to include all members of the community (again, just talking about most cultures that have been studied, there are always exceptions). So again, poverty as we experience it, was not prevalent until our culture emerged out of the middle east with some culturally unique ideas that allowed it to consume most of the world.

I've said it before and will say it again, for the record, I'm not a primitivist, if that's the conclusion one comes to from reading something like this. But I think that only by understanding where we have come from can we really begin to shape where we are going. There are many, many books on the subject, and some people have found their viewpoints altered after having been exposed to them, including me.

How could one know? 13.Jul.2003 09:30


Bioarcheologists and traditional archeologists can speculate on what life was like for the a limited number of people. But it is largely speculation. There are schools of thought that say these hunters/gatherers led utopian lives, others say they were always on the verge of starvation. Nobody knows for sure.

"Most tribal societies did not allow members of the tribe to starve. If food was scarce, everyone shared equally so that all could survive."
You can't possibly state this with any degree of accuracy. There is not even close to enough data to support, or refute, this claim.

"This addresses your point of "burden" which is itself a very "civilized" concept. Human societies historically and traditionally have seen value in preserving the strength of the community."

Disagree. You are saying that other species, who leave the sick and small behind to die (to preserve the strength of their community) are "civilized"? In any event, even if allowed to survive, the weak probably wouldn't have been allowed to reproduce (given very rigid social hierarchies of all primates).

My point is that one has to be careful when speculation/fantasizing about what life was like in some other "Golden Age" -- especially when data from that age is so limited that it is impossible to know what really happened with any degree of certainty.

lots of evidence 16.Jul.2003 00:38


There is plenty of data to make a lot of claims with a relatively high degree of certainty. I don't want to regurgitate all of it here but I will list sources if you are interested. Also, although anthropology and archeology tell us a lot about past cultures let us not forget that sociology and anthropology have also given us details on many cultures that have survived until recently (say the past few hundred years). From these living cultures we have also learned a lot about what life was probably like in the past. If 90% of cultures practice a certain way of living it supports that those ways of living have been around for perhaps hundreds of thousands of years. So let's look at poverty, and specifically starvation. I'm not entirely sure how useful the concept of near-starvation. Either a culture had enough to eat or it didn't. If it did it survived, and since humans have survived for hundreds of thousands of years on this planet, they obviously weren't starving. Quite the contrary actualy since their numbers were increasing quite steadily throughout that time showing that they had enough food to support steady population growth.

As for the question of burden, it seems like it's easy to forget that humans, like most mammals are social creatures. I suppose it's a question of our hegemonies about nature, what facts are repeated ad nauseaum to support the prevalent notions that the world is a harsh place and competition is the rule and cooperation the exception, when, in fact, evidence supports the reverse. But think how damaging it would be for the culture of the united states to teach that animals much more often cooperate for mutual survival, within families, communities, species, and even between species. As I said in my first statement, these are generalizations; not every group, human or non-human fits these patterns. And the point about the need to not romanticize the past is absolutely correct, which is why I tried to clarify that in my other posts. Those rigid social hierarchies are not so rigid as you may think. Afterall remember that evolution and survivability thrive on diversity, not on alpha male dominance. It would be a sad world (and a weak, evolutionarily unstable and unsustainable one as well) if it were only the biggest bully males reproducing with all the females, don't you think?

So, if is a sick child really a burden? A sick adult? A sick senior? A child cannot yet produce food for itself so presumably there is nothing wasted by having the community continue to feed that sick child. A sick adult would perhaps mean others would have to collect more food, but, the chances of a healthy adult recovering are also high, so there is value there. A healthy senior may not be able to contribute in terms of physical labor, but may be valued for their experience, and again, it may benefit the community to continue to provide for that individual. And I don't like my phrasing because it makes it sounds like a cost-benefit analysis, which is not what I'm getting at. I'm just saying that in a community people are likely to be aware of the intrinsic value of their members (the way people in our country feel toward their families) and will support them. That is the strength of communities, and why people are drawn to them, because they "trade" in support for one another. A member gives support and also receives it.

To understand these issues research certainly helps, but very basic logic also helps. We can make claims like "tribal cultures were and are sustainable" because they must have been for all of us to be here. We can look to existing tribal cultures, to the social and biological sciences, but also to our own intuition. Afterall, I cannot say with absolute certainty that the sun will rise tomorrow but that does not shake my confidence that it will happen.

IS 16.Jul.2003 11:21


You people are thinking about the world the way it WAS, or SHOULD BE, or COULD BE, or MIGHT HAVE BEEN.

How about a little reality?

Let's think about the way the world IS.

the reality 16.Jul.2003 11:46


It is only by understanding human history that we can begin to shape a human future worth living in.