Unemployed and out of luck – 9.7 percent in August

Illustration of a graph where the figures go through the roofThe unemployment rate rose to 9.7 percent in August, up 0.3 percent over July figures, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report today. Nonfarm payroll employment continued to decline in August, with 216,000 jobs lost. According to the BLS, “Since the recession began in December 2007, the number of unemployed persons has risen by 7.4 million, and the unemployment rate has grown by 4.8 percentage points.”

The seasonally adjusted total number of unemployed people — including those working part-time because they cannot find full-time work, “discouraged workers,” and others “marginally attached” to the labor force — rose to 16.8 percent in August, up from 16.3 percent in July.

Putting a slightly more optimistic face on the bad economy, the U.S. Department of Labor reported this week that new unemployment comp claims were only 570,000, down 4,000 from last week’s new claim figure. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find that the total number of people receiving unemployment is still rising. The number on August 22 was 6,234,000 workers collecting unemployment benefits, up 92,000 from the week before, reports NPR’s Planet Money. About three million more are collecting federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation, and those numbers also continue to rise. The 100% federally funded extended benefits last from 20 to 53 weeks, depending on each state’s unemployment rate.

The number of people receiving unemployment compensation may soon drop – but that’s not good news, either. About 100,000 workers have run out of unemployment compensation benefits already, and the number will hit half a million by the end of September and 1.5 million by the end of the year, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

According to July figures from NELP, unemployed Minnesotans can get maximum federal extended benefits – 53 weeks – but even so, some 7,805 were projected to exhaust their benefits by the end of September and 15,843 by the end of the year. What happens then?

Congress could act to further extend benefits. If not, workers who have exhausted their benefits will be thrown back on the charity of … anyone they can find.

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