Unemployment remains 9.6%, despite private-sector gains

By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 8, 2010; 1:05 PM

The nation's gloomy job situation remained essentially static in September, as a modest increase in private employment was offset by the loss of government jobs, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The politically sensitive unemployment rate remained at 9.6 percent, and the number of unemployed people - 14.8 million - remained essentially unchanged from the previous month.

Overall, employers shed 95,000 jobs in September. Private employers added 64,000 jobs, but the loss of temporary Census jobs and increasing cuts by state and local governments grappling with the aftershocks of the recession caused the loss of 159,000 government posts.

The number of people involuntarily working part time increased by 612,000 in September to 9.5 million, the government reported.

Men continued to bear the brunt of the unemployment problem, with an overall unemployment rate of 9.8 percent compared with 8 percent rate for women. The unemployment rate for blacks was 16.1 percent; for Hispanics the rate was 12.4 percent; for whites it was 8.7 percent; and for Asians it was 6.4 percent. All of those rates were little changed from August.

The report is the last before crucial midterm elections in November, in which the troubled job market has emerged as a paramount issue.

The White House tried to place the mixed jobs report in a broader context.

Speaking at a masonry company in Bladensburg, President Obama trumpeted the gains in private-sector job growth, although he acknowledged that the overall jobs picture remains troubling.

"Yes, the trend line in private-sector job growth is moving in the right direction. But I'm not interested in trends or figures as much as I am interested in the people behind them," Obama said, "the millions of honest, hard-working Americans swept up in the one of the most devastating recessions of our lifetimes." Obama once again called for greater investments in infrastructure repair. He also chastised Republicans for delaying legislation that would provide tax incentives to encourage small-business growth. And he repeated his call to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for family income below $250,000, while allowing the rates for income above that to rise.

Noting that September marked the ninth consecutive month of private-sector job growth, White House Council of Economic Advisors Chairman Austan Goolsbee said the private-sector growth "provides more evidence that the economy continues to recover, but we must do more to put the economy on a path of robust economic growth."

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) used the report to once again blast Obama's economic policies - which are supported by many congressional Democrats - as not doing enough to create jobs.

"Over the past two years, the policies pursued by the president and Democrat leaders in Congress have created a cloud of uncertainty and fear that has inhibited productivity, innovation and job creation," Cantor said in a statement.

Democrats, meanwhile, focused on the positive, suggesting that things would be much worse without their initiatives, including the massive stimulus bill passed in early 2009 and a series of smaller measures aimed at job creation.

"We now have nine straight months of private-sector jobs gains," said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. "Though the job growth is not happening as fast as we would like, it's better than a year ago, and a whole lot better than would have been the case without the Recovery Act."

Cantor linked the bleak jobs picture to the battle being waged between Democrats and Republicans over whether to extend Bush-era tax cuts. Obama has said he wants to extend the tax breaks only for families with incomes up to $250,000 a year, while Republicans want to extend them even for incomes above that level.

Congress did not resolve the issue before its pre-election break, which Cantor called a "dereliction of duty" by Democratic leaders.

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