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United States Unemployment Rates in 2009 Essay

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The better-than-expected data from the Labor Department on Friday follows other hopeful economic indicators this week, including an upward revision for economic growth in the third quarter on Thursday and an uptick in manufacturing reported on Monday.

The 7 percent unemployment rate last month — down from its most recent peak of 10 percent in October 2009 — is the best reading since President Obama took office, providing one bright spot for a White House beleaguered on many other fronts. The unemployment rate was 7.3 percent in December 2008, the month before Mr. Obama was inaugurated.

“The headwinds are fading and the tailwinds are gaining strength,” said Michael Hanson, senior United States economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch,
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Moreover, the current level is well above the 5 percent rate that economists consider closer to full employment. At the current rate of job creation, unemployment would fall to 6.4 percent by the end of 2014, and still be around 5.7 percent in late 2015.

Despite the overall improvement in the employment picture, the situation remains desperate for many American workers and those seeking jobs.

For people with less than a high school diploma, for example, the jobless rate last month stood at 10.8 percent. For African-Americans, it was 12.5 percent, or nearly twice what it was for whites.

No improvement was seen in the fate of the long-term unemployed, either, with the ranks of people who have been seeking jobs for more than 27 weeks actually rising slightly in November to 4.06 million. Employers remain wary of workers with long gaps in their résumés, and skills erode the longer people are out of a job.

“We still have a crisis in terms of long-term unemployment,” said Christine L. Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for low-wage and unemployed workers. “We need solutions like extending support while also encouraging policies that will promote re-employment,” she added, citing potential programs like tax breaks for firms that hire the
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