Quick takes: unemployment, detainees, and the Obamas take Paris!
The March unemployment figures are as dire as you thought they'd be: 663,000 jobs lost, unemployment at 8.5 percent. As per usual, Wall Street could care less. Meanwhile:
Google also rose before the bell, although its gains were limited as Techcrunch, the website, reported the company may be in talks to buy Twitter, the microblogging service that has become the latest online craze. Google’s shares picked up 0.8 per cent to $365.45.
If the Googs make Twitter as bug-free as Blogger, we're all in big trouble...
Overseas, President and Michelle Obama get the full red carpet treatment as they arrive to a rapturous welcome in Paris, where the president held a town hall and promised a less arrogant America. Meanwhile, were Michelle O and Carla Bruni Sarkozy wearing the same dress in different colors??? You be the judge:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said today that his country will accept one prisoner from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay as a way of demonstrating approval of President Obama's decision to close the facility, adding that "it feels really good to work with a U.S. president who wants to change the world."
One of the t-shirts has a rifle sight aimed at a pregnant Palestinian with the slogan "1 shot, 2 kills," according to a report last month in the Haaretz newspaper.
A spokesman for the military called the shirts "simply tasteless," and said the armed forces' chief educational officer had instructed commanders to ensure soldiers did not create or wear the items and to discipline those who disobeyed.
Haaretz said soldiers graduating from a snipers' course designed the t-shirts with the gun sight on the pregnant woman and printed them privately. The paper described examples of soldiers in other units printing shirts with their own slogans.
This as some Israelis fear a growing isolation of that country from Europe, and potentially, from the Obama administration. Indeed, when it comes to the creation of a Palestinian state, Israel's new ultra-right wing government is quickly becoming the odd man out, with its new foreign minister, Mr. Lieberman, even pissing off Israel's one sem-friend in the region, Egypt.
Unemployment rates were higher in February than a year earlier in all 372 metropolitan areas, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S.Department of Labor reported today. Fourteen areas recorded joblessrates of at least 15.0 percent, while 20 areas registered rates below 5.0 percent. The national unemployment rate in February was 8.9 per-cent, not seasonally adjusted, up from 5.2 percent a year earlier. Among the 310 metropolitan areas for which nonfarm payroll data wereavailable, 270 areas recorded over-the-year employment decreases, 37reported gains, and 3 had no change.
...with particularly bad news for California:
El Centro, Calif., recorded the highest unemployment rate, 24.5 per- cent. The areas with the next highest rates were Merced, Calif., 19.9 percent; Yuba City, Calif., 18.9 percent; and Elkhart-Goshen, Ind., 18.0 percent. Among the 14 areas with jobless rates of at least 15.0 percent, 10 were located in California.
Meanwhile, the U.S. economy shed another 742,000 jobs last month. Still, if you can believe it, things are not all bad:
April 1 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stocks advanced for a second day as sales of existing homes unexpectedly increased and a manufacturing gauge topped economists’ estimates, bolstering optimism that the worst of the recession is over. The dollar strengthened against the euro and oil fell.
D.R. Horton Inc. led gains in 12 of 13 shares in an index of homebuilders as the National Association of Realtors reported a 2.1 percent increase in pending home resales in February. Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. added at least 5.8 percent after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said there are signs that financial markets are recovering.
Of course, we now know for sure that what's good for Wall Street isn't necessarily, or even all that often, good for Main Street, but signs that we may have hit the bottom are out there. Let's hope so, anyway.
As bad as it gets (but not as bad as December or January)
The new jobless rate: 8.1 percent, is bad. The February figure: 651,000 jobs lost, is worse. But it turns out that December and January made that figure look like a walk in the park. The closing two months of George W. Bush's disastrous presidency saw the highest job losses since just after World War II:
The economy has lost 4.4 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007, with more than half coming in the last four months. Read full report.
Payrolls fell by 655,000 in January and by 681,000 in December, revised down by 161,000 from previous estimates.
The job losses in December were the biggest monthly decline in jobs since October 1949, when half a million steelworkers went on strike for higher pay.
Note, righties, when the recession began: December 2007. Bush time. Meanwhile, the figures for February are brutal:
The unemployment rate continued to trend upward in February for adult men (8.1 percent), adult women (6.7 percent), whites (7.3 percent), blacks (13.4 percent), and Hispanics (10.9 percent). The jobless rate for teen-agers was little changed at 21.6 percent. The unemployment rate for Asians was 6.9 percent in February, not seasonally adjusted.
And the losses occurred across every conceivable sector of the economy, with the exception of healthcare (up 27%):
Employment in professional and business services fell by 180,000 in February. The temporary help industry lost 78,000 jobs over the month. Since December 2007, temporary help employment has declined by 686,000, or 27 percent. In February, job declines also occurred in services to buildings and dwellings (-17,000), architectural and engineering services (-16,000), and business support services (-12,000).
Widespread job losses continued in manufacturing in February (-168,000). The majority of the decline occurred in durable goods industries (-132,000), with the largest decreases in fabricated metal products (-28,000) and machinery (-25,000). Employment in nondurable goods manufacturing declined by 36,000 over the month.
The construction industry lost 104,000 jobs in February. Employment in the industry has fallen by 1.1 million since peaking in January 2007. Two-fifths of that decline occurred over the last 4 months. Employment fell sharply in both the residential and nonresidential components of the industry in February.
Employment in truck transportation declined by 33,000 in February; the industry has lost 138,000 jobs since the start of the recession in December 2007. Nearly two-thirds of the decline (-88,000) occurred over the last 4 months. The information industry continued to lose jobs (-15,000). Over the last 4 months, employment in the industry has decreased by 76,000, with about two-fifths of the decline occur- ring in publishing.
Okay, I'm getting sick of "Morning Joe." Between Joe's water carrying for the RNC, Mika's unintelligible babble and kissing up to the right, and that annoying Coutney Hazlett (why anyone would take her opinion that Clint Eastwood isn't a good actor more seriously than, say, Clint Eastwood... is beyond me.) But perhaps the most annoying aspect of "Joe" is Erin Burnett, the serially upbeat Wall Street analyst. Today, she even managed to do the unemployment numbers headline WITHOUT TELLING US WHAT THE UNEMPLOYMENT NUMBERS ARE. Which of course, forced me to turn to the serially upbeat Reuters, who proferred the following headline:
Jobless claims fell by 21,000 last week
Now, before you run out and buy stock in Bernie Madoff's company to celebrate. Here's the actual story:
Initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits fell 21,000, to a seasonally adjusted 554,000 in the week ended December 13 from an upwardly revised 575,000 the previous week. State offices were closed for at least one day near the end of November because of the Thanksgiving holiday, distorting the holiday week and the following week's numbers.
A Labor Department official said there were no special factors influencing the report. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast 558,000 new claims versus a previously reported figure of 573,000 the week before.
In other words, unemployment claims "fell" this week because a) last week's number was TOO LOW when first reported, and b) this week's number wasn't quite as bad as expected. Your headline should have read:
"Holy, shit! Another 554,000 people filed for unemployment last week!!!"
And by the way, Reuters had more sunny "good news":
Continuing claims fell to 4.38 million in the week ended December 6 after scaling a 26-year of 4.43 million the previous week.
God, is everyone writing for "Morning Joe"??? The Labor Department lays reality out with a lot more seriousness, and you'll never guess where the biggest job losses Toyota Central:
States reported 933,652 persons claiming EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) benefits for the week ending Nov. 29, an increase of 258,601 from the prior week.
... The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending Dec. 6 were in North Carolina (+26,596), California (+22,963), Georgia (+20,237), Pennsylvania (+20,090), and Tennessee (+12,170), while the largest decreases were in Wisconsin (-8,593), Iowa (-3,424), North Dakota (-895), Arkansas (-514), and Idaho (-320).
WASHINGTON – An alarming half-million American jobs vanished virtually in a flash last month, the worst mass layoffs in over a third of a century, as economic carnage spread ever faster and the nation hurtled toward what could be the hardest hard times since the Great Depression.
Underscoring Friday's dismaying signs of a rapidly deteriorating economy, General Motors announced yet more job cuts, and a record number of homeowners were reported behind on mortgage payments or in foreclosure.
Somehow Wall Street found a silver lining, betting that so much bad news would force fresh government action to revive the foundering economy. The Dow Jones industrial rose 259 points.
Yeah. Leave it to Wall Street to find job losses attractive. It means productivity, or something like that... The bad news keeps on coming:
Staring at 533,000 lost jobs, economists were anything but hopeful. Since the start of the recession last December, the economy has shed 1.9 million jobs, and the number of unemployed people has increased by 2.7 million — to 10.3 million now out of work.
Some analysts predict 3 million more jobs will be lost between now and the spring of 2010 — and that the once-humming U.S. economy could stagger backward at a shocking 6 percent rate for the current three-month quarter.
"The economy is in a free fall," said Richard Yamarone of Argus Research. "It is as if someone flicked off the switch on hiring."
"It's a mess," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com. "Businesses, battening down the hatches, are concerned about their survival and are cutting workers."
The Labor Department report showed monthly jobs losses of 533,000 spread across the economy, hitting construction firms, computer makers, auto dealers, clothing stores and banks and insurance companies alike.
The new data translate the steady stream of pink slip notices coming from companies as diverse as financial titans like the Carlyle Group to discount retailers like Linen 'n Things into evidence of broad economic weakness. The headline number alone -- the worst monthly job loss since Dec., 1974, amid a steep downturn and in the wake of an oil embargo by Arab states -- is likely to raise fresh concerns about the depth and length of an ongoing recession.
The number literally took my breath away this morning. And add to it the 422,000 Americans who stopped bothering to job hunt and the 600,000 manufacturing jobs we've lost this year, and you start to get a sense of the depth of the problem. Oh, and guess who noticed that we're in a recession? The bystander:
WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush publicly acknowledged for the first time Friday that the U.S. economy is in a recession and worried aloud that Detroit's Big Three automakers may not all survive their mounting troubles.
Four days after the long-suspected existence of a recession was made official, Bush used the word himself.
"Our economy is in a recession," Bush said flatly, speaking to reporters on the South Lawn only hours after the release of a government report showing the biggest month of job losses in 34 years. "This is in large part because of severe problems in our housing, credit and financial markets, which have resulted in significant job losses."
While repeatedly listing the serious problems in the economy, the White House has refused to embrace the actual term until Monday, when a panel for the National Bureau of Economic Research said the recession began last December and is ongoing.
Thanks, Dubya. Real helpful.
This will put a new complexion on the proposed auto bailout. It now, clearly, has to happen. The economy, and the states, simply cannot handle another 3 million unemployed, heaped on top of the millions already out here on a limb. And TPM points out, via the New York Times, that the news is even worse than it looks.