From Volume 37, Issue 4 of EIR Online, Published Jan. 29, 2010

U.S. Economic/Financial News

Extended Unemployment Claims Double Official Figures

Jan. 20 (EIRNS)—A leap from November to December 2009 in Federal and state unemployment insurance outlays, betrayed the rising mass unemployment behind the official figures claiming that "the labor market has stabilized."

The Federal government spent an all-time record $14.7 billion on unemployment insurance benefits in December, a 24% jump from $11.8 billion in November. The states spent $12.7 billion on unemployment benefits in December, up by more than 15% from the month before. So the Labor Department's claim of a mere 1.7% increase, to 9.6 million, in Americans receiving "continuing" unemployment insurance benefits in December, is clearly a fraud.

The first approximation is that Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits (from the Federal government) jumped by 43%, from 3,594,253 in early November to 5,143,410 in mid-December. Analysts explain this by saying that state "continuing" benefits are being exhausted, and new claims are slowly declining, so there is a strong net shift from state to Federal benefit rolls, but with little total growth. This is because the "seasonally adjusted" reports put out every week by the BLS are claiming (for the most recent reported week, ended Jan. 9), that 4,596,000 Americans were getting state continuing benefits, and 440,000 new claims were added in that most recent week. So 9,598,000 people were supposedly getting either state "continuing" or Federal benefits in that week, and 440,000 more were trying to join them.

But the actual "unadjusted" figures for week ending Jan. 9 are dramatically different—a differential getting wider and wider since late November. The actual, unadjusted initial claims were 801,086 (not 440,000!), an increase of 156,165 (not 11,000!) from the previous week. And the unadjusted "continuing" state claims were 5,988,940 (not 4,596,000!), a leap of 503,924 from the preceding week. In this "continuing" state claims figure, an actual increase of 900,000 over the most recent two-week period has been officially "adjusted" into a decrease, at minus 400,000.

By comparison, January 2009 was a period of intense layoffs and firings, amid financial collapse; a net job loss of 598,000 was reported by BLS that month, and over 500,000 jobs were lost in each of the previous two months, November and December of 2008). But so far, in January 2010, the actual unadjusted figures for new unemployment claims are running 85% as high as in January 2009. That implies a real job loss of about 500,000 (not 85,000!) last month.

So the actual total of state "continuing" and Federal benefits, combined, in the week ending Jan. 9 was 11,142,000 (not 9,598,000!), with 801,000 more Americans applying to join them in that week.

We may, by now, have 12 million Americans actually on unemployment. That is double the highest number ever recorded prior to 2009, in statistics that go back to the creation of unemployment insurance. And even as a percentage of the population, we have reached 3.5%-4% of the population on unemployment relief, whereas that percentage has never been above 2% since the late 1940s.

This mass unemployment is a major, and rapidly rising factor in the bankrupting of state governments nationwide.

Labor Department: Unemployment Up in 43 States in December

Jan. 22 (EIRNS)—While none of the official employment figures have any relation to reality, the U.S. Labor Department at least reversed its "recovery" figures from November, when it reported increased employment in 36 states, by reporting unemployment increases in 43 states in December. The report said that all 50 states had an unemployment rate in December that was higher than a year earlier.

New York City and the State of New Jersey recorded the largest unemployment figures in the 33 years the data has been kept. New York City's rate jumped from 10% in November to 10.6% in December.

The Labor Department monthly survey includes only those people who have actively looked for work in the past four weeks—a fraction of the actually unemployed.

U.S. Electricity Use Falls as Dark Age Approaches

Jan. 17 (EIRNS)—For the second year in a row, and at a rate not seen since 1938, statistics collected by the Federal Energy Information Administration show that in 2009, electricity output fell by 3.7%. This is indicative of a society headed into a literal dark age, since just the simple growth in population should result in at least a minimal growth in electricity use.

To get a metric of comparison, note that in the 1960s in the United States, the decade of NASA, the rate of growth of electricity consumption was 7%.

The principal cause is the accelerating and dramatic collapse in industrial production, and also in commercial use. Add to that, the residential decline, thanks to the millions of homes that are not using electricity because they are empty, or households where bills cannot be paid, and service is terminated. As if the physical economic decline were not enough, crazy calls for "conservation," so as not to release carbon dioxide and "heat" the planet, are leading those who can still afford to use energy, to "voluntarily" cut their use.

As a Wall Street Journal article pointed out Jan. 14, this is leading to "turmoil" in the electric utility industry—the most capital-intensive industry in the economy. Building a baseload power plant—coal or nuclear—takes close to a decade, from planning to operation. With consumption falling, utilities are delaying, or even cancelling, plans to build new capacity, since they cannot forecast how much new capacity they will need. This is especially true of the dozen or so utilities with firm plans to build new nuclear plants, which are already hesitating, due to the Obama Administration's failure to provide the loan guarantees that would make it possible to borrow money at less than usurious Wall Street interest rates, for the multi-billion dollar nuclear plants.

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