Unemployment Jumps to 6.1 Percent, Women Hit Hardest

September 5, 2008 (Jobs Byte)

Unemployment Jumps to 6.1 Percent, Women Hit Hardest

Jobs Byte by Dean Baker

For Immediate Release: September 5, 2008
Contact: Alan Barber, (202) 293-5380 x115

"The labor market is as weak or weaker than at the worst points of the last recession."

The unemployment rate jumped to 6.1 percent in August, the highest level since September of 2003. The establishment survey showed the economy losing another 84,000 jobs in August. With downward revisions to data for the prior two months, the economy has lost an average of 81,000 jobs over the last three months.

Virtually all the data in the household survey indicates that the labor market is weakening at a rapid pace. The 6.1 percent unemployment rate is only 0.2 percentage points below the 6.3 percent peak reached in June of 2003. The employment to population ratio (EPOP) ratio fell to 62.1 percent, only slightly above the 62.0 percent low hit in September of 2003.

Unemployment rose among almost all demographic groups, but women were hit hardest, with a rise of 0.7 pp to 5.3 percent. This is equal to the high for the last downturn in September of 2003. Black women saw their unemployment rate jump by 1.6 percentage points to 9.1 percent. The unemployment rate for blacks overall rose by 0.9 pp to 10.6 percent. The unemployment rate for Hispanics jumped by 0.6 pp to 8.0 percent, the highest level since reaching 8.1 percent in July of 2003.