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September 7, 2001

Unemployment Rate Rockets to 4.9%

If they aren't doing so already, consumers will begin to think twice before making needless purchases in the coming months. The unemployment rate jumped to 4.9% this week, underscoring the reality that job security is much more uncertain these days.

The manufacturing sector continued hemorrhaging jobs in August. Now in its 13 month of contraction, the sector has slashed over 1 million jobs since July 2000. Plus, despite pockets of strength in the services sector, namely in health services, other areas showed new signs of weakness. Retail employment fell by 30,000 jobs in August after an increase in July, and computer services cut jobs for the first time since the late 1980s. Weakness in those areas tells us two significant things: (1) there is less demand in stores as consumers have slowed reckless spending, and (2) the high-tech boom that spurred the economic growth the 90s is now over.

Today's unemployment statistics certainly don't point to the rebound by the end of the year that President Bush predicted today. As unemployment fears increase, consumer confidence will plunge, driving the economy even deeper into recession.


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