The state of the job market

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In last year’s State of the Union address, President Obama talked a lot about jobs. How they were lost, how hard they were to find and how they’d be created in the coming year. In fact, the president said the word “jobs” 23 times in a speech that ran just over an hour.

Now, one year later, as Obama gears up for his 2011 State of the Union address, it looks as if the job market is still a hot button issue, and rightly so. Unemployment hovered above 9.5 percent for much of 2010, and it’s estimated that more than a million people reached “99er” status last year, having maxed out their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.

With growth still obviously necessary in the job market, was any progress made in 2010? Below, a look at some of the key points from last year’s address and how things have panned out since.

Obama said: “That is why jobs must be our number-one focus in 2010, and that’s why I’m calling for a new jobs bill tonight.”  

The jobs bill passed in March 2010, less than two months after the State of the Union address. The $38 billion bill provided tax exemptions for businesses that hired unemployed workers and promised tax credits to businesses that kept those workers on staff for more than a year. It also extended the highway construction program. While it’s hard to tell just how much of the progress made last year was a direct result of the bill, one thing is clear: The nation took a big step in the right direction. According to the BLS, employment rose by 1.1 million jobs in 2010, an average increase of 94,000 jobs per month. In comparison, during the first quarter of 2009, the economy lost an average of 691,000 jobs per month.

Obama said: “One in 10 Americans still cannot find work.”

At this time last year the unemployment rate hovered around 10 percent. In December 2010, it was 9.4 percent, meaning that nearly one in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Even with the progress made in 2010, there is still a ways to go to before unemployment reaches pre-recession levels.  

Obama said: “Because of the steps we took [with the stimulus], there are about two million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed. Two hundred thousand work in construction and clean energy; 300,000 are teachers and other education workers. Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, first responders. And we’re on track to add another one and a half million jobs to this total by the end of the year.”

A November 2010 report by the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was responsible for adding between 1.4 and 3.6 million jobs in the third quarter of 2010 alone, though the exact impact of the stimulus on the job market is a topic of debate amongst both economists and politicians. One thing that everyone agrees on, however, is that the largest effects of the stimulus are behind us. According to the CBO report from November, “The effects of ARRA on output peaked in the first half of 2010 and are now diminishing.” This means that we will soon find out whether the act created a sustainable growth in the economy, or if it was just a short-term fix.

Obama said: “We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities — and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs.”

In January 2010, Obama announced a $2.3 billion clean energy program as part of the ARRA that he hoped would create 17,000 new jobs. Then, six months later in July 2010, he allotted an additional $2 billion towards solar energy companies. According to Renewable Energy World, a clean energy news network, the solar power industry increased job count from 50,000 in 2009 to 100,000 in 2010, and predicts a growth rate of 26 percent in 2011.

So what do you think? Though it’s clear we’ve made progress, is it enough progress? What would you like to see the president discuss tomorrow night? Any suggestions for how to get the nation back on track? Let us know in the comments section.


  1. I think that money should be allocated to infastructure repair, high speed rail, retraining for people not skilled in upcoming fields of job growth

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  3. Susan is on the right track. All the piping for oil ,gas.electric,sewer and fresh water that is underground was installed in the early 1900s and is decaying under some of our newly repaved roads. Wouldn’t it make more sense to fix the foundation before building the house? What about the smart grid we all heard so much about ? Also the urgent need to get out of the oil business except for lubrication of machinery. The oil industry has strangled this country enough and it is only going to get much worse.If we can put a man on the moon we should be able to make a more powerful battery for solar and wind power storage.After all, we used to be the most tech advanced country in the world.The push for renewable energy should be our #1 priority. The fat cats in oil run the country-NOT THE PUPPET GOVERNMENT.If that doesn’t change soon we will be a third world country-no middle class,only the very rich and the very poor!If you think food and everything else that is delivered to us is expensive now -wait till the fat cats raise the price of gas to 5.00 a gal which will be here by the end of this year because there is no more easy accessible oil.If they took away all the government subsidies that are now giving us the lowest prices for gas in the world we too would be paying 6.00 per gal like the UK. Everyone overseas is way ahead of us in renewable energy and it all started when OIL BACKED president Regan was Acting in office and took down the solar hot water system from the White house and dismantled the rebate program and push for RE that was put in place by Jimmy Carter. Let’s get our head out of our a#$ and reposition ourselves as the leaders of the the world before there is a need for a REVOLUTION IN THIS COUNTRY!!!

  4. Susan & Chuck are on the right track. We need to redo our infrastructure & rebuild our country. Stop spending by government. Start by making policitians pay for medical like everyone else. No more earmarks, pork in bills. they waste so much money. No more subsidies for farmers, oil companies. No more tax breaks big corporations or the wealthy people. Just pay your portion of taxes. Give the unemployed thier benefits or the homeless numbers will go up. Believe me you wont get rich off the benefits, but you may be able to keep a roof over your head. We have become a 3rd world nation. We became one back in 2008. Long before pres OBama. I blame the Republican party and all the companies with lobbists in the government. GET THEM OUT!!!
    Put term limits on congress & the senate. If a president is doing a great job then let them have a 3rd or 4th term. Everyone touts Reagan as a great president, not me. He downsized the military and stopped seeking energy improvements. He was too friendly with oil companies. We need to look closer at the Republican party. They sell their vote to the highest bidder. The people caught defrauding the gov, medical ect.. Long prison sentances & if possible take back their citizenship & deport them.

  5. A key phrase to take from this is: “One in Ten”. While this is significant for the nation overall and statistically, at the ground level it is not enough to invoke any significant social change.

    The fact remains that the vast majority are still employed which does not relieve the stigma associated (perpetuated by both employers and colleagues) with being unemployed.

    I have seen this both on the news, and through first and second hand experience. The issue is not entirely re-training of those whose sectors have been outsourced, but the availability of positions for those who are perfectly qualified in a field which remains strong and domestic.

    There are several mechanical engineers and people in construction who have been laid off due to lack of government contracts as well as from domino effect stemming from problems in the housing industry due to foreclosures. They don’t need retraining, they simply need better economic conditions (those in which encourage people to buy homes, or in which encourages businesses to expand and require new property).

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