WASHINGTON (CN) – Unemployment rose to 9.4 percent in May, the highest since 1983, after the month saw the loss of 345,000 jobs , according to a report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nonetheless, Commissioner Keith Hall said the numbers were “consistent with an improving job market” and called it a “significant improvement in job loss,” from the past six months when the jobs were lost at almost twice the most recent rate.
“While this is not good news,” Hall admitted to the Joint Economic Committee, “this is what we hope to see on the way to good news.”
The news comes after a string of worse losses, where the past six months averaged 643,000 jobs lost each month, all much more than the 345,000 jobs lost in May.
“We’ve had a steady moderation in job losses,” Hall said, but admitted that the unemployment rate “still signals a labor market that’s not healthy,” a reality Republicans used to challenge the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Three women lost their jobs for every man that lost his, Hall reported. He said this may reflect the decline of the service industry, which has been particularly hard hit. In the six months prior to May, half the jobs lost have been from the services.
The unemployment rate of blacks was about 15 percent in May. Hispanic unemployment was 12.7 percent, and white unemployment was 8.6 percent. The unemployment of Hispanics and whites grew since April, but black unemployment stayed constant.
High school dropouts had 15.5 percent unemployment in May. High school graduates had 10 percent unemployment, and college graduates had 4.8 percent unemployment.
During the hearing, Rep. Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican used the high unemployment and continued job losses to fiercely attack the recovery act. He questioned the prediction of the White House that 2009 would average 8.1 percent unemployment.
“The higher unemployment rate underscores the unrealistic nature of the Administration’s economic assumptions based on the idea that the stimulus spending would cap rising unemployment,” Brady said.
“Congress should wake up to the damage that it is inflicting and stop enacting legislation that only increases the burden of government on the economy,” he added.
Sen. Robert Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat replied that it is still too early to see the results of the package, but that the nation will know soon enough. “At some point we’re all going to know whether this recovery act worked or didn’t work,” he said.