The U.S economy in February shed more than 600,000 jobs for an unprecedented third consecutive month, and data released this week confirmed that the global recession has taken an even greater toll than was previously understood. U.S. unemployment jumped to 8.1 percent, the highest rate since 1982. Job losses affected every part of the country and nearly every industry, with professional services and manufacturing taking the biggest hits. “The current pace of decline is breathtaking,” said economist Robert Barbera.
The International Monetary Fund forecast that the global economy would shrink by 2 percent in 2009—the first worldwide contraction since World War II. IMF Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said that “the Great Recession” was hitting poorer countries especially hard, touching off political unrest. Latvia’s government fell last month, following unruly demonstrations by unemployed workers, and protests shook the governments of Hungary, Romania, and Ukraine.
Believe it or not, the economy is “even uglier” than the horrible new data suggests, said Alan Abelson in Barron’s. The recession is in its 15th month, well above the 10-month average duration of postwar recessions. Employment continues to erode—United Technologies announced almost 12,000 layoffs this week—with “more woes to come.” President Obama has assured us that in “the long term,” we’ll be fine, but I’m starting to worry that the long term may be a very distant destination.
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This recession has already marked an entire generation, said Jill Andresky Fraser in the Baltimore Sun. “I have so many friends who are out of work that having a job is coming to seem odd.” When we “contemplate a world in which the skills we’ve learned, the jobs that we’ve worked at,” are “disappearing,” we wonder if the future holds a place for us at all.
As bad as the U.S. economy is, the news from Eastern Europe “is even more frightening,” said The New York Times in an editorial. Jobs are disappearing along with demand for exports, and political stability is at risk. Yet the richer nations of Europe will barely lift a finger to help their neighbors. Don’t they realize how easily trouble could spill over their borders? “For their own sake,” Western European leaders must open their wallets—“quickly.”
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