Unemployment meteor threatens planet

Just like in the movies, the U.S. is about to have a black president. And guess what? Disaster looms.

By Andrew Leonard

Published November 13, 2008 2:59PM (EST)

Last week, we learned that the unemployment rate in the U.S. had jumped to 6.5 percent in October, a 14-year-high.

Today's numbers portend far worse for November.

  • New claims for jobless benefits hit 516,000, the highest since Sept. 29, 2001.
  • The four-week average for new claims is at its highest level since 1991.
  • The number of continuing claims -- workers drawing benefits for longer than one week -- is at a 25-year high.

Where is the pain worst? No surprise there: Michigan and Ohio, due to automobile industry layoffs, according to the Wall Street Journal.

(And if you really want to sink into the gloom, consider Dan Gross' argument, presented in Slate a couple of weeks ago, that the numbers we pay most attention to don't take into account how many people are underemployed in the U.S.)

When George W. Bush took office, he inherited an economy headed for recession, and while one could criticize him for how he handled it, only the blindly partisan could attempt to blame him for having caused it. The same goes for Barack Obama, with one difference. The recession he's inheriting looks to be the worst most of us have experienced in our lifetimes.

During the campaign, we heard a lot of jokes about how the only time you ever saw a black president in the movies was when the Earth was faced with imminent destruction. Well, guess what -- there's a meteor headed our way.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Globalization Great Recession How The World Works Unemployment U.s. Economy