US jobless figure dips, but labor is not impressed

The United States unemployment rate dipped in September to 7.5 percent, the lowest since April, but the slight improvement has not diminished organized labor's insistence on economic policy changes to create more jobs and extend benefits for jobless people.

The US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Oct. 3 that the unemployment rate declined from 7.6 percent in August to 7.5 percent -- as nearly 200,000 persons found jobs, most in construction, durable goods manufacturing, trades, and the services.

Dr. Janet L. Norwood, director of the BLS, said the drop -- although slight -- was "further evidence of gradual improvement" in the employment situation.

Unemployment now has dropped by about 400.000 since July, although it remains significantly higher than in the fall of 1979.

To labor, the September figure showing some 7.8 million workers jobless, many of them for prolonged periods, further underscores the need for government action. Jobs remain the major issue for labor in the 1980 election at presidential and congressional levels.

The BLS reported significant drops in unemployment among women and teen-agers , but increases for adult men, blacks, and Hispanics. The number of layoffs rose to 1.8 million in September. If estimated total employment at 97.2 million.

Government economists are cautiously optimistic that two straight months of drops in the unemployment rate indicate a turn in the economy. A staff member of the Council of Economic Advisers said the situation "now looks better and raises the possibility that the rate at the end of the year will be lower than the 8.5 percent we projected earlier."

Other economists are less optimistic. Some continue to estimate unemployment at 8 percent or higher at year's end.

To labor, 7.5 percent is an understatement of actual unemployment. The number of "discouraged" workers who say they want jobs but are not looking for work -- because they think they cannot find jobs -- has risen to 970,000 by BLS count and to well over a million by labor's. This group is not included in the BLS unemployment figure, which is limited to those actively seeking work. If those who have "dropped out" were counted, the jobless rate would be above 8.5 percent now.

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