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U.S. Unemployment Rates Hit a 25-Year High
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The nation’s unemployment rate is now officially in double digits – for the first time in 25 years. As WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports, economists are speculating what that might mean for Connecticut.

The unemployment rate for October stood at 10.2%  –  the highest since 1982. Almost 16 million Americans are without jobs, more if you count those not officially on the unemployment rolls. Connecticut’s own unemployment numbers for October aren’t out yet.

In September, the state lost more than 6,000 jobs, and its unemployment rate jumped to 8.4%. Chief economist for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, Peter Gioia says he believes the nation’s tally in October will point the way for the state.

"It’s a little bit higher than expectations, so obviously when there’s been that much job loss, we’re probably going to see some Connecticut job loss when those figures are released later in the month."

The rate of job losses has slowed in recent months, giving some cause for hope but reaching double digits is a big psychological barrier. Economist Don Klepper Smith, who chairs the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors says legislators in Connecticut should use the occasion to think about some of the longer term trends at work – not just the effects of the recession.

"We’ve got a lot of structural change going on here. Things apart from the business cycle that speak to outsourcing, offshoring, the substitution of capital for labor. And so what that basically says going forward here is that workforce development initiatives across the state are going to be really critical in terms of getting people retooled and up to speed with skill sets that can help them be productive in other areas of the economy."

That lesson is underscored by at least one statistic – compared to the last time America saw 10% unemployment in the 1980s, those without jobs now are remaining on the unemployment rolls an average of ten extra weeks.