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Americans Still Struggling Despite Falling Unemployment

  • Aru Pande

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 5.9 percent last month -- the lowest since the 2008 recession. The White House is touting this figure along with 55 consecutive months of job creation in the private sector. Despite the job gains, though, recent polls find that confidence in the economy is actually dropping among Americans.

Located in one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, the Manna Center in Maryland is a lifeline for the working poor -- providing boxes of food so families do not have to choose between paying an electricity bill and buying groceries.

Development Director Mark Foraker said that unlike the country’s falling unemployment rate, the number of needy households in Montgomery County actually has gone up since the 2008 recession.

“In the fiscal year 2008, we were serving an average of 2,070 families a month. Currently our numbers that we are serving are 3,760 families each month.”

The numbers are a stark contrast to the economic progress cited by President Barack Obama, who noted in an October 2 speech at Northwestern University that 10 million new private sector jobs have been created in the last four and a half years.

“All told, the United States has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and every other advanced economy combined. I want you to think about that. We have put more people back to work, here in America, than Europe, Japan, and every other advanced economy combined,” said Obama.

But in that same speech, Obama acknowledged that despite the increasing number of Americans returning to the workforce, it will take much longer to reverse what he calls a profound erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes.

George Washington University Economics Professor Tara Sinclair said the U.S. labor market and economy still look starkly different than before the recession.

“Wages aren’t rising very quickly, and there are a whole lot of people who have stepped out of the labor force completely. So if you look at the employment to population ratio, we are still way below where we were before the recession or for many years before that. We look like the 1970’s.”

And with more people settling for low-paying jobs even as costs increase, officials here at the Manna Center don’t anticipate the need going down anytime soon.

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