Jobless Race to 8% and Under: Gallup Seeing Break in Clouds?

Photograph by Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg

Job seekers reflected in a mirror during a fair sponsored by National Career Fairs in San Diego.

Since January 1948, The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has collected monthly unemployment data — collecting 776 months of data.

The unemployment rate has stood at 8 percent or higher in three periods: for 12 months in 1975, for 27 months from late 1981 through early 1984 and for 43 months since February 2009 through August.

This current period of sustained high unemployment is the longest since the Great Depression and is weighing heavily on the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama.

With two employment reports remaining before the Nov. 6 election, a new Gallup poll is seeing a break in the clouds: the non-seasonally adjusted rate falling from 8.1 percent in August to 7.9 percent in mid-September, and the seasonally adjusted rate at 8.1 percent as of mid-September. A drop in the unemployment rate before the election to below 8 percent could be seen as a validation of Obama’s policies and provide voters with an indication of hopeful progress — the president has touted 30 consecutive months of private sector job growth, while Republican Mitt Romney has focused on 43 months of high joblessness.

The unemployment rate stood at 7.8 percent in January 2009 when Obama took office and rose to 8.3 percent in February 2009, his first full month in office. A Bloomberg survey of 67 economists conducted Sept. 7-12 does not see the unemployment rate dipping below 8 percent until next summer.

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