Washington politicians continue to haggle today over extending jobless benefits to the unemployed as the nation's payrolls added 39,000 jobs in November, far fewer than needed to make any sizable dent in the nation's unemployment, which increased to 9.8 percent, the U.S. Labor Department reported.
The rate was up from 9.6 percent in October, a month when 172,000 jobs were added. The November addition was smaller than expected.
Many economists were predicting the addition of nearly 150,000 jobs last month. The economy has recently flashed signs of gaining momentum with busier factories, rising auto sales and a good start to the holiday shopping season. But that didn't translate into mass hiring in November.
Federal and state extensions to unemployment benefits began to be phased out last month. This month, 83,000 Pennsylvanians, including nearly 18,000 Philadelphia residents, will run out of benefits - more than ran out during the previous 11 months.
"We need Congress to vote yes to extending unemployment to help those of us who through no fault of our own" are out of work, said Mavis Menin, 63, of Glenside, who traveled to Washington on Wednesday to lobby Congress to extend benefits.
In Delaware, a thousand people a week will exhaust their benefits, state officials say. The situation is not as dire in New Jersey because of the way the state funds extended unemployment benefits.
Menin, a social worker, has been out of work since October 2009 and now fears losing her home.
The legislation in Washington would provide assistance only to those who are now on unemployment, or who become unemployed. Many of the millions of people who have already exhausted the 99 weeks provided in some states have yet to find work.
With many economists predicting that unemployment will remain high well into next year, November marks the 19th month that the unemployment rate stayed above 9 percent.
That's the longest stretch on government records stretching back to World War II. The last time it came close was 18 months during the recession of the early 1980s, with a rate topping 9 percent persisting until September 1983, nine months after the official end of the recession in November 1982.
The current recession officially ended 17 months ago, in June 2009, but hiring prospects seem unclear.
Monster.com, which tracks online hiring, said that job postings continue to trend up in Philadelphia with particular demand in transportation and material moving, health care, production and administrative support.
But a recent survey of area human resource managers provides a less bullish outlook.
"The long and short of it is that it is a mixed bag," said Justin Schakelman of Careerminds Group Inc., a Delaware company that designs web-based job search counseling for the unemployed.
Careerminds, working with Rutgers University, surveyed 80 professional human resource managers at a regional conference in October. Of those, 50 percent expected to increase employee head count in 2011, while 42 percent expect to maintain the status quo. Eight percent said they planned to reduce head count.
Companies plan to hire clerical and administrative support, a sign that they need to ease the burden on overtaxed middle and upper managers, who have been pressured to do more, Schakelman said.
Meanwhile, just announced this week:
Express Scripts Inc. said it will shut down its Marshall Lane mail order pharmacy facility in Bensalem on Dec. 15, putting at least 350 people out of work. A second plant is scheduled to close Feb. 1, leaving a total of 1,000 jobless at the two plants.
Sunoco Inc. said it would decrease its corporate staff by 175 employees, most of them in Philadelphia.
The City of Camden plans to lay off 383 workers, including nearly half of its police force and a third of its firefighters.
And the Clarion Hotel Park Ridge in King of Prussia is to close in January; a company spokesman said that the hotel has fewer than 100 employees.