Yesterday was the first Friday of the month. That means the lead stories in today’s newspapers are all about the Department of Labor’s latest monthly statistics, bad ones for the 10th month in a row: The U.S. unemployment rate jumped to 6.5 percent as American employers cut more than 240,000 jobs. The New York Times highlights the fact that unemployment has reached its highest level in 14 years. The Washington Postand the Los Angeles Timesfocus on President-elect Barack Obama’s call for a new economic-stimulus package. The Wall Street Journal says the hurting auto industry is Obama’s most pressing challenge.
The NYT reports that almost one-third of the unemployed today receive government benefits, far fewer than their counterparts of the 1950s, half of whom received checks while jobless. To put a face on today’s recipients of unemployment benefits, the Times finds a looking-for-work guy who received $562 a month from Uncle Sam under the benefits that expired last month. Now the guy’s girlfriend is paying the rent, he has a tumor in his foot, and soon he will be unable to afford health insurance. *
If Congress and the current White House can’t agree on a new multibillion-dollar economic stimulus package by January, Obama said in his first press conference yesterday that it would be the “first thing” he’d get done upon taking office, reports the WP. Despite Obama’s call for both political parties to “set politics aside,” the White House indicated it would prefer to give more time to the $700 billion banking bailout before signing off on a plan from the Democrats that would include extending unemployment benefits and increasing food-stamp funding.
General Motors and Ford posted big losses and burned through billions in cash during the third-quarter, reports the WSJ, prompting the auto giants to warn that without government assistance they may not have enough cash reserves to operate later this year. Obama called the auto industry the “backbone of American manufacturing” and endorsed efforts to convert factories to producing more fuel-efficient vehicles. In a Page One story, the NYT says the government faces a tricky choice: A bailout for GM wouldn’t even guarantee the company wouldn’t need another bailout later, but allowing GM to go bankrupt now would cause a devastating economic ripple effect.
The WP fronts an analysis of Obama’s first press conference as president-elect, reporting that Obama spoke cautiously and emphasized that he will wait until he actually assumes the presidency before he tries to “manipulate the levers of power.” Obama said he had spoken to all the “living” former presidents—after the presser, he had to call former first lady Nancy Reagan and apologize for saying he would not “get into a Nancy Reagan thing about … doing any séances.” The LAT declares the séance line to be the president-elect’s First Gaffe.
Below the fold, the WP trumpets Japanese convenience stores as “the most convenient convenience stores on earth,” places where citizens pay their bills, order appliances, book flights, and buy earwax remover. And the stores do very well, making money even as the Japanese economy slides into recession.
The LAT takes a look at the rift between the gay community and the black community in California over the state’s newly voter-approved ban on gay marriage, which was largely carried by black voters. The Times reports that pro-ban robocalls used Barack Obama’s statement that marriage is “between a man and a woman,” even though Obama specifically stated his opposition to a ban.
Colleges across the country are facing budget cuts and hiring freezes, according to an A1 NYT story. Rich and poor schools both are suffering in the current economy, and one way students are reacting to increased costs and reduced aid programs, allegedly, is by flocking to their state schools—though the Times offers a 50 percent increase in applications to one New York state school as the only evidence of this trend.
The NYT fronts a piece on the potentially devastating impact of geriatric falls, focusing on the divergent recovery stories of two particular women, 87 and 93, who both fell and hurt themselves in July.
The WP retraces the path of the toxic chemical that found its way into all kinds of foods in China, sickening tens of thousands. Chinese officials banned melamine in 2007 when it was discovered to have poisoned thousands of dogs and cats in the United States. The melamine scourge continued in China as farmers bought the powder from con men who told them it could boost protein in feed and make milk from water. Also to blame: greedy chemical companies.
A huge African-American crowd is coming to Washington, D.C., to attend Barack Obama’s inauguration in January, reports the WSJ. The paper calls the event reminiscent of historic black gatherings here such as the Million Man March and the 1963 rally in which Martin Luther King gave his most famous speech. Many people are planning to travel to D.C. without booking a room in advance, and lots of D.C. residents are planning to host friends and relatives.