America Out of Work: Job Loss Trend Now 21 Months Straight

PHOTO Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan discusses job loss, the economy and whats to come during an exclusive interview on ABCs "This Week."

September brought the sobering news that unemployment now stands at 9.8 percent, the highest level of job losses hit since 1983, as Friday's dismal job loss report sent a catastrophic blow to optimists who say the economy is back on track.

But the job loss trend continues: Jobless numbers have risen for 21 straight months, the longest stretch since the Great Depression.

Today, 15 million Americans are out of work, and a third of that group has been unemployed for 6 months.

How much worse is the job situation going to get and for how long?

"Well, it's very difficult to make judgments at a time like this, largely because we don't have so many incidents in history to be able to compare it to," according to former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, an exclusive guest on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

VIDEO: Greenspan on the Economy

"My own suspicion is that we're going to penetrate the 10 percent barrier and stay there for a while before we start down," Greenspan said.

Greenspan's last appearance on the show was back in August, when he dismissed talk of a collapse, saying, "We've already seen the bottom."

Now, two months later and with the employment rate still rising, Greenspan has tempered his positive outlook.

"The job report was pretty awful, no matter how you looked at it," Greenspan said. "Indeed, not only, of course, did the unemployment rate go up, but I was particularly concerned about the number of Americans who have been unemployed for six months or longer. ... That went up sharply in September."

Despite the job report, Greenspan said his view on economic growth is even more bullish than what he predicted during his last appearance on "This Week" back in August.

Greenspan Says Economy Will Grow Faster Than His Previous Prediction

Greenspan now expects economic growth in the third quarter to hit 3 percent, higher than his previous forecast of 2.5 percent.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Back in August, you thought you would see about 2.5 percent growth in this quarter. Do you still hold to that or do these numbers make you change that view?

GREENSPAN: No. The numbers are coming in higher than that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Higher than that?

GREENSPAN: Oh yes. It looks as though it's going to be 3 percent, maybe even possibly even higher. The problem with knowing what the third quarter is going to look like is we won't get all of the data for several months. So a lot of -- there is a lot guesswork involved. But it's on track, at this stage, for more than 2.5 percent.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So more than 2.5 [percent]. So does that mean we're heading towards a situation where you could actually see an end to the job loss or not quite yet?

GREENSPAN: Well, no, I think we're getting close to that.

For the full exchange and transcript, click HERE.

Greenspan said the "silver lining" in the job loss report is "economic activity," but warned that the loss of job skills in the economy due to prolonged unemployment could be an "irretrievable loss" for the economy.

Bipartisanship Over Unemployment Benefits

With millions of unemployed Americans expected to lose unemployment benefits later this year, Greenspan said he's supportive of extending unemployment benefits, a point also supported by "This Week" exclusive guests Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

As two key members on the Senate Finance Committee, both senators were in agreement over what to do to assist the growing number of Americans out of work.

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