updated 9/1/2008 12:22:30 AM ET 2008-09-01T04:22:30

This Labor Day finds workers in worse shape than they’ve been in years, according to a scorecard released Monday by Rutgers University.

In its first national labor scorecard, the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations said more than 10 percent of Americans are unemployed, discouraged from seeking work or underemployed. That is a nearly 25-percent increase from one year earlier.

Professor Douglas Kruse, a labor economist who created the scorecard, said a sharp decline in the number of Americans able to find full-time jobs, along with growing consumer debt and health care costs, were causes for concern.

“But there are some bright spots long term,” Kruse said, including improvements in workplace safety, a small but growing percentage of employers offering support for childcare and employee wellness programs, and more Americans who are completely satisfied with their jobs.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department last week said the number of people signing up for jobless benefits declined for the third straight period, but remained above 400,000 — an indicator of a slowing economy.

The Rutgers labor scorecard offered other sobering findings:

  • About 530,000 were subject to mass layoffs in the last year, growth of nearly 5 percent, but a lower rate than five and 10 years ago.
  • The median weekly earnings for American workers have not grown in real terms over the last eight years.
  • At $6.55, the federal minimum wage is worth 40 cents less per hour, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was a decade ago.
  • While employer-assisted childcare and employee wellness programs have grown quickly over the last decade, they still cover less than one quarter of American workers.
  • Roughly 4 percent of the workforce wants to work full-time, but is working part-time because they can’t find full-time work.

The scorecard, which doesn’t assign grades but charts whether indicators are improving or getting worse, is based primarily on data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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