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Unemployed Are Not the Reason Unemployment Funds Are Broke

11:03 am in Economy, Financial Crisis, Government, Jobs, Media, Unemployment by dakine01

OK. I guess technically the title is not true. If folks hadn’t been laid off and collected Unemployment Compensation, the funds would just be sitting in the various state coffers, unused. But the unemployed are not the reason the economy tanked; the unemployed are not the ones sending jobs overseas; the unemployed are not the ultimate root cause of the problem.

Michigan started things back in March but has since been followed by Missouri and now Florida. (Other states may have done so as well, these three are the ones I know for sure have done this.) Florida’s new law actually goes beyond Michigan and Missouri, as bad as their laws are. Where MI and MO cut the maximum period for collecting state level unemployment compensation from 26 weeks to 20 weeks, Florida ties the benefits to the overall state unemployment rate. Via the Tampa Tribune article linked above:

TALLAHASSEE — Out-of-work Floridians would receive fewer state benefits while businesses pay less tax under a controversial proposal approved Friday by a divided Legislature.

The deal, which Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign into law, immediately cuts unemployment benefits by 11.5 percent.

Jobless Floridians would continue to receive a maximum payment of $275 per week, among the lowest of any state in the country. But they would be paid for no more than 23 weeks, instead of 26.

…snip…

The bill also creates a sliding scale that cuts and adds weeks of benefits based on the unemployment rate. Unemployment compensation would drop to as low as 12 weeks if the average unemployment rate drops to 5 percent or lower. A week would be added for every 0.5 percent the jobless rate climbs.

I can guarantee you that the newly unemployed person is not going to give two shits to know that the overall state unemployment rate is X percent so the number of weeks of benefits are limited accordingly. All that newly unemployed person is going to see is s/he is out of work and the state supplied safety net is full of gaping holes. Annie Lowrey at Slate on Friday offered this analysis:

In March, Michigan became the first state to take an axe to its standard unemployment benefits, even though the state boasts one of the worst labor markets in the nation. The Republican government cut the number of state-sponsored, initial weeks from 26 to 20, effective in January. It said the state simply could not afford them: It owes the federal government $3.9 billion, borrowed to pay past unemployment benefits, and just cannot go further into the red. (Michigan and 48 other states have mandatory balanced-budget rules.)

For all the other states cutting back, the issue is inaction, rather than fiscal pressure. Some states needed to make a certain simple legislative fix to ensure that the federal government kept on kicking in its share of weeks of benefits—weeks of benefits already budgeted and paid for in Washington. A number of states failed to do so. So, on April 16, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin all lost 20 weeks of federal benefits, effective immediately. Missouri did on April 2 as well.
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More Mixed Jobs Messages

6:27 pm in Economy, Financial Crisis, Jobs, Unemployment by dakine01

In the last few days since the release of the official employment number for January, there have been a variety of jobs related articles I’ve found as I surf through various news sites and the articles have been all over the map in conclusions. Some of the articles have even recognized that things really aren’t getting better for the long term un and under employed while others keep trying to provide more spin at things getting better.

Saturday’s (Feb 4, 2011) NY Times had Floyd Norris attempting to reconcile the weak job creation numbers withe the drop in the official Unemployment Rate. His conclusion shows just how ef’fed up the numbers are:

Over all, from January 1979 through March 2010, the first estimate was off — either higher or lower — from the final figure by a median of 74,000 jobs. If that holds true now, there is a 50 percent chance that the final number for January will be somewhere between a loss of 38,000 and a gain of 110,000. And there is an equal chance that it will be outside that range.

None of that reduces the importance of jobs data, particularly in the months after a recession ends. But it does serve as a reminder that the first attempt at estimating employment is far from authoritative.

Of course, there’s Catherine Rampell in today’s (Tuesday Feb 8) Economix blog from the NY Times showing there are still nearly five applicants for each job:

During the recession, the pain in the job market was initially caused by a surge in layoffs. More recently, layoffs have returned to their recession levels before the recession, and the problem instead has become a reluctance to hire workers (including, of course, the millions laid off during the recession). This can be seen in the disappointing trends in job openings and new hires.

In July 2009, right after the recession officially ended, the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings peaked at 6.3. It has fallen since, to about 4.7 in both November and December of 2010. That’s better, of course, but it’s still historically high and doesn’t provide much hope that the labor market can quickly absorb the nation’s millions of idle workers.

As a companion to the above, the Labor Department reported that in December the number of job openings fell (via Reuters) though the spin is that it is getting better because there weren’t quite as many lay-offs:

U.S. job openings slipped in December, a government report showed on Tuesday, but a decline in layoffs supported views of a gradual labor market recovery.

Job openings, a measure of labor demand, eased 139,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.1 million, the Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

The job openings rate — a gauge of how many jobs were still open at the end of the month — fell to 2.3 percent from 2.4 percent in November. Job openings have risen about 31 percent from their record low in July 2009.

The Boston Globe had an article on Saturday Feb 5 about firms in the Boston area using lay-offs as a means to boost stock prices and make themselves less appealing as take over targets. Once again, one of the most salient points is at the end of the article:

It is difficult to know whether such companies would have cut workers if they weren’t under outside pressure. Even after being sold, companies are often forced to make cuts. Anheuser-Busch, for example, was sold before its executives carried through on the cost cuts, but InBev wound up eliminating 1,400 US workers after the deal.

Outside observers said it is usually impossible to tell whether takeover candidates are making sound business moves or inadvertently sabotaging their future business in a panicked effort to bolster shares and fight off a takeover.

That article combines with this from MSNBC yesterday:

The U.S. manufacturing sector is roaring back after the worst recession in generations. So why aren’t factory jobs coming back as quickly?

One big reason: Business executives like Drew Greenblatt, owner of Baltimore-based Marlin Steel Wire Products, have figured out how to make more widgets with the same number of workers. To do so, he’s had to upgrade the skills — and wages — of his employees. But his profits are bigger than ever.

This leads us to President Obama’s speech to the Chamber of Commerce yesterday, February 7 (via the NY Times The Caucus):

President Obama urged American businesses on Monday to “get in the game” by letting loose trillions of dollars being held in reserves, saying that they can help create a “virtuous cycle” of more sales, higher demand and greater profits that will put people back to work and turn around the sluggish economy.

“If there is a reason you don’t believe that this is the time to get off the sidelines — to hire and invest — I want to know about it. I want to fix it,” Mr. Obama said in a speech to business leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Noble sentiments to be sure. Yet not helped at all when the President of the Richmond, VA Federal Reserve Bank proclaims (via Reuters) that things are “getting better” so the Fed should abandon efforts at stimulus:

The Federal Reserve should seriously consider pulling back on its $600 billion stimulus program given stronger growth and a brighter jobs picture, Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker said on Tuesday.

Despite a report last week showing only 36,000 jobs were created in January, Lacker said other measures were pointing to a firmer economic recovery and better employment prospects.

Fortunately, the BenBernank, while not doing much, at least seems to recognize that doing as Mr Lacker recommends might not be a good idea:

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke made clear in remarks last week he does not consider progress on jobs sufficient to declare victory and begin withdrawing monetary support.

With all the millions of people un and under employed, it is rather astounding that there are states willing to forego Federal Unemployment aid for extended benefits (via Yahoo)

Despite record levels of long-term unemployment, some states are choosing to walk away from a total of almost $1 billion in federal jobless benefits, according to a new report (pdf).

The 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, better known as the stimulus law, extends unemployment benefits to the fast-growing number of Americans who have been without work for six months or more. In addition to helping the jobless, the federal funds offer a much-needed economic stimulus for states.

So apparently these states must believe that a miracle will occur.

For what it’s worth, MSNBC’s Alison Linn had a report today on the affects for long term unemployed when they do finally find employment:

The recession and its aftermath have been brutal for jobseekers, not just because there are so many of them but also because it is taking them so long — an average of nearly nine months — to find new work.

As the economy starts slowly to add jobs again, many of those who are finding a job again say the psychological relief of returning to work is as important as the paycheck.

All that any of the long term un and under employed (including myself) have asked is for a modicum of support while searching for a position in our fields and the opportunity to be a productive member of the work force. Is that so much to ask?

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy

As One of the “Small People,” I Can Use a Job

10:27 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

Is it a pre-requisite for senior executives at BP to be so gaffe prone? First we have Tony Hayward and his foot chewing now followed by the linguistic stylings of Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg:

I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don’t care,” he said. “But that is not the case with BP. We care about the small people.

The apologists have been out in force, attempting to find ways to explain this as anything other than arrogance and a true reflection of Svanberg’s (and BP’s) feelings for those who are not them. The most common excuse I’ve seen is that it’s purely due to language difficulties, since English is not Svanberg’s native tongue.

I will grant that English is a difficult language to learn and master and I applaud all those people around the world who have elected to learn the language, exceptions included. They’ve mastered something I’ve spent my life trying to master while I’ve not been able to master my few attempts at learning another language (Spanish was the one I attempted and though my instructors were not the greatest, it’s still my own damn fault for not learning.) I have a reasonable knowledge of grammar and a fairly good vocabulary and for the life of me, I can not really come up with a phrasing or way that Svanberg could have said this without insulting others. Rather like Leona Helmsley‘s "Only the little people pay taxes" quip.

But I’m not going to pick on BP alone today. After all, we now have additions to the Larry Kudlow School of Economics that postulates that folks collecting unemployment are only looking for a paid vacation with Diane Feinstein and others joining the chorus. From HuffPo:

Lurking beneath deficit concerns, for both Republicans and even some Democrats, is the suspicion that extended unemployment benefits discourage job-seeking. Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.) said last Thursday, for instance, that extended unemployment benefits are "too much of an allure" for people to look for work. Even Senate Democrats who voted in favor of the bill, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), are starting to look toward winding down the programs.

"We have 99 weeks of unemployment insurance," Feinstein said. "The question comes, how long do you continue before people just don’t want to go back to work at all?"

Or Orrin Hatch calling for those collecting unemployment to be subject to drug testing. Tell ya what Orrin. I’ll go along with drug testing for those collecting unemployment if you and the rest of the Senate and House will also submit to drug and alcohol testing as long as the Unemployment rate is over 5% and the Underemployment rate is more than 10%. If anyone in the Senate or House tests above a .01 for alcohol or has any type of prescription drugs in their system, then they are docked at least a week’s ‘wages’ each time it happens. Deal? Nah, I didn’t think so.

So here we are. Today’s Job’s Report says:

New claims for jobless aid rose last week while consumer prices notched their largest decline in nearly 1-1/2 years in May, suggesting interest rates will remain ultra low to nurse the fragile economic recovery.

Fears that growth could be slowing were heightened on Thursday by a report showing factory activity in the country’s Mid-Atlantic region braked to its slowest pace in 10 months in June. The employment gauge fell to its lowest level since November.

So to answer those in the Kudlow School of Economic Theory, no, people who are collecting unemployment are NOT using it as a chance for a vacation. If given a choice between $300 a week in unemployment or a job paying $1,000 a week with benefits, we’ll take the job thank you. We want to work. We do not want hand-outs. So go ahead and slash the Jobs bill in the interest of a deficit you created with tax cuts for the rich. We do pay attention even if the talking heads and all your Village idiots assume otherwise.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy

Jobs, Unemployment, and Firings

11:01 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

Yesterday, Digby hit on one of my favorite talking head idiocies about how folks collecting Unemployment Compensation are just lazy bums getting a free ride vacation. I like to call this the "Larry Kudlow School of Economics" since I’ve heard Kudlow spout this piece of uninformed gibberish multiple times over the years.

This post by Digby was brought about by Congress’s dithering once again on passing a further extension of Unemployment Benefits, currently set to expire on June 2.

Yeah, these tens of millions of our fellow citizens are just a bunch of lazy asses who are living it up on 300 a week. There’s plenty of jobs, these people just refuse to work because they like all this cushy free money.

I just don’t know what to say about this. You have a 10% official unemployment rate which doesn’t count all those who never qualified (small business owners, independent contractors etc.) and it doesn’t count all those who have already fallen off the rolls. And yet politicians are buying this nonsense that there are plenty of jobs but people just won’t work? That’s completely ridiculous. These people should be ashamed of themselves.

This article is from 2/2009 and shows the maximum weekly Unemployment Benefit for each state. The payments range from $230 per week for Mississippi and $240 for Arizona (lowest two states) up to $628 for Massachusetts and $584 for New Jersey (the two highest). California pays a maximum of $450 and New York maxes at $405.

But it’s not just the non-existent jobs. From yesterday’s NY Times, we have the story on cutbacks to Child Care subsidies. More exercises in penny wise, pound foolish operations.

Despite a substantial increase in federal support for subsidized child care, which has enabled some states to stave off cuts, others have trimmed support, and most have failed to keep pace with rising demand, according to poverty experts and federal officials.

That has left swelling numbers of low-income families struggling to reconcile the demands of work and parenting, just as they confront one of the toughest job markets in decades.

This is the downside for most all of the various legislation passed by Congress that provides "subsidies" for poor individuals. We’ll most likely see it with the subsidies from the Health Insurance Reform. In order to achieve some faux "bi-partisan" ideal against deficit spending, it is always the poor and least able who bear the brunt of these actions. Never shall it pass that taxes are raised for those who have the most of course. After all, only the poor people who actually need support are worthy of sacrificing.

We’re not looking for hand outs. We’re looking for the little bit of support to help us make it together as a society.

And because I can:

Cross Posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy