Archive for the ‘Unemployment’ Category

New Resource: “Unemployment Insurance Basics” Now Complete

The “Unemployment Insurance Basics” page is now complete. Its link will remain in the Resources section up top, plus in the Pages section to the right.

Why Washington Doesn’t Act to Create Jobs

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes this week, in “Rule by Rentiers,” that all the hoopla in Washington about the U.S. debt is a smokescreen for policies favoring the usual suspects: bankers and their wealthy bondholders. Krugman calls their Washington representatives the Pain Caucus.

Those policies amount to Cuts, Cuts, and More Cuts, and Krugman says they are not just ignoring the plight of the unemployed but are crippling the entire economy.

The Pain Caucus puts up other smokescreens too, Krugman says: interest rates (which are near-zero), inflation, deficit spending, etc., etc. “Members of the Pain Caucus seem to be making it up as they go along, inventing ever-changing rationales for their never-changing policy prescriptions.”

How did the Pain Caucus come to represent the wealthy elite instead of We the People?

image of moneyKrugman explains: “The process of influence doesn’t have to involve raw corruption (although that happens, too). All it requires is the tendency to assume that what’s good for the people you hang out with, the people who seem so impressive in meetings — hey, they’re rich, they’re smart, and they have great tailors — must be good for the economy as a whole.”

In the minority are members of the Senate and House who have enough integrity to fight for Main Street – to argue against the painful spending cuts in unemployment insurance and other safety-net programs, against privatizing Medicare and Social Security, and for cutting huge subsidies and tax loopholes for global corporations, and for federal programs to create new jobs and offer real foreclosure relief.

These few senators and representatives with integrity do more than just talk, they put their votes where their mouths are. So pay attention to your senator and representatives – not just their talk but especially their votes. You can follow their votes on the Washington Post’s U.S. Congress Votes Database.

And when you vote, remember who was on Main Street’s side, and who voted with the Pain Caucus.

Here Comes the “D” Word Again: Depression

Not since the Collapse of 2008 has the “D” word – Depression – been used this much in the media. The bank bailout and credit bailout and the stimulus money all served to bring us back from the dead, and by mid-2009 the “D” word had all but disappeared, replaced by the Great Recession.

image of Great DepressionBut now, after two years of entrenched long-term joblessness, housing prices at their lowest since the 1930s, and other signs of weakening, the “D” word is back. “Is the U.S. headed for another Great Depression?” Canada’s Globe and Mail asks. Just a week ago, a CNN poll revealed that nearly half of all Americans fear we are headed for another Great Depression in the next year. And in The New Republic, economist Dean Baker argued “disaster not averted” in his article, “The Latest Jobs Numbers and the Very Real Chance of Another Great Depression.”

For the jobless – especially those over 50 – it’s been a Great Depression all along.

What’s Wrong – or Right – with This Picture?

Today I stumbled across UC Berkeley economist Brad DeLong’s blog, which had this chart in the header, but too small to read. So I clicked to see a larger version – the version you see here. It came from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. It shows the ratio of civilian (not military) employment to the population as a whole. It’s possibly of the adult population, I can’t tell; but no matter.

The main point is this: it’s the percentage of the population that is employed, from 2005 till now.

I think we can all figure out why Professor DeLong put that red circle where he did. We all felt it. We’re all living it. Employment tanked in 2009 – and stayed tanked. It’s stuck at the bottom, like we are.

Chart: Employment-to-Population Ratio

Civilian Employment-Population Ratio, from the Federal Reserve of St. Louis

Coming Soon: A Primer on Unemployment Insurance

I am working on a new Resources page covering the basic rules of Unemployment Insurance, which I hope will help you know what to expect and avoid some of the pitfalls of the program. Although the program is legislated by Congress, it is administered by the states, and each state handles it a little differently.

Meanwhile, this link will get you started: Unemployment Insurance Fact Sheet from the U.S. Dept. of Labor.

June 3 update: I’ve posted an in-progress Unemployment Insurance Basics page, with more to come.

The “99 Club”: 1 Million and Counting

Many thanks to statistics geek and retired guy Arsen Darnay for digging up this gem from a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) commissioner’s presentation in January 2011. It shows what’s hard to find anywhere else: an estimate of how many people have been unemployed for 99 weeks or longer.

The significance of “99 weeks” is this: Even if you qualify for every (temporary) extension of Unemployment Insurance Congress has provided during the Great Recession – a big “if” – you cannot get benefits for more than 99 weeks altogether on one stretch. The first batch of “99ers” began to reach that limit and run out of benefits last year; since then, the club has grown each week – but the BLS hasn’t publicized their statistics.

Enter Arsen Darnay to the rescue. It took some doing, but he managed to find this presentation buried somewhere in the BLS Web site. It shows that, as of December 2010 (or thereabouts), more than 1 million people have been unemployed for 99 weeks or longer.

It’s a club no one wants to belong to.

Unemployment chart

Long-term Unemployment Averages, 1980-2010

Arsen Darnay’s site – old and new – have many more quirky and insightful things to say about the state of the economy and the people.

New Section: Your Stories

The new Your Stories section features exactly that: your stories, submitted to New Hard Times via the new Tell Your Story form. The first story comes from Arlington Heights, Illinois, from a communications specialst who has “tried everything” to find a job. She survives – barely – with a part-time retail job and a few freelance writing projects. Contrary to government and media reports of an upturn in the economy, her “in the trenches” report says things have gotten worse.