For months, President Obama has been preoccupied with Afghanistan, the climate change summit and getting a health care reform bill passed. The rest of the country has been saying, Do something about JOBS!
And with good reason. We’re told that the November unemployment figures are good news. But 15.4 million American workers are unemployed–over 38% of them for more than six months. An additional 10 million have given up looking for work or are working part-time because that’s the best they can do.
The situation is even worse for black and Hispanic workers. Unemployment rates for them are 15.6% and 12.7% respectively. The Economic Policy Institute says it expects 40% of them to be unemployed or under-employed at some point over the next year. Worst off are black teenagers, with an unemployment rate close to 50%.
The economy continues to shed jobs, though at a much lower rate than earlier this year. Looking at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest job openings and labor turnover survey, EPI figures there were 6.3 job seekers for every job opening in October.
The ratio of seekers to jobs will grow unless something dramatic happens. Because it won’t be enough for employers to stop eliminating jobs. EPI says the labor market would have to grow by an average of 581,000 jobs a month to bring the unemployment rate back down to its pre-recession level.
Now the President has outlined a plan to jump-start job creation, using funds appropriated for the bank-bailout. I’m still chewing it over. So, I suspect, are members of Congress–except, of course, the House Republican leadership, which is dead set against more spending.
What Congress can–and should–do is act on the most urgent elements now. Otherwise, the extended unemployment insurance provisions in the economic stimulus package will expire–notwithstanding the recent legislation to extend them.
A new brief by the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the National Employment Law Project says that 1 million workers will lose job benefits in January unless Congress acts. By March, the number will have increased to 3.2 million. NELP has a customizable e-mail we can send to support the needed legislation.
Congress should also immediately extend the COBRA health insurance subsidies. Beneficiaries have already started losing these. Millions more could face a tripling of their premiums in the months to come.
A third priority are the stimulus provisions that have helped states balance their over-stressed budgets. An estimated 900,000 jobs will be lost unless Congress extends these ASAP.
More about them in another posting.