On Saturday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s editors wrote that the $146 billion fiscal stimulus passed by the House of Representatives should be amended to “expand aid for food stamps, heating assistance or unemployment compensation…”
They are right that these increases should be included in any stimulus package designed to jump start the failing economy and assist those most in need.
But the paper’s Business section article on the unemployment report completely undermined the editorial’s policy proposal by suggesting people are losing their jobs because they lack “versatility,” “perseverance, and a commitment to “hard work.”
Strangely entitled “jobs for the diligent” the article explains the devastating impact of unemployment by focusing on someone who quit his job to pursue an entrepreneurial dream more than a year ago-before unemployment began to rise. His situation is very different than the millions nationally who are losing their jobs because the economy has slowed. The former voluntarily terminated his employment, is ineligible for unemployment benefits even if they are extended, and is currently working. The later are involuntarily unemployed.
During cyclical downturns firms reduce production and cut their operational costs. One of the easiest and quickest to way to accomplish cost reductions is to furlough labor. Hence, the increase in unemployment.
The article liberally quotes a retired healthcare executive who says: “…businesses are suffering too...”and they need “’versatile employees who can stick around and contribute to profitability….”
The problem is you can’t stick around and contribute to profitability when you’re given a pink slip.
Workers are getting laid off because the housing bubble burst, credit’s tight, consumption’s down and the economy is contracting, not because they lack versatility or a work ethic!
Last month the nation lost jobs for the first time in five years- 17,000 in total. The month before the unemployment rate rose significantly. Over the past three months only 42,000 jobs were created per month, far less than the 150,000 needed to absorb new labor market entrants.
The number of people who have been unemployed for more than six months is now 1.38 million. Long term unemployment has not been this high since the 2001 recession when Congress last extended unemployment benefits.
Most economists recognize that the official unemployment rate significantly undercounts the number of unemployed by failing to recognize those who have dropped out of the labor market, discouraged workers, and the involuntary part-time.
Milwaukee with the fourth highest unemployment rate in the nation has a serious and growing unemployment problem.
Hard working, diligent people are losing their jobs through no fault of their own. The ranks of the long term unemployed are growing. The MJS editorial board is right-Congress needs to add extended unemployment benefits to its stimulus package.