T. Darda, chief economist at the research and trading firm MKM Partners,
probably summed up last week’s message from Washington best, telling the New York Times, “Less bad is always
a prelude to good.”
things one learns.
are being asked to believe that the results of the “stress tests”
were “not as bad as some had feared.” And, that while the April
unemployment figures “remain high,” the “freefall may be slowing.”
Furthermore, one economist says that while a decrease in no-government
payrolls “is disastrous,” it is “less disastrous than before.”
the Lord for small favors, but to a lot of people these observations
are not likely to be all that reassuring. Especially to those in
the growing ranks of the unemployed, especially African Americans
whose jobless rate rose to 15 percent in April. It is little comfort
for the 17. 2 percent of black men now officially out of work, or
the young African Americans who jobless rate now stands near 35
percent, over 10 points higher than it was last April.
never mind and stop whining. Last Friday, the Times assured
us that because the worsening employment situation “was slightly
milder than expected,” the April jobless stats were “buoying hopes
that better days are approaching.” “It’s just not getting worse
at an accelerating rate anymore, and that’s often sign of better
days ahead,” observes economic writer David Leonhard, even though
“All in all, this was one of the worst jobs reports in the last
proved to be a dismal month for technology sector jobs and overall
employment, but there may be a light at the end of the tunnel,”
said the people at TechCrunch.com, but “the pace of layoffs, at
least in the tech sector, may be decelerating.”
got to hand it to President Obama. While he tries to be reassuring,
he is seldom Pollyannaish. He
said he found the slowing rate of job loss encouraging; still the
recovery some people are looking for could take months or years.
in one month – March t o April – the official unemployment rate
for Black male workers over 20 years-of-age increased from 15.4
percent to 17.2 percent. For African American women it went from
9.9 percent to 11.5 percent. In New York City, the jobless rate for black men is
reported to be somewhere near 50 percent.
the past two years joblessness has swelled in all major demographic
groups. The jobless rate for white male workers increased from 8
percent to 8.5 percent in April. And for Latino workers the rate
is now 11.3 percent
jobless rate for African American between 16 and 19 years old rose
32.5 percent to 34.7 percent between March and April and the rate
for young Latinos went from 24.9 percent to 26.5 percent over the
economists say, the real over jobless rate for the nation is 15.8
percent if you figure in what the Bureau of Labor Statistics records
as people who are “neither working nor looking for work but indicate
that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work
sometime in the recent past” and those employed part time for economic
reasons or those who want and are available for full-time work but
have had to settle for a part-time schedule.” Right
now 23 million people are unemployed or underemployed.
those out of work, this recession has already proven to be the most
punishing since the government began tracking the length of unemployment
in 1948: Among the officially jobless, 27.2 percent were unemployed
for more than six months, the highest figure on record.” reported
the Times last week.
to the latest government statistics, Dean Baker of the Center for
Economic and Policy Research, commented, “While optimists will be
inclined to find ‘green shoots’ in this report, on a close examination
there is not much good news here. There appears to be some decline
in the rate of private sector job loss, but this will largely disappear
if the revisions follow the same pattern as in prior months. Furthermore,
the slowdown in wage growth (almost zero in April) suggests that
workers' purchasing power will be falling in the months ahead.”
have to start facing up to the fact we’re headed for an unemployment
rate above 10 percent,” said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic
Policy Institute, adding that the rate “will stay high for quite
a while.” Mishel told Baker last week, that poverty and homelessness
are increasing and “There are a whole lot of people who are going
to be economically desperate for many years.”
Addressing the rising African American jobless rate, President
Obama said April 29, “Keep in mind that every step we’re taking
is designed to help all people. But, folks who are most vulnerable
are most likely to be helped because they need the most help.
“So when we passed the Recovery Act, for example, and we put
in place provisions that would extend unemployment insurance or
allow you to keep your health insurance even if you’ve lost your
job, that probably disproportionately impacted those communities
that had lost their jobs. And unfortunately, the African-American
community and the Latino community are probably overrepresented
in those ranks.
“When we put in place additional dollars for community health
centers to ensure that people are still getting the help that they
need, or we expand health insurance to millions more children through
the Children’s Health Insurance Program, again, those probably disproportionately
impact African-American and Latino families simply because they’re
the ones who are most vulnerable. They have got higher rates of
uninsured in their communities.
“So my general approach is that if the economy is strong,
that will lift all boats as long as it is also supported by, for
example, strategies around college affordability and job training,
tax cuts for working families as opposed to the wealthiest that
level the playing field and ensure bottom-up economic growth.
“And I’m confident that that will help the African-American
community live out the American dream at the same time that it’s
helping communities all across the country”
Last week the President announced steps in keeping with his remarks the week
before to help those out of work to acquire additional education
and training, and retain their jobless insurance while doing so.
The Administration, he said, will ask states to make it possible
for the unemployed to enroll in community colleges and training
programs without giving up their unemployment insurance benefits.
Under the proposal, enrollment in college or technical school would
be sufficient evidence to qualify for benefits. Additionally,
The Education Department will step up efforts to find financial
aid packages for the unemployed. For instance a jobless person could
receive a Pell education grant while not forfeiting their unemployment
unemployment insurance system should no longer be a safety net,
but a steppingstone to a new future,” Obama said. “It should offer
folks educational opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have” and
give them skills they need to “get ahead when the economy comes
Administration has not spelled out how big such an undertaking will
be and how many in the growing ranks of the jobless will benefit.
Of course, anything that will make it possible for those out of
work to survive and secure education and training in anticipation
of the day – months or years from now – “when the economy comes
back” will me a major step forward. But we will still be dealing
with a finite number of jobs. Another feature of the government
statistics released last week is that while those with minimal education
suffer disproportionately, the loss of jobs is affecting those higher
up on the educational level at a rising rate. The jobless rate for
college graduates is only half the average but it is rising and
stands higher than it has for about three decades.
the announced plan is voluntary on the part of the states and considering
that some recalcitrant governors are refusing federal stimulus aid
it will be interesting to see how many will be willing to make it
easier for the unemployed to go back to school.
safety net in this community is in tatters and we need help. It's
wonderful to have job training dollars, but we have to have jobs
to train people for. It's important to have unemployment insurance
and we thank the administration for the extensions, but what we
really need is work,” said State Senator Deborah Cherry, who represents
the area around Flint Michigan.
as ultimately the answer to homelessness is housing, the answer
to joblessness is work. For this reason many economic observers
are calling for even greater economic stimulus efforts that the
Administration and the Congress have undertaken so far. “Every downturn
comes to an end,” economist Joseph Stiglitz told the Times.
“The question is, how long and deep this downturn will be? In spite
of some spring sprouts, we should prepare for another dark winter:
it's time for Plan B in bank restructuring and another dose of Keynesian
Board member Carl Bloice is a writer in San
Francisco, a member of the National Coordinating Committee of
the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
and formerly worked for a healthcare union. Click here
to contact Mr. Bloice.