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The 99ers Are The Elephant In The Recovery Room That No One Wants To Address

From the Layoff List, a story that continues to slip the minds of Congress, the media and the White House -- but not the people who are still hanging by a thread: The April 2011 BLS employment report showed a gain of 244,000 jobs, which was

From the Layoff List, a story that continues to slip the minds of Congress, the media and the White House -- but not the people who are still hanging by a thread:

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The April 2011 BLS employment report showed a gain of 244,000 jobs, which was trumpeted by the Obama administration and the mainstream media as a continuation of a rapidly improving jobs market. While job growth is important, it’s also important to realize the jobs hole that needs to be filled. Over the past four months more than 800,000 jobs have been created, but in January 2009 alone, more than 800,000 jobs were lost. Since February 2010,1.8 million jobs have been created, but 8.8 million jobs were lost prior to that period. That’s a job shortage of 7 million and that doesn’t include the 125,000 jobs each month that needed to be created to simply absorb new entrants into the workforce.

Additionally, the unemployment rate increased to 9%, since more people began looking for work. Returning job seekers is often considered an improved sign of job availability, but if they aren’t hired, they will go back into hiding and the unemployment rate will decline. Because of returning job seekers, the number of officially unemployed increased 205,000 to 13.75 million, which is still historically high when compared to other jobs challenged times.

One of the few honest assessments of the current jobs market was offered by Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute:

At this point, coming out of a recession this deep, we should be getting unambiguously huge growth, of 300,000 to 400,000 [new jobs] a month,” said Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute. “And it’s just nowhere near that.” She concluded: “We’re still in a rocky place.”

The job market is admittedly improving for some, but it’s not improving quickly enough for millions of jobless, especially the long-term unemployed. In April, the ranks of the unemployed who have been out of work for 99 weeks or more increased by 21,000 to a record 1,920,000. That equates to 14.5% of all unemployed.Other long-term unemployed fared a little better in April compared to March. Those out of work for 26 weeks or more decreased from 5.839 million from 6.122 million in March. But their percentage of the overall unemployment rate remained elevated at a near record level of 43.2%. The percentage of those out of work for more and 52 weeks increased from 31.5% to 32.8% of all unemployed.

The Congress, the Obama administration and most media outlets are silent about long-term unemployment. How do they reconcile the fact that 244,000 jobs were created, but 21,000 additional workers have been unemployed for more than 99 weeks? How do they put on a happy face when a near record 5.893 million or 43.2% of all unemployed workers have been jobless for more than 26 weeks? How do they rationalize their cheerful statements of job improvements with the facts that job creation is very weak considering the trillions of dollars pumped into the economy to support Wall Street and fund tax breaks? How do they high-five the economic recovery when the labor force participation rate — the share of people over age 16 who are either working or actively seeking work — is at a low rate of 64.2%, a rate not seen since 1985? They can’t. They generally ignore the issue; long-term unemployment is the elephant in the economic recovery room.

What is being done legislatively to address this elephant in the room? To date, nothing. The GOP controlled House has been busy attempting to cut the deficit, repealing healthcare funding, and restarting offshore oil drilling. The Republicans, with the help of some Democrats, are working to weaken Wall Street regulation legislation, end net neutrality, and are arguing the Defense of Marriage Act. They are pandering to their base, acquiescing to their corporate overlords and obliging their big-wallet campaign contributors.Congressional leaders are more concerned with ideology than reality. They have not presented a jobs bill or employment training legislation, conducted investigations on how to solve long-term unemployment, or offered tax incentives for companies to hire the long-term unemployed. They have ignored legislation, such as Rep. Barbara Lee’s H.R. 589, that would help millions of long-term unemployed, the 99ers, who have exhausted all unemployment benefits. While most of the blame can be placed at the door of the GOP controlled House, the Democratic controlled Senate and Obama have been suspiciously silent about the long-term unemployment problem.

[...] The long-term unemployed are also part of the growing ranks of food stamp recipients, personal bankruptcies, foreclosures and healthcare uninsured.

[...] H.R. 589 is legislation designed to help the long-term unemployed by extending Tier 1 unemployment benefits 14 weeks. Those 14 weeks could be a financial lifesaver for millions of unemployed. Although the legislation has been discussed for months, moving it forward in a Republican controlled House will be challenging. How challenging? House Republicans are hoping to introduce legislation that could cutextended unemployment benefits in favor of lower business taxes and allow states to spend that money on other programs:

The Ways and Means Committee passed a bill by 20-14 today that lets states shift some of the $31 billion they are set to get for extended unemployment aid to prevent the tax increases, pay back federal loans or fund job-training programs.While those are all commendable options, they are long-term rewards that won’t help those that need immediate financial assistance. Oil companies have reported record profits, but the GOP favors giving them billions in taxpayer subsidies while at the same time forcing the long-term unemployed to suffer without any financial assistance.

The latest H.R.589 update comes from Crew of 42′s Lauren Victoria Burke; the news is both positive and disappointing:

The good news for 99ers: The president mentioned he wants to possibly attach the 99ers money to some other big piece of legislation somehow… which piece, how and when is unclear…The bad news for 99ers: The president does not seem deeply motivated to to actively support unemployment benefits in general terms.

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