June 12, 2009



"The humanitarian benefit of unemployment insurance also causes people to look with less intensity for a new job." - James Sherk, labor economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Don't you love it? Record layoffs, hiring contractions everywhere, and the wingnuts blame people who can't find the non-existent jobs. Or, even worse, the people who can't afford to work for $5 an hour. Geeze, they're all about economic self-interest: "What should I do - keep the unemployment checks that at least cover the bills, or take a minimum wage job that puts me in the red?" Wouldn't you think they'd get that simple equation?

These people are either nuts, or just plain amoral. What do you think?

People who still have jobs are faring worse than at any time since the Great Depression, a USA TODAY analysis of employment data found. Furloughs, pay cuts and reduced hours are taking a toll on workers who so far have escaped job cuts.

The employed worked fewer hours in May — an average of just 33.1 hours a week — than at any time since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began counting in 1964. Part-time work is at a record high. Overtime is at a record low.

The magnitude of job losses — 6 million jobs gone, a 9.4% unemployment rate — has overshadowed the groundbreaking nature of the nation's employment troubles, especially the financial decline of those still working.

"You can rip a whole chapter out of your Economics 101 textbook because the job market isn't behaving the way we were taught," says David Rosenberg, chief economist at money manager Gluskin Sheff and Associates.

Even working people have less to spend.

Businesses cut total wages at a 6.2% annual rate in the first quarter. Federal, state and local governments increased spending on wages by 6.1%, offsetting some of the decline.

The use of pay cuts — the last choice at most companies after hiring freezes, salary freezes and layoffs — shows how the recession is unlike any since the Depression, says Laura Sejen of compensation consultant Watson Wyatt.

"The recession has been broad, deep and long. No one has been immune," she says.

Baby boomers— 79 million people born from 1946 to 1964 — have been hit particularly hard.

Unemployment rates for workers 45 and older have soared to their highest level since at least 1948, when the government started tracking it.

Job losses for baby boomers come at a difficult time: during the traditional peak earning years, as retirement nears.

"It's hard for an older worker to compete in the job market with younger guys and women. The jobs may not pay what they were making," says Austin Sargent, an economist with Utah's Department of Workforce Services.

The average time a person has been out of work is at a post-Depression record of 22.5 weeks.

Congress' approval of higher and longer unemployment benefits may contribute to the extra time spent between jobs, says James Sherk, a labor economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

"The humanitarian benefit of unemployment insurance also causes people to look with less intensity for a new job," he says.

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