Archive for the ‘unemployment’ Category
Thursday, August 27th, 2015
The recently released minutes of the last meeting of the Federal Reserve Board’s Open Market Committee revealed there was serious discussion of the fact the labor market still showed signs of weakness. A primary issue was the lack of evidence of strong wage growth, which would be a clear signal the labor market was tightening. This has unleashed the Wall Street bettors, who want a jump on the Fed’s changing monetary policy, giving them more active play on the bond market, where interest rate movements can fuel their gambling addiction. The voices being raised to have the Fed raise interest rates march out lots of theory to predict uncontrolled inflation, despite a global slowdown, falling oil and natural resource prices, and flat real wages. We must hope that the Fed makes policy based on what is good for the economy, not what is good for the reckless gamblers on Wall Street.
The current directive to the Fed comes from the Humphrey-Hawkins Act, which in 1978 established that the nation’s primary economic policy is to achieve full employment, within reason—not by creating unsustainable budget deficits or igniting uncontrollable inflation. Unfortunately, many have twisted the legislation’s purpose to their own ends, changing the act’s intent to balance budgets and maintain low inflation in hopes those policies don’t increase unemployment. The act does not place full employment on equal footing with fighting inflation; it merely constrains full-employment policy to a measure of prudence.
With that in mind, the Fed should understand it is not at full employment. In addition to wages rising with productivity, a main tenant of evidence of full employment, the Fed needs to embrace some additional senses of full employment. One is that discrimination would disappear, since it would become prohibitively costly in a full-employment economy.
A problem for the Fed is that there is little diversity in its staffing, which reflects the low level of diversity among economists. Economists have convinced themselves there is little to explain about the persistence of the disparity in black and white unemployment rates, the ratio of which remains stubbornly at 2-to-1. It is enough to assume there are lower skill levels among African Americans and societal structural issues that permanently disadvantage African Americans, and that these circumstances will persist no matter what the level of unemployment.
Of course, many economists do appreciate that this pat answer is hard to reconcile with the great sensitivity that the black unemployment rate has to the economy—a tightening labor market brings down the black unemployment rate at twice the rate for whites. That makes the structural argument difficult to maintain.
There is another key element. The unemployment rate gaps between blacks and whites are stubborn at every education level, and the gaps are glaring. In fact, what the unemployment rate gaps for blacks suggest is the old adage that blacks must be twice as good to compete in the labor market with whites. The unemployment rate for blacks with more education is similar to that of whites with less education. This is true for blacks at all education levels, from college graduates to associate degree holders to high school graduates. And it is very difficult to argue that those huge gaps do not reflect discrimination.
When the labor market tanks, and the number of unemployed workers per job opening goes up, the gaps faced by better educated blacks to less educated whites get wider. Black college graduates find themselves with unemployment rates closer to white high school graduates, and blacks with associate degrees find themselves with unemployment rates worse than white high school dropouts.
When the labor market tightens, unemployment rates for blacks with more education improve such that they are better than those of less educated whites, though still off the mark compared with equally educated whites. When employers are faced with two unemployed working people for each job opening, many stop seeing color and start seeing qualifications. Employers faced with a growing economy and smaller applicant pools find it would now cost to discriminate by passing over the qualified African American applicant. We don’t know what would happen if the nation maintained its commitment to full employment, because just as the black unemployment rates near parity with whites, our economic policy switches all reverse to slow the economy, increase unemployment and push blacks off the path to equality.
The Fed needs to see that its policies are part of that problem. Slowing the economy before we reach full employment means employers never have to raise wages nor understand the costs of their discriminatory practices.
This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on August 21 ,2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: William E. Spriggs is the Chief Economist for AFL-CIO. His is also a Professor at Howard University. Follow Spriggs on Twitter: @WSpriggs.
Monday, May 12th, 2014
The economy added 288,000 jobs in April, a big boost over March’s 192,000 new jobs. The unemployment rate dropped to 6.3% from last month’s 6.7%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Over the past year, the number of jobless has decreased by 1.9 million and the unemployment rate has fallen from 7.5%. While the improved jobs numbers over the past several months show the economy is beginning to recover, job growth is still not robust enough to provide jobs for the millions who remain out of work or to boost wages for most Americans.
AFL-CIO Government Affairs Director Bill Samuel said, “Today’s strong job numbers represent a significant step in the right direction for working families.” But he added:
Yet with wages stagnant and too many still out of work, our job is not done. As our economy recovers, it is important that everyone reap the benefits of our shared recovery by ensuring we are not simply creating new jobs, but good jobs. Our leaders in Congress must work quickly to build on today’s good news by passing comprehensive jobs legislation, extending unemployment insurance, and raising the minimum wage, so that growth can not only continue, but provide everyone a fair chance at the American Dream.
The number of long-term unemployed people (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) declined by 287,000 to 3.5 million in April. While the problem of long-term joblessness continues to plague the economy, House Republicans continue to refuse to allow a vote on the extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits program that was approved by a bipartisan Senate majority. House Republicans allowed emergency help for jobless workers to expire at the end of last year.
So far, nearly 3 million jobless workers have lost benefits and that number continues to rise.
Call your representative at 845-809-4509 and her or him to pass the emergency unemployment benefits extension.
Last month’s biggest job gains were in professional and business services (75,000), retail trade (35,000), food services (33,000), construction (32,000), health care (19,000) and mining (10,000).
Employment in other major industries, manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, wholesale trade, financial activities and government, changed little over the month.
Unemployment rates for the major worker groups declined in April: adult men (5.9%), adult women (5.7%), whites (5.3%), blacks (11.6%) and Latinos (7.3%).
This article was originally printed on AFL-CIO on May 2, 2014. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journaland managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety.
Sunday, February 2nd, 2014
With congressional Republicans refusing to act and even blocking emergency jobless aid, President Barack Obama is trying to address long-term unemployment using the power of the executive. Unfortunately, the options without Congress are fairly limited. One of Obama’s new initiatives involves basically asking large corporations to please stop discriminating against unemployed people:
President Obama has persuaded some of the nation’s largest companies, including Walmart, Apple, General Motors and Ford, to revamp their hiring practices to avoid discriminating against applicants who have been out of work for a long stretch of time.Mr. Obama hosted a group of corporate chief executives at the White House on Friday to highlight those efforts and the use of presidential persuasion to help the jobless find work. In all, White House officials said, about 300 businesses have agreed to new hiring policies, including 21 of the nation’s 50 largest companies and 47 of the top 200.
If this helps people who’ve been unemployed for six months or more get hired, that will be wonderful. But workers shouldn’t have to rely on the boss to be nice and fair out of kindness.
Obama’s efforts in this area do go beyond asking corporations to improve their practices, to where he can affect government practices:
Presidential Memorandum to Make Sure the Federal Government Does the Same. The President will also lead by example and use his executive authority to issue a Presidential Memorandum to ensure the long-term unemployed receive a fair shot in the Federal hiring process. The Memorandum directs federal agencies to review their recruiting and hiring practices to determine whether these practices put long-term unemployed individuals at an undue disadvantage and report the results to the Office of Personnel Management. This process will help to make sure the unemployed or individuals who have faced financial difficulties (a common side-effect of long-term unemployment) are fairly considered for jobs.$150 Million for “Ready to Work” Partnerships to Support Innovative Public-Private Efforts to Help the Long-Term Unemployed Get a Fair Shot. Today, the President and Department of Labor are announcing $150 million in existing resources from the H-1B fund to support high performing partnerships between employers, non-profit organizations and America’s public workforce system that will help provide long-term unemployed individuals with the range of services, training, and access they need to fill middle and high-skill jobs.
It’s better than the nothing that Republicans in Congress would offer to help jobless Americans, but so much more is needed.
This article was originally printed on the Daily Kos on January 31, 2014. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is the labor editor at the Daily Kos.
Saturday, January 11th, 2014
Vickey Tyson, an SEIU Local 517Mmember in Saginaw, Michigan, knows firsthand about the stresses of today’s job market and the critical difference the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) can make.
Until late 2012, Vickey worked as customer service representative for the Michigan unemployment claims agency. But like many other Michiganders, she lost her job due to state cutbacks and layoffs. And the sudden expiration of modest federal unemployment benefits on December 28, 2013 pulled the rug out from beneath 1.3 million Americans just like Vickey.
She traveled to Washington, DC this week to stand with President Obama during his January 7 address where he called on Congress to extend the federal EUC program, which serves as a lifeline for long-term unemployed workers. Like the President, Vickey knows that it is not too late to fix this. Congress can take swift action to restore emergency unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. We should not be making it harder for Americans to work and participate in society. Extending these benefits is the right thing to do for America’s jobless and the economy.
This article was originally printed on SEIU on January 10, 2014. Reprinted with permission.
Author: Courtney-Rose Dantus
Saturday, August 17th, 2013
Thanks to a developing line of administrative appeal decisions, workers in New York State who resign their jobs due to bullying and employer abuse could still retain eligibility for unemployment benefits.
Under New York State labor law, workers who voluntarily resign without good cause are presumptively ineligible to receive unemployment benefits. Most other states follow a similar rule. Of course, this frequently leaves targets of workplace bullying in a bind when it comes to qualifying for unemployment benefits. All too often, quitting is the only way to escape the abuse.
That’s why I was so pleased to hear from James Williams, an attorney with Legal Services of Central New York, who sent news of a recent decision in a case he argued before the New York Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board.
The claimant appealed a denial of unemployment benefits holding that he voluntarily resigned his job with a local government entity, without good cause. The Administrative Law Judge overruled the denial of benefits, rendering these findings and a decision:
The undisputed credible evidence establishes that the claimant left employment voluntarily . . . after being notified . . . that he was on probation, because he felt bullied, harassed and set up by his supervisor. I credit the claimant’s credible sworn testimony that his supervisor’s repeated criticism and scolding of him in a raised voice made him feel bullied and harassed, especially in the presence of other employees. I further credit the claimant’s credible sworn testimony that the supervisor’s actions including pointing and reprimanding him, consisted of the word “stupid”, and other language which embarrassed the claimant and that the claimant believed he was being ridiculed by the supervisor. An employee is not obligated to subject himself to such behavior. Given that the claimant had complained to the employer about the supervisor’s behavior just two months earlier, and that the supervisor’s mistreatment not only continued, but escalated, I conclude that the claimant had good cause within the meaning of the unemployment insurance Law to quit when he did. Additionally, while disagreeing with a reprimand or criticism about work performance may not always constitute good cause to quit, receiving reprimands in the presence of one’s co-workers may be. . . . Under the circumstances herein, the supervisor’s treatment of the claimant exceeded the bounds of propriety, with the result that the claimant had good cause to quit. His unemployment ended under nondisqualifying conditions.
Attorney Williams relied upon previous decisions by the full Appeal Board holding that disrespectful and bullying-type behaviors that exceed the bounds of propriety (that appears to be the key phrase) may constitute good cause to voluntarily leave a job and thus not disqualify someone from receiving unemployment benefits. They may be accessed at the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board website:
- Appeal Board No. 571514 (July 3, 2013)
- Appeal Board No. 559667 (February 28, 2012)
- Appeal Board No. 558223 (January 25, 2012)
- Appeal Board No. 549810 (September 10, 2010)
Jim added in an e-mail that potential New York claimants who may fit this scenario “are advised to take steps to try and save their jobs prior to quitting. They will want to be able to show to the Department of Labor and to an ALJ that they took steps to try to change the situation – complaining to management, human resources, etc. – before quitting.”
Using These Decisions
The reasoning in these decisions is limited to unemployment benefits cases. Furthermore, the holdings of these cases are not binding upon unemployment benefits claims in other states. However, they can be brought to the attention of unemployment insurance agencies elsewhere as persuasive precedent.
In addition, this serves as an important lesson to those who may have been initially denied unemployment benefits after leaving a job due to bullying behaviors. It is not uncommon for initial denials to be reversed on appeal, and these cases provide genuine reason for optimism in situations involving abusive work environments.
This article originally appeared on Minding the Workplace on August 13, 2013. Reposted with permission.
About the Author: David Yamada is a tenured Professor of Law and Director of the New Workplace Institute at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. He is an internationally recognized authority on the legal aspects of workplace bullying, and he is author of model anti-bullying legislation — dubbed the Healthy Workplace Bill — that has become the template for law reform efforts across the country. In addition to teaching at Suffolk, he holds numerous leadership positions in non-profit and policy advocacy organizations.
Thursday, August 1st, 2013
Among the many reasons the country would be better off if Bernie Sanders was president is that the man just refuses to deal in silliness. He wants the country to have a serious debate — and whether the next head of the Federal Reserve Board is a man or a woman, or the current president is more “comfortable” with one person or another running the Fed, is entirely irrelevant to Sanders. And, so, Sanders goes really wild — he invokes the two words that most people will not speak in this debate even though those two words are part of the Federal Reserve Board’s mission: FULL EMPLOYMENT.
Last week, I tried to suggest that the critical questions are not being asked in the discussion about who should run the Fed. Sanders can actually communicate with the guy in the White House, as he does in this letter. The entire letter is worth reading but this is the paragraph that almost made me cry (I’m desperate here, politically speaking):
The top priority of the Federal Reserve Board must be to fulfill its full employment mandate. When Wall Street was on the verge of collapse, the Federal Reserve acted boldly, aggressively, and with a fierce sense of urgency to save the financial system. We need a new Fed chair who will act with the same sense of urgency to combat the unemployment crisis in America today that has left 22 million Americans without a full time job. [the underline and bold is in the original]
There is a lot to learn from this short letter.
First, how many people know, as Sanders points out, that it is the Fed’s responsibility to bring about full employment?
Wait a second: who even talks about full employment anymore? Not the Congress (except for a handful of people…or maybe it’s only Sanders). Not the president. Not either of the two parties.
It’s seen as, well, quaint. We’ve now adjusted our attitude, thanks to the constant chatter of the transcribers of press releases (formerly known as “journalists”), so that we now think of under 7 percent unemployment as somehow “okay” and 6 percent unemployment as if everything is going great guns…with the millions of people out of work that those numbers represent.
But, reaching full employment is the Fed’s job. And Sanders, wacky guy that he is, actually wants someone in the position who understands that. Uh, good luck with that, Bernie.
Correctly, Sanders targets the Big Three. No, not the auto companies. The Big Three who were key architects in the financial crisis: Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers. Those guys had a mission: destroy regulation, let Wall Street run wild and make themselves and/or their friends rich along the way. To the president, who is out now talking about the divide between rich and poor, Bernie says: keep those turds away from the Fed (yes, he uses far more Senatorial language)
I got to have one quibble with Sanders, otherwise it will seem like hero worship (close). And that’s that he doesn’t call out in his letter the puppet master who laid the groundwork for this mess in the 1990s: Bill Clinton. Because it was the Big Dog himself who led the charge of the Big Three against Glass Steagall — which was the law that did not allow investment banking and commercial banking to mix.
But, if the world was right, and we had a serious political debate, Sanders’ letter would be driving policy the decision about who will be looking out for the interests of the people.
This article originally posted on Working Life on July 30, 2013. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Jonathan Tasini is a strategist, organizer, activist, commentator and writer, primarily focusing his energies on the topics of work, labor and the economy. On June 11, 2009, he announced that he would challenge New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in the Democratic primary for the 2010 U.S. Senate special election in New York. However, Tasini later decided to run instead for a seat in the House of Representatives in 2010.
Thursday, April 18th, 2013
Maine Gov. Paul LePage is facing some blowback for pressuring unemployment hearing officers into denying more unemployment insurance appeals. A lawyers group is asking the federal government to investigate LePage’s actions:
LePage has violated federal laws requiring the impartial and prompt administration of unemployment insurance benefit, said David Webbert, president of the Maine Employment Lawyers Association, in a letter he sent Monday to Gay Gilbert, administrator of the federal Office of Unemployment Insurance, and Daniel Petrole, the deputy inspector general who oversees criminal investigations relating to the federal Department of Labor.Federal law mandates prompt payment of unemployment benefits, Webbert wrote, but LePage has created policies that delay payments, and he has put political pressure on hearing officers to deny payments to workers.
LePage’s Republican allies are predictably painting this as some kind of partisan—and therefore illegitimate—attack. But by the logic Republicans apply to everyone else, if LePage didn’t do anything wrong, he shouldn’t fear an investigation. And the allegations against LePage get to the heart of policy disputes between Republicans and Democrats … actually, not just Democrats, but anyone who doesn’t think business owners should automatically be favored by the government. If you lose your job, should you get a fair hearing for unemployment benefits? LePage says no. If, in saying no, he broke the law, he shouldn’t get away with it..
This article was originally posted on the Daily Kos on April 16, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is an editor at the Daily Kos.
Tuesday, March 26th, 2013
We already covered how sequestration cuts will affect your state, but here’s an update on the pain these cuts are causing in communities across the country since they went into effect March 1.
Think these cuts aren’t painful? Think again. Here are some highlights on the sequester’s reign of terror from newspapers and media outlets across the country:
FAA To Close 149 Airport Control Towers Due to Sequestration
Head Start Programs Gutted by Sequestration Cuts
Sequestration Will Take Big Bite from Medical Research Funding
Military Tuition Assistance Taken Away After Sequester
Sequestration to Force Weeklong Closure of Government Agency
Meals on Wheels Suffers Amid Sequestration
23 Tooele County Employees Laid Off Due to Sequestration
The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein and Amanda Terkel break down local stories even further. See a longer list of the devastating cuts here.
Remember, the sequester is a completely made up, dumb idea and can be easily repealed by Congress. This year alone, 750,000 will lose their jobs because of the sequester.
Working families are calling on Congress to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from benefit cuts (i.e., raising the retirement age and the “chained” CPI), repeal the sequester and close tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthiest 2%.
This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO on March 22, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Jackie Tortora is an blog editor and social media manager at the AFL-CIO.
Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
The potential impact of the sequester is dizzying, taken state by state or nationally. From federal workers losing as much as 20 percent of their pay to travelers facing airport delays, the sequester’s effects will be felt far and wide if Republicans keep holding the economy hostage to keep tax loopholes for wealthy people and corporations wide open. But it’ll be especially damaging for people who rely on government programs—people who are poor or vulnerable for other reasons. Here are some of the ways, according to the White House, services for the neediest people will be cut.
Receiving emergency unemployment compensation benefits? You’re in for a nearly 11 percent cut to those benefits, adding up to as much as $450 during the time you’re eligible for benefits.
Are you a student, parent of a student, or teacher? You might care about what’s going to happen in the schools, where nearly 1.2 million disadvantaged students in more than 2,700 schools will be hit with cuts, including to individual instruction and afterschool programs. That could lead to around 10,000 teachers and aides losing their jobs. Special education cuts would also endanger the jobs of 7,200 teachers, aides, and other staff. Then there are the 70,000 or so kids who’d lose Head Start services, leading to up to another 14,000 teachers and other school personnel working not just for state and local governments but for community and faith based organizations. But Head Start wouldn’t be the only early childhood program affected. The sequester could boot 30,000 kids off of child care subsidies, forcing their parents to find other child care or miss work.
Are you a senior relying on Meals on Wheels? That program will be serving 4 million fewer meals to seniors. And if you’re pregnant or a new mother and getting nutrition assistance for Women, Infants, and Children, cuts are coming there, too: around 600,000 women and children could lose assistance.
If government programs help shelter you, the sequester could put you at greater risk of homelessness. More than 100,000 people could lose access to housing and emergency homeless shelter programs, putting them back on the street. At the same time, 125,000 families could lose rental assistance that helps them stay in permanent housing; they too would risk homelessness as a result.
While Medicaid is exempt from sequestration, if you rely on government health services, there still might be bad news for you. Mental health services would be cut for more than 373,000 mentally ill people, and 8,900 mentally ill homeless people would lose outreach and support. AIDS and HIV treatment and testing are on the chopping block, too: Sequestration would mean 424,000 fewer HIV tests, and 7,400 patients without medications.
And the thing is, if Republicans in Congress really get their way, these are exactly the vulnerable groups that will be even harder hit by cuts.
This article was originally posted on the Daily Kos on February 25, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is an editor at the Daily Kos.
Saturday, February 23rd, 2013
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s refusal to allow a paid sick leave bill to come to a vote—though it has the support of a strong majority of the city council—resurfaced in the news this week when feminist icon Gloria Steinem said she would withdraw her support from Quinn if Quinn continues to block the bill.
“Making life fairer for all women seems more important than breaking a barrier for one woman,” Ms. Steinem said, adding that the bill would ensure that working mothers could better take care of sick children without fear of losing their jobs.
While it’s unlikely that Gloria Steinem’s endorsement or lack thereof is going to move many votes, it underscores a potential weakness for Quinn: She’s getting more credit as a progressive candidate than her positions would merit, in part because, as Steinem points out, she would be the first woman elected mayor of New York City. And she’s a married lesbian to boot. Drawing attention to the disconnect between how her individual role is perceived and the policies she embraces may not be super helpful among voters, though since the policies are geared to get her business support, it may be a worthwhile tradeoff as far as she’s concerned.
Quinn continues to block the vote while claiming that paid sick leave is “a worthy and admirable goal, one I would like to make available for all.” Her reasoning, of course, is the standard line pushed by crappy employers that it would cost jobs. However, job creation did not suffer in San Francisco following the implementation of that city’s paid sick leave law in 2007. And paid sick leave continues to be a public health issue; as Katie J.M. Baker points out, “a recent CDC study identified infected food workers as a source of between 53 and 82% of norovirus outbreaks.”
The arguments against paid sick leave just don’t hold up. Quinn is blocking a bill that would benefit not just the more than 1.5 million New Yorkers who currently lack paid sick leave, but has widespread public support and would save tens of millions of dollars in health care costs each year, resulting from fewer emergency room visits. It’s costing her high-profile support in her mayoral run, and it should cost her more.
This post was originally posted on the Daily Kos on February 22, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Labor editor since 2011.