Tag Archives: Unemployment

The long, grim struggle for the long-term unemployed


SFGate.com: As of August 2014  three million Americans had been unemployed for more than six months. Over two million have been unemployed for more than a year.

The only incremental improvement: the percentage of those out of work and looking for the past six months or more has declined, from 46% of the total unemployed in 2010, to 33 percent now.  In California (excepting the Bay Area’s bubble economy) the percentage is closer to 40 percent.

The plight of the long term unemployed —  highest in the 45-59 age group  – remains “among the most persistent, negative effects of the Great Recession.” In percentage terms, it’s still the highest since the Great Depression, says the John J Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in a report published today.


The long-lasting trend indicates ”that the ranks of the long-term unemployed may remain high for months or years even if the economy continues to improve,” says the report based on a survey of 852 employed and unemployed workers between July 21 and August 3.

Close to half of those who have found jobs are being paid less, working part-time, or otherwise experiencing “a step down” from their job 5 years ago.

Their living standards, and feelings about the present and the future, are very much in line with earlier findings on the mood of American workers.

elections have consequences

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180,000 More Women Unemployed in March


CNS News: The number of women who were unemployed in  the United States climbed 180,000 in March, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In March, there were 4,850,000 unemployed women, 180,000 more than the 4,670,000 American women were unemployed in February, according to BLS.

At the same time, the unemployment rate for women rose from 6.4 percent in February to 6.6 percent in March.

To be counted as unemployed, a person must have actively sought a job in the last four weeks and be part of what BLS calls the civilian noninstitutional population (meaning a person is 16 or older and not on active duty in the military or in an institution such as a prison, mental hospital or nursing home).

The number of American women who had jobs dropped 133,000 from February to March, declining from 68,458,000 to 68,325,000.

From February to March, the number of women in the civilian noninstitutional population increased by 84,000, climbing from 127,779,000 to 127,863,000. Of those 127,863,000 women in the civilian noninstitutional population, 73,175,000 participated in the civilian labor force, meaning they either had a job or actively sought one in the past four weeks. That put the labor force participation rate for women at 57.2 percent in March–the same as it was in February.

There were also 54,688,000 women who did not participate in the civilian labor force in March, meaning they neither held a job nor actively sought one. That was up by 36,000 from the 54,652,000 women who were not in the labor force in February.

Forward, or something...

Forward, or something…


The average American household is now earning LESS income than it did at the end of the Great Recession

Unemployment is black line and household income in red

Unemployment is black line and household income in red

Daily Mail: The average household is earning less than when the Great Recession ended four years ago and some Americans are affected even more than others.

U.S. median household income, once adjusted for inflation, has fallen 4.4 percent since the official end of the recession, according to Census Bureau statistics. Specific groups such as blacks, the young, and the upper-middle-aged have experienced even larger than average drops in  income.

Younger people and those aged between 55 and 64 were hit worse than other age groups. In the older group, income dropped from $62,842 to $58,432 on average.

In only one group did median income go up.  Americans aged 65 to 74 saw their average income go from $40,885 to $42,984.

In addition to age and marital status, race was a factor in household income drops. Worst off were African American households which, according to the study, saw a larger income drop since the end of  recession than other groups.

Interestingly, increase in college enrollment during the recovery caused income to drop across all education levels. Somewhat less surprisingly, households headed by unemployed persons were the hardest hit of all with a 21 percent decrease in  average income.

In fact, according to a report from  Sentier Research, every group is worse off to some degree except for those aged 65 to 74.

The median, or midpoint, income in June 2013 was $52,098. That’s down from $54,478 in June 2009, when the recession ended. And it’s below the $55,480 that the median  household took in when the recession began in December 2007.

The study found that both family households  and single Americans were affected.

The average income for single people fell  from $33,815 to $31,166. Men  living alone were hit worse than women living  alone with a drop of 9.1  and 6.5 percent drops respectively. Married couples were affected less so.  Average income for them fell by 2.6 percent.



Number of Long-Term Unemployed ‘Unprecedented’ Under Obama


Washington Free Beacon: The economy has seen an “unprecedented” number of long-term unemployed under the Obama administration, according to a liberal think tank, and economists say plans pursued by Democrats in Washington are unlikely to curb the problem.

Nearly 5 million workers are classified as long-term unemployed, while 900,000 more have stopped looking for work altogether, according to a new series of reports issued by the Urban Institute.

Three percent of the labor force has been out of work for more than six months, an improvement of only one percentage point since unemployment spiked in October 2009, according to the study.

“That long-term unemployment would rise during a recession is not at all surprising, but the extent of the increase and its persistently high level since the start of the recovery are both troubling and unprecedented,” the report states. “The U.S. economy is now well into its fourth year of recovery, the unemployment rate is below 8 percent, yet the long-term share of unemployment is still near 40 percent.”

The center-left think tank said that those startling figures are unlikely to change unless the United States can achieve dramatic job growth, rather than the middling 2 percent overall economic growth figures the Obama administration has averaged.

While the think tank stresses that many of the causes of long-term unemployment are outside of the control of the government, it outlined a number of policies that could help alleviate long-term unemployment, including reforming unemployment insurance to subsidize wage decreases and hour reductions and increasing workforce training subsidies at the local level, rather than a “one-size-fits-all federal approach.”

Michael R. Strain, a labor economist with the American Enterprise Institute, said the Obama administration has failed to lead in the effort to solve the crisis of long-term unemployment.

“There are plenty of solutions that could be supported by Republicans and Democrats, but we’ve failed to find someone to champion them—most of the blame lies with President Obama because he sets the agenda in Washington,” Strain said.

He agreed with the Urban Institute that unemployment benefits could be better utilized by using them to subsidize workers who take lower-paying jobs following layoffs. Getting back in the job market quickly, even at a lower salary, can prevent workers from suffering long-term damage to their earning potential as well as ensure that they do not fall further behind in the skills gap.

However, the debate over America’s record-high spending on unemployment has focused on how long workers receive benefits, rather than how to spend that money effectively.

Many of the long-term unemployed come from the manufacturing and construction industries. Minorities and those with less education are the most likely to be out of work for long periods of time, according to the Urban Institute.

Job seekers are also stuck in regions that have failed to produce new jobs. Strain said that these workers could be assisted using unemployment benefits to help them relocate to areas that have wider access to jobs, rather than repeating a cycle of poverty in cities like Detroit.

“Let’s allow firms to pay workers whatever they can, supplement those earning with subsidies; let’s open those workers up to new skills and new lines of work and new locations to cope with manufacturing’s decline,” Strain said.

Democrats have focused on playing politics with hot-button political issues such as the minimum wage and top tier tax rates “to paint Republicans as the party of the elite and wealthy.”

The minimum wage is an area where Democrats are pursuing good politics using bad policy, according to Strain. It raises the cost of hiring young and inexperienced workers—those hit hardest by the recession.

“Raising the minimum wage is a debate to have during boom times when there’s money to spread around,” Strain said. “Raising the minimum wage now is a bad idea; the government should be reducing the rigidity of the labor market rather than making it harder and more expensive to hire workers.”

He sees politics at play. “Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats have been explicit in saying that the minimum wage is being used as a midterm election issue and President Obama is helping them achieve that,” Strain said.



Sign of the times: Wal-Mart hiring only temps; bank lay-offs like 2009

elections have consequencesHere’s more evidence that the media-hyped “economic recovery” is a chimera.

In a Feb. 12 e-mail to other executives, Wal-Mart’s vice president of finance and logistics Jerry Murray wrote that “February MTD (month to date) sales are a total disaster. The worst start to a month I have seen in my 7 years with the company.”

Now, Reuters is reporting that Wal-Mart’s woes are persisting. In recent months, Wal-Mart Stores Inc has been hiring only temporary workers at many of its U.S. stores, the first time the world’s largest retailer has done so outside of the holiday shopping season.

A Reuters survey of 52 stores run by Wal-Mart in the past month, including one in every U.S. state, showed that 27 were hiring only temps, 20 were hiring a combination of regular full, part-time and temp jobs, and 5 were not hiring at all. The survey was based on interviews with managers, sales staff and human resource department employees at the stores.

Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said that the new hiring policy is to ensure “we are staffed appropriately,” when the stores are busiest and is not a cost-cutting move. Temporary workers are paid the same starting pay as other workers, but using temps enables the company to have adequate staff on busy weeknights and weekends without having to hire additional full-time staff.

Tovar admitted that before 2013, only 1-2% of the company’s U.S. workforce were temps (or what Wal-Mart internally calls “flexible associates”). Now, the percentage of temps has risen to about .

Walmart U.S. Chief Executive Bill Simon also confirmed that the company is hiring more temp workers: “Their hours flex by the needs of the business from time to time.”

new+medical+symbolThe hiring strategy could save Wal-Mart money by trimming labor costs at a time when its margins remain under pressure. Many consumers are still struggling given a high jobless rate and lack of income growth, leaving retailers of everyday goods with little pricing power, according to other company CEOs and benefits experts. Competition from dollar stores, other big box discount chains and grocery stores is also intense.

It also could set an example for some other companies as they look for ways to cushion themselves from a potential rise in healthcare costs next year as a result of Obamacare, according industry experts and retail executives. Denying that the temp-hiring move was related to Obamacare, Tovar nevertheless acknowledged that it could take a year or more for temporary workers to receive health care benefits.

Wal-Mart’s U.S. staffing has remained relatively flat even as more stores have opened in recent years. At the end of fiscal 2013, Wal-Mart had “more than 1.3 million” workers in the United States, the majority of them at 4,005 Walmart U.S. stores, compared with “approximately 1.4 million” workers in the United States at the end of fiscal 2009, the majority of them at 3,656 Walmart U.S. stores, according to the company’s annual filings for both years.

The temporary workers are often being hired on 180-day contracts, according to the survey of Wal-Mart stores. Temp workers typically have a completion date after which they have to reapply for work, but part-time employees work fewer hours than full-time workers indefinitely.

“Full-time people are getting slimmer and slimmer,” said a supervisor at a store in North Carolina, who asked not to be named, as did other store-level employees who were interviewed for this story, because she is not authorized to talk to the media. She said that the five new employees hired this year at the store are all temps and hours of existing employees are being cut.

A store manager in Alaska, who asked not to be identified, also said that “Everybody who comes through the door I hire as a temporary associate. It’s a company direction at the present time.”

Mary Pat Tifft, a member of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart, or OUR Walmart, a group of current and former Walmart employees campaigning for better wages, hours and benefits, said, “Long-term associates are particularly distraught by this short-term hiring as many are looking for more hours and full-time work. OUR Walmart does not define itself as a union but it does require its members to pay $5 monthly dues and is part of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

Labor market experts said that the relatively high U.S. unemployment rate, which was an official 7.6% in May, and the large number of people not counted because they have left the labor force at least temporarily, does give companies like Wal-Mart the conditions to attract temp workers. National Retail Federation’s healthcare lobbyist Neil Trautwein said that hiring temps is “one strategy” that retailers could use to mitigate the potential rise in healthcare costs due to the Obamacare.

Wal-Mart already has begun to change the healthcare plans it provides workers. Last November, it said that newly hired part-time employees would have to work a minimum of 30 hours a week, up from 24 hours previously, before they can qualify for health coverage. Its U.S. employees also faced an 8-36% increase in premiums in 2013, prompting some workers to forego insurance. The majority of eligible employees at Wal-Mart sign up for the company’s health insurance.

Under Obamacare, large companies like Wal-Mart must next year offer healthcare to 95% of employees who work more than 30 hours a week or pay a penalty of $2,000 per worker for the entire workforce. When the work hours are so variable that the employer is not certain whether an employee qualifies, they can elect to determine eligibility by measuring hours during a period of up to 12 months, a strategy used by Wal-Mart. As a result, Wal-Mart’s temp workers may have to wait a year – provided they are still employed at the company – to find out if they are eligible. By that time, however, the temp may have been fired, which means some temps never get health coverage.


Financial institutions are firing staff at almost the same rate in 2013 as they did in 2009 (source):


How’s that “hope and change” working for our youth?


Number of the Week: Youth Unemployment at 22.9%?

WSJ: 22.9%: The unemployment rate for Americans under age 25, adjusting for the decline in the labor force since the start of the recession.

Perhaps no group has been hit harder by the recession and grinding recovery than the young. The official unemployment rate for those under age 25 is 16.2%, more than double the rate for the population as a whole. In percentage terms, unemployment has fallen far more slowly for young people than for the wider population.


Those figures actually understate the severity of the problem, however. The government only considers people “unemployed” if they’re actively looking for work. People who stop looking—whether they’re retired, in school, raising a family or living on friends’ couches — are instead considered “not in the labor force,” even if they would prefer to work given the opportunity.

When the recession began in December, 2007, 59.2% of the under-25 population was in the labor force, meaning they were either working or looking for work. Today, that figure has fallen to 54.5%. That may not sound like a big drop, but it makes a huge difference. If the so-called participation rate had remained unchanged, there would be 1.8 million more young people in the labor force today than there actually are. Counting those people as unemployed, rather than out of the labor force, would push the unemployment rate up to 22.9%. That’s only a hair better than the 23.9% youth unemployment rate in the euro zone, and has shown only very modest improvement during the recovery.

The decline in the participation rate among the young can’t all be attributed to the recession. Labor force participation among young people peaked at just under 70% in 1989, and has trended downward ever since, primarily due to rising rates of college attendance.

The decline accelerated during the recession, as many young people sought refuge in college or other forms of education or training. In a normal cycle, that might have worked out well, leaving a generation of highly educated workers ready to re-enter the job market when the economy recovered. Instead, they have been graduating into a labor market that remains deeply challenged, especially for those without much work experience. To make matters worse, many graduates are carrying hefty debt burdens, and those who can find work are often being forced to low-skill jobs.

The youth participation rate has largely flattened out over the past three years, but it fell again in March. Some 236,000 young people left the labor force last month, accounting for nearly half of all drop-outs. That helped push the overall participation rate to a more than 30-year low.

Lesson learned here folks: Elections have consequences.


Wal-Mart executives say worst February sales in 7 years

Four days ago, I did a post on major national retailers like J.C.Penney, Sears, and Best Buy that will close stores in 2013. Here’s more evidence that there’s no economic recovery and that the POS is making the economy worse.

Executives at Wal-Mart are worried about poor sales this month — the worst in seven years. They attribute the poor sales to shoppers being hit by Obama taxes, an increase in the jobless rate, and an anemic economy. The US economy actually had a negative growth rate of -0.1% in the last quarter of 2012!

economy tanks

Renee Dudley reports for Bloomberg, Feb 15, 2013, that internal e-mails obtained by Bloomberg News indicate that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. had the worst sales start to a month in seven years as payroll-tax increases hit shoppers already battling a slow economy.

Jerry Murray, Wal- Mart’s vice president of finance and logistics, said in a Feb. 12 e-mail to other executives, referring to month-to-date (MTD) sales: “In case you haven’t seen a sales report these days, February MTD sales are a total disaster. The worst start to a month I have seen in my ~7 years with the company.”

Wal-Mart and discounters such as Family Dollar Stores Inc. are bracing for a rise in the payroll tax to take a bigger bite from the paychecks of shoppers already dealing with elevated unemployment. The world’s largest retailer’s struggles come after executives expected a strong start to February because of the Super Bowl, milder weather and paycheck cycles, according to the minutes of a Feb. 1 officers meeting Bloomberg obtained.

Murray’s comments about February sales follow disappointing results from January, a month that Cameron Geiger, senior vice president of Wal-Mart U.S. Replenishment, said he was relieved to see end, according to a separate internal e-mail obtained by Bloomberg News.

In a Feb. 1 e-mail to executives, Geiger asked: “Have you ever had one of those weeks where your best- prepared plans weren’t good enough to accomplish everything you set out to do? Well, we just had one of those weeks here at Walmart U.S. Where are all the customers? And where’s their money?

Both executives, Murray and Geiger, attributed the performance to increased payroll taxes and delayed tax returns, which Geiger called “a potent one-two punch,” according to the e-mails.

About $19.7 billion more in tax refunds had been delivered to shoppers by this time last year, according to an analysis prepared by Wal-Mart’s Global Customer Insights & Analytics division that was attached to Murray’s e-mail on Feb. 12. The retailer expected returns to be delayed by three to four weeks because of the late release of tax forms and additional, federally mandated tax-fraud scrutiny.

When a payroll-tax break expired Dec. 31, Americans began paying 2 percentage points more in Social Security taxes on their first $113,700 in wages. For a person making $40,000 a year, that is about $15 a week.

The extra tax bite is about equal to a year of car insurance for a family making $30,000 or a basket of groceries per month for a family making $50,000, according to Wal-Mart’s analysis.

Other retailers who court low-income Americans also are bracing for the rising taxes.

Higher payroll taxes “go against our customers’ wallet,” Family Dollar Chief Executive Officer Howard Levine said on a Jan. 3 conference call. “Clearly, they do not have as much for discretionary purchases than they did.”

At a Feb. 1 officers meeting (the minutes of which were attached to Geiger’s e-mail), Wal-Mart U.S. CEO Bill Simon cited negative economic growth, declining consumer confidence and rising unemployment as challenges facing the company. The U.S. economy shrank at a 0.1% annual rate in the fourth quarter, and the unemployment rate rose 0.1% to 7.9% in January. The Conference Board’s measure of consumer confidence declined last month to the lowest since November 2011.

Even with a slow January, however, Wal-Mart is gaining market share steadily, Simon said. “That points to our competitive landscape, which means everyone is suffering and probably worse than we are. We have to fight against the tougher economic environment to earn a bigger share of a smaller consumer spending pie.”

Wal-Mart fell 3.3% to $68.46 at 2:12 p.m. in New York and earlier slid as much as 3.8% for the biggest intraday decline since Nov. 15. The shares rose 14% in the 12 months through yesterday, compared with an 8.5% gain for the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said in an interview: “As with any organization, we often see internal communications that are not entirely accurate, that lack the proper context and represent individual opinions.”

Elections have consequences!!!

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