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A “Jobs Report”… Report

The ‘jobs report’ is published each month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor. The most recent report of January 4 featured the addition of 155,000 new jobs. The administration is cheering the jobs added in spite of the fact that the November unemployment percentage of 7.8% did not jiggle down a bit. Black unemployment in December 2012 rose to 14% and is nearly double the national average, yet reports indicate that 93% of Black voters went for Obama. A similar metric applies to the Hispanic vote where 71% voted for Obama in spite of a 9.6% unemployment rate. An important statistic that isn’t discussed by the President and other government spokespeople is the participation rate of just 63.6%. This is the percentage of the workforce that is actually participating in seeking employment.

One reason for not looking for work is that it may be easier to accept unemployment checks and other benefits. In fact, one of ‘fixes’ for the agreements that avoided the ‘fiscal cliff’ was preservation of long-term unemployment benefits. An additional 47 weeks of federally financed benefits costing $30 billion over 10 years plus state benefits of 26 weeks was part of that agreement. Is it possible that these extended benefits make it easier to put off submitting applications and requesting interviews for employment?

The federal government has 49 job training programs. The result should be a brisk output of trained and re-trained workers ready to begin new jobs. These training programs sponsored by nine agencies absorbed $14.5 billion of taxpayer extractions in 2010. A study by the General Accountability Office found that only five of the programs had follow-up to determine and evaluate positive outcomes.

In addition, abuses of designated funds are used in unintended ways. A trade union in Montana spent four times as much of their half-million dollar grant on salaries than on actual training. The BlueGreen Alliance, a joint operation of labor unions and environmentalists received a $5 million dollar grant. A review after the spending of 60% of that grant revealed that only 16 workers were placed in jobs. The Alliance could have surely done better than spend $187,500 per worker per job placement.

Consider the situation in Fort Wayne, Indiana with a metro population of 420,000 and unemployment at 6.8%. An official of a manufacturing company commented that ‘we don’t just need new employees; we need people with skills’, adding that ‘not everyone can be a trainee’. One company said that communication skills are often lacking in candidates. Applicants who use slang, abbreviations and smiley faces similar to those used in message texting are more vulnerable to being passed over.

The coal industry has been hard hit by the current administration. Companies in coal producing states are laying off workers due mostly to the increasing number of regulations that have been imposed on fossil fuels. Former West Virginia Governor and current Senator from that state Joe Manchin commented that the EPA is working very hard to avoid maintaining a balance between the economy and the environment.

Media sources are not reporting on job creation these days. The ‘fiscal cliff’, the upcoming ‘debt ceiling’ controversy, foreign affairs and gun violence seem to dominate the airwaves and newspapers. Perhaps there is some insidious reason why jobs are not front and center. Could it be that jobs are not a priority following re-election? Is the President working on his legacy of universal health care and the expansion of social programs at the disturbing cost of mediocre job growth? Nearly 90 million workers have forsaken the workforce; it is assumed many are on (government) financial life support.

by Dick Baynton

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