Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jobs, Long Term Unemployment, Economic Recovery, and Reality

As I wrote yesterday and the day before one of the big things missing in the discussion of the long term un and under-employed is the human reality and face of the individuals facing the problems.

Other people are trying to draw attention to the problems using their own personal stories, from the commenters on yesterday's post which was cross posted to MyFDL to the personal diary from commenter/diarist Margaret on "The Never Ending Job of Being Unemployed" many people are telling their personal stories, trying to draw attention to their own plight as well as the problems faced by the millions of us who are in the long term ranks of the un/under-employed. Yet for every column such as yesterday's from Bob Herbert at the NY Times, there are two or three columns or blog posts such as this one from Casey Mulligan at the Times Economix blog down playing the effects of any stimulus as just regular seasonal fluctuations in employment due to the holiday season and that the recession didn't really affect things.

You might think that Christmas became smaller during the recession, and that change offset the purported extra impact of each dollar of Christmas spending. It is true that almost all kinds of spending are lower during a recession, but I adjusted for that by measuring the seasonal data in percentage terms.

The retail sales data show that, in percentage terms, the holiday spending surge was not much different from 2007 to 2009 than it was in previous years.

My bold. Notice how he "adjusts" to make his point?

The NY Times' Dave Leonhardt gives us a trifecta of articles/blog posts today where he inches toward an explanation of the long term problems being faced then as quickly backs away. From his article in today's Times "Assessing 2010's Economy and Looking Ahead":
When 2010 began, hiring and consumer spending were finally picking up. But then something changed in the spring — a combination of the debt troubles in Europe, the fading of stimulus spending and the usual caution by businesses and consumers after a financial crisis. By the summer, the unemployment rate was rising again, and Americans’ attitudes about the future were again souring.

Of course he doesn't do himself any credibility favors by saying later:
On the longer-term issues, the recent work by President Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission suggested that Democrats and Republicans might eventually find some common ground on the issue.

Leonhardt then has a blog post on the "Recovery" using the stock market as a gauge for recovery. One point he seems to miss is that the limited jobs portion of a recovery from the early part of the year that soon dissipates is concurrent with the short term hiring of a few million temp workers for the Census. As I pointed out in this post from July, it was always a fallacy to try to paint the Census jobs as a sign of economic recovery; nevertheless far too many people such as Leonhardt have consistently tried to do this.

Then Leonhardt did a second blog post today asking "Who benefits from long-term unemployment?" He tries to spin it:
The most recent data, shown above, goes through only 2009, but other data suggests the pattern has continued in 2010: A significantly smaller share of workers experienced any spell of unemployment in the last few years than in the other deep recessions of the past 50 years.

But in the end even he has to admit the real impact:
In essence, a relatively small number of people have borne a disproportionate share of the brunt of the Great Recession.

Of course, that relatively small number still reaches into the millions — and those millions will surely need more help in the years ahead. Even 99 weeks of jobless benefits don’t come close to covering the costs of years outside the workforce.

Also today, Allison Linn from MSNBC reports that the Department of Labor will start tracking long term unemployment for up to five years instead of the two years they have been reporting. This is a small recognition of reality but still does not fully account for the millions of people wanting and needing work. I have family and friends from Firedoglake, Facebook and my private life who have decided to take early Social Security in order to try to stay alive and keep money coming in. Yet there are just as many family and friends in similar situations as I am, trying to keep ourselves afloat in order to reach sixty-two when we can claim early benefits. For me that's four years of juggling. Others have even longer times to try to make it. Millions of people in their fifties are looking for employment and wanting to make a continuing contribution to the economy yet no matter how well we may interview for positions and no matter how much experience we may have in a variety of areas, the job offers are not there. And this includes millions of us who have kept up to date with new technologies within our chosen career fields, even though this is one of the big lies corporations like to use to marginalize us. And the Cat Food Commissioner Chairs want to make folks work until age 70? Or is it they just want us to disappear and go off into the wilderness and die while US corporations create jobs overseas?

And because I can:

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