NEWS DAY | Work and home at risk

The latest federal unemployment statistics, released August 5, show a 9.5 percent July unemployment rate, unchanged since June. The total number of unemployed people, both those officially counted because they have actively sought work within the past four weeks, plus those who are marginally attached to the labor force, or work part time for economic reasons, also remained the same, at 16.5 percent.

Recovery? Not for ordinary people, who look at their jobs as a major measure of economic health. Some 6.6 million workers – 44.9 percent of the unemployed – have been out of work for more than 27 weeks.

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The New York Times described the plight of the 99ers – a growing number of workers who have been unemployed for more than 99 weeks, and so have run out the maximum eligibility for unemployment compensation. The 1.4 million 99ers in June included a Alexandra Jarrin:

Now she is facing a previously unimaginable situation for a woman who, not that long ago, had a corporate job near New York City and was enrolled in a graduate business school, whose sticker is still emblazoned on her back windshield….

She contacted a local shelter but learned there was a waiting list. Welfare is not an option, because she does not have young children. She says none of her three adult sons are in a position to help her.

Housing news continues the sorry story. The Star Tribune reports that the number of Minnesotans receiving foreclosure notices continues to rise, with each month of 2010 showing more foreclosure notices than the corresponding month in 2009. The worst-ever year for foreclosures was 2008, with 2009 showing a 12 percent improvemenet. Now the trend is in the other direction.

Paul Krugman warns:

Yes, growth is slowing, and the odds are that unemployment will rise, not fall, in the months ahead. That’s bad. But what’s worse is the growing evidence that our governing elite just doesn’t care – that a once-unthinkable level of economic distress is in the process of becoming the new normal.

And I worry that those in power, rather than taking responsibility for job creation, will soon declare that high unemployment is “structural,” a permanent part of the economic landscape – and that by condemning large numbers of Americans to long-term joblessness, they’ll turn that excuse into dismal reality.

Where is the outrage? Where are the plans for temporary government employment programs?  Instead of debating tax cuts for the rich or even arguing about deficits, Congress should be funding programs to put people back to work.

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