Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

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Real March 2009 Unemployment: 15.6%

The U.S. Labor Department released March 2009 unemployment numbers today.  The most common number being reported by the corporate media is the U-3 number: 8.5%.  As I’ve written before, this number is used to undercount how bad un- and underemployment really are in America.  The more complete number, called U-6, is at 15.6% this month, up from 14.8% last month and 9.1% in March 2008.  That 15.6% number is the highest ever recorded (going back to 1994).

663,000 jobs were eliminated last month, as the Con 2008-09 recession continues to deepen.  The underemployed are becoming a large problem: The average work week in March dropped to 33.2 hours, a new record low.

Previous months’ numbers were updated: January came out much worse than originally thought; February was unchanged.  January’s job loss number went from an initial 655,000 to 741,000.

Since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has lost a net total of 5.1 million jobs, with almost two-thirds of the losses occurring in the last five months.

At this point, I still don’t thinkthe Obama administration has done enough to pull the economy out of its deep recession.  We still don’t know what millions of mortgages and other financial instruments are really worth.  The credit markets are still largely frozen.  Banks are walking away from houses, leaving their previous owners stuck with properties that are upside-down in value.  These unemployment numbers will continue to get worse for the forseeable future.  I expect the U-3 number to get above 10% and the U-6 number to bump up against 20%.  Combine those numbers with millions of workers that aren’t on the official rolls of companies and we’ve got huge problems.


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Quick Hit: Colorado’s Energy Efficiency Stimulus Funding

As part of the stimulus spending championed by President Obama and passed by the Democratic-led Congress, Colorado will receive more than $128.7 Million for weatherization funding and energy efficiency grants.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Colorado will receive $128,753,213 in weatherization and energy efficiency funding – including $79,531,213 for the Weatherization Assistance Program and $49,222,000 for the State Energy Program.

Weatherization and energy efficiency are two methods of keeping energy costs down.  Here’s how the Obama administration is playing this: weatherization, energy efficiency and other programs go into effect as soon as possible, saving energy consumers money right away.  A carbon cap-and-trade program goes into effect in the next couple of years, which will have the effect of raising energy prices as the program spins up and a price for carbon is settled on.  As Americans continue to use energy efficient programs (power generation, appliances, etc.), the raising energy prices don’t impact their budgets severely enough to disrupt their lifestyles.  These kinds of things are being thought through by Obama and others.  The right-wing reactionaries are desperately trying to tie into populist anger – I don’t think it’s going to get them very far as people do the math at their kitchen tables.

Oh, and as this funding is spent in Colorado, programs are expanded, which requires more employees.  Thus, good paying jobs are created and the economy finds a bottom.  A lot of people win under Obama’s plan.

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Quick Hits: Chuck Norris, Unemployment & Alabama Shooter

Chuck Norris is a secessionist and quite possibly a terrorist. Why do right-wing extremists hate America so much?

I haven’t posted anything about the most recent unemployment numbers, but was reminded this morning why I need to.  The most cited figure from February was 8.1% – a 25-year high.  That sounds impressive and all, but as I’ve written about in the past, it doesn’t reflect the reality workers are facing.  The number was just tossed out on a CNN morning show where the speaker said, “At least 92% of us do have jobs – that’s good news!”  No, no it’s not.  That quote gets at the heart of why the oft-cited number should be different.  The real unemployment number went all the way up to 14.8% last month.  That means only ~85% of Americans that want a job actually have one.  The 8.1% number only counts people who are available for work and actively looked for a job in the prior four weeks.  If they still don’t have a job after four weeks, they’re still unemployed.  It’s disingenuous, at best, that the corporate media pushes the lower number down our collective throats every month.  It’s not a stretch to say they do it quite purposefully for this reason: outraged workers demand real changes; irriated workers don’t rock the boat.  When 1 out of 5 Americans are unemployed, will more of us figure that out?

The first question I had when I heard about the Alabama massacre this morning was what ethnicity was the man?  Recent mass killings have been perpetrated mainly by middle-aged white men, but I haven’t heard about that side of things from the corporate media.  I’ve only done a quick search on this situation and haven’t found an explicit answer.  That works out to be pretty definitive to me: if the shooter was non-white, you know that information would be found in the opening sentence, if not the headline.  I’ll keep watch and update or correct this hypothesis as more information (like a picture) becomes available.  [Update]: It’s as I suspected.  He wasn’t a minority.  What are we going to do about these psychopathic, mass-mudering white people with assault rifles?  Talk about a menace to society…

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Quick Hit: Job Growth During Bush’s Term

I’ve known for some time that the number of jobs created while George W. Bush was in office would rank among the lowest since WWII.   The Labor Department released numbers recently that confirmed that view and solidified Bush’s domestic legacy.  During George W. Bush’s terms in office, the fewest jobs in post-war American history were created.  During those terms:

3.0 millions jobs were created.

The population grew by 22.0 million people.

3.0 million jobs = 2.3% payroll expansion.

22.0 million people = 7.7% population growth.

Thus, job creation did not keep up with population growth.

There were only 2 Presidencies when fewer jobs were created than during the past eight years.  Unfortunately for the modern American worker, those Presidencies lasted 2.5 years and 4 years, not the 8 that Bush was in office.  This is most evident when the number of jobs created per year is compared between Presidencies.  Only 375,000 jobs were created, on average, per year during Bush’s terms.  That’s 60,000 fewer per year than Dwight Eisenhower’s terms.

In short, it’s a terrible track record.  It’s a terrible track record for the American worker who has been under assault since St. Ronnie’s Revolution begain in the 1980’s.  For those of you who are more visual, like me, go look at the graph in this diary.


Weekend News Roundup: 2/20-21/09

I was disappointed to read that President Obama has taken NAFTA renegotiation of the table.  American workers are suffering because of failed “free-trade” policies.  If he wants high employment and a strong economy, protecting our workers is a primary way to get there.  This is a result of the people Obama has put into power.

Congratulations go to formor President Bush for allowing Iran to become another nuclear state.  It joins North Korea as a country that can threaten our allies for years to come, just as the War industry wanted.

Hexcel Corporation broke ground on a 100,000-sq-ft facility in north-eastern Colorado that will manufacture epoxy-resin components for wind blades.  They moved here because Vestas manufactures those wind blades at an adjacent location.  While the gas and oil industry cuts jobs in Colorado due to lack of demand for their products, the wind and solar industry enjoys new businesses and new jobs.

Another 627,000 jobs were lost in the Economy Bush Built.  Net job losses could total 700,000 for February.  Good thing corporate profits were setting records as late as last year.  I’d hate to think the economy was bad or something.

About one in four people with a mortgage owe more than their homes are worth.  One of Obama’s solutions is to force lenders to re-negotiate mortgage terms.  The lending industry, who got us into this mess in the first place, is objecting to the plan.  As usual, they’re also not proposing any kind of solution.  Doing nothing will all but destroy our economy.

David Harsanyi continues his crusade against America with his op-ed this week.  He claims taxes, extreme government spending and wealth redistribution are patriotic in an attempt to slam President Obama’s recovery plans.  In Con Fantasy Land, it seems tax reductions are now called tax increases.  Similarly, the past 8 years of keeping occupations off the budget and creating the largest government program in 30 years (that doesn’t work with its peers) went by uncommented since it was a Con “president” who proposed the “extreme government spending”.  Last but not least, Harsanyi’s characterization of wealth redistribution comes across as pathetic after we’ve seen the effects of Bush’s “tax cuts”.  Americans were sure glad to get one two grand back (the first year only) they were passed weren’t they?  Oh, except for the richest 1%.  They’re keeping hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars per year thanks to Bush’s tax cuts.  Wealth redistribution indeed.  And what’s up with this:

Yes, the same Freddie and Fannie — once implicitly guaranteed by government and now explicitly run by government — that helped, through social engineering, to push us into recession.

I wish the rest of us had figured out what the great sage Harsanyi did – Fannie and Freddie (with Cons leading them right up through the beginning of this horrible recession) were so unbelievably powerful.  Cons love their conspiracy theories.  I learned an important lesson during the Bush years.  When a Con says something, the reality is exactly opposite.

Breckenridge ski resort may not be allowed to expand onto Peak 6.  At issue is a lynx recovery plan.  It’s nice to see more honest consideration of all factors with something like this.

A Colorado constitutional rewrite is being seriously considered by more and more people.  State spending is affected by numerous, conflicting amendments.  Colorado can either lose out on education, health care and prisons or a group of adults (hopefully) can come together and implement realistic solutions.  If a Constitutional Convention is called, one potential flaw is they can rewrite any part of the Constitution they want.  It would be nice if people who were convinced government can’t operate weren’t put in charge of that government.  It simply makes no sense.

The Colorado House Agriculture Committee killed a proposal to limit the involvement of the Division of Wildlife in issuing oil and gas drilling permits.  The CDoW became involved in the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission only after a Democratic Governor was elected.  Not surprisingly, this pro-business article ony quoted a proponent of the bill.  Unlike climate change articles, where the denyers’ point-of-view in nearly sacrosant, opponents of HB-1255 didn’t get their comments published.

On a positive note for science, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory is scheduled to launch Tuesday.  The polar-orbiting satellite will measure oxygen-to-carbon ratios to indicate where carbon sources and sinks are at.  My fear is that carbon sources will be found to be larger and more prevalent than carbon sinks.  There are already indications that the warming oceans are soaking up less carbon every year, allowing the atmosphere and oceans to warm up even further.

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Job Losses in Context

How do the job losses during this horrible recession compare to past recessions?  There are a couple of graphs at this post at Calculated Risk that provide some context.  More people have lost their jobs in this point in the recession than any other recession since WWII: 3.6 million.  That’s actually more than any other maximum loss.  The 1982 recession came close with 2.8 million people.

When job losses as a percentage of work force is examined, this recession is in the top 30%.  We just passed the percentage reached in the 1981 recession: 2.5%.  At this same point in time, only three recessions were worse: the 1953, 1958 and 1948 recessions.  The total number of workers has obviously increased since then, so more people would have to lose their jobs before the percentage in this recession got to 4% or 5%.

I doubt undocumented workers were counted in any of these calculations.  I would imagine the actual total of people who have lost their jobs, documented and undocumented, would come much closer to previous steep job losses.

Also clear in the graphs: the last three recessions took much longer to recover from than did previous recessions.  Maybe because we don’t actually make things in this country the way we did in the immediate post-WWII era.  If things aren’t made in the U.S., U.S. workers have nothing to do, limiting the job recovery that would otherwise occur.  How patriotic of the pro-job off-shoring crowd.

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Good & Bad Employment News

I’ll start with the bad news: a record number of Americans are drawing unemployment benefits.  4.8 million Americans are currently on the rolls.  With this month’s slew of announced layoffs, that number is sure to rise.  This is one of the results of Cons running the country for eight years.  The number of Americans getting unemployment insurance as a ratio of total Americans is the highest since 1983.  That number will likly get higher.  Weekly jobless claims are double what they were just one year ago.  As big as the Reinvestment Act is, is it big enough?  I don’t think so.

Now for the good employment news: President Obama has signed his first piece of legislation – the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  The measure is designed to make it easier for workers to sue for decades-old discrimination. It nullifies one of 2008’s most shameful Supreme Court decisions that stated workers only had 180 days after the initial decision by employers to discriminate to file a pay-discrimination lawsuit.  It was one of many pro-corporate rulings the Supreme Court handed down last year – the very thing I and other progressives were trying to prevent by pressuring Senators to not allow Roberts and Alito to ascend to the court.  Their anti-worker, anti-citizen ruling history was well established.  Instead of localized effects, they now have the power to harm American workers for the next generation.  Thankfully, citizens do have some measure of recourse: electing pro-worker and pro-citizen legislators to establish moral laws protecting their interests.  While the LLFPA has been passed, which will help women achieve more pay equity in the future, Ledbetter will never see the money she was owed by Goodyear.