Jobs Report Unemployed Paying The Price of Obstruction

Isaiah J. Poole

On the morning after Senate Republicans blocked consideration of an infrastructure jobs bill, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting that the economy created only 80,000 net jobs during the month of September. The unemployment rate is now 9 percent. The continued anemic performance of the job market represents the continued price of right-wing obstruction of the measures necessary to produce jobs.

We continue to fall far short of what is needed to begin actually repairing the 11-million-jobs gap left by the 2007-2008 Wall Street implosion. The Economic Policy Institute has calculated that the economy needs to produce at least 400,000 a month for the next three years in order to bring the job market back to where it was before the recession.

Yet, the Federal Reserve projected this week that there will not be nearly enough economic growth to produce that level of job creation—not more than 2.9 percent gross domestic product growth next year, and an unemployment rate no lower than 8.5 percent by this time next year and about 7 percent at the end of 2014.

Staring this reality in the face, conservatives in the Senate voted Thursday to obstruct a $60 billion infrastructure bill that could have put more than 2 million people back to work through direct spending and through private investment leveraged by a $10 billion infrastructure bank. Not a single Republican voted to allow the jobs bill to proceed to full debate and an up-or-down vote. That action extends an unbroken streak: Since the 112th Congress convened in January, Congress has not been able to pass a single significant job-creating bill. Instead, conservatives have voted for ideologically driven attacks on government—many of which would actually kill jobs, not create them—and tax cuts for the top 1 percent.

The impact of that obstruction is clear in today’s report.

  • There were 104,000 private-sector jobs created in October, but almost a quarter of that growth was offset by layoffs of public sector workers: 22,000 state and local government workers, and 2,000 federal government workers.
  • People between the ages of 20 and 24 are still facing an unemployment rate of 14 percent. Unemployment among 16-to-19-year-olds ticked slightly upward, to 21.8 percent. And for African-American youths, the rates remain at depression levels: 37.8 percent.
  • There was a loss of 20,000 jobs in construction and an overall net decline of 10,000 jobs in goods-producing sectors of the economy. Many of the jobs that were created were in health care and retail.

As Alexander Eichler reported in The Huffington Post this week, “the public sector has shed jobs this year at the same rate the private sector has added them — 234,000 jobs lost in state and local government, a decline of 1.2 percent, versus 1.3 million new jobs in the private sector, a gain of 1.2 percent.”

Today’s jobs report underscores the continuing need for aid to state and local governments to prevent the layoffs of public servants, for infrastructure spending to bolster the construction industry, and targeted boosts to the more depressed areas of the economy.

Co-director Robert Borosage says this morning:

This tepid growth will not help the millions of Americans who want to work who cannot find jobs. We need action from Washington now. Our elected officials must now focus on jobs. Jobs for the long-term unemployed. Jobs for the young and for veterans coming into the worst job market since the 1930s. Jobs for a construction industry idled by the housing collapse. The president’s jobs bill, while inadequate, would be a first step. Instead, governments at the local, state and national level are shedding jobs rather than adding them.

There is no better evidence that the supercommittee – tasked with finding spending cuts or tax hikes – is on a perverse and destructive mission. Companies are sitting on trillions in profits looking for customers. Families are pessimistic and tightening their belts. Britain is in recession and Europe is headed there. As Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke has pleaded, we need action on jobs from the Congress.

The current conversation in Washington is too much about what to cut and not enough about how to get the next generation of youth graduating high school and college in to the workforce: Let’s put young Americans to work. The time for bold action on jobs is now.

With Occupy Wall Street spreading like wildfire, the upper 1 percent need to stop fighting common-sense solutions to today’s problems and should work with hard-working Americans to bring the country together and fix our schools and fix our bridges and employ our youth. The time is now.

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