Reports from the Economic Front

a blog by Marty Hart-Landsberg

A Class Perspective On Economic Policy

Slate magazine has a very attention grabbing animation showing the growth in monthly unemployment, county by county, from January 2007 to October 2009, with each monthly picture reflecting changes from the previous year.  You can view it here.

It really helps to drive home the reality faced by millions of working people and the absolutely critical importance of passing an extension of unemployment benefits and implementing a meaningful national jobs program tied to a restructuring of our economy.

The Congress finally approved an extension of unemployment benefits, which is good.  But we should be clear that this is a stop-gap measure.  The average weekly unemployment payment is only $309; no one is getting rich here.

More importantly, many unemployed are not covered by unemployment insurance.  As the Economic Policy Institute points out:

Millions of the nation’s unemployed are not collecting unemployment benefits and are not eligible to do so under the laws in their state. Despite historically high unemployment, and record levels of long-term unemployment, only 67% of the unemployed workers in the U.S. were collecting unemployment insurance in the fourth quarter of 2009, the most recent quarter for which data are available from the Department of Labor. That “recipiency rate” includes workers receiving benefits under all of the extensions of emergency unemployment insurance that have been passed during the recession. When the recipiency rate is calculated based solely on the standard 26 weeks of unemployment, it drops to 35%: In other words, without the emergency extensions that have been passed, fewer than half of the country’s unemployed would be collecting unemployment.

Many who look at the sorry state of our economy are puzzled by the lack of meaningful national efforts to address it.   Let me offer a visual aid that might help to explain the lack of action.

As the chart below highlights, “although corporate profits suffered in the early part of the recession, they have been steadily growing for more than a year and are now 5.7% greater than they were at the start of the recession. . . .  Over that same period, the country lost 8.2 million jobs, or 5.9% of the job base. In other words, about one out of 20 jobs has simply disappeared. While job growth has resumed in recent months, the pace of job creation remains glacial, and as the chart shows, not nearly sufficient to recoup the losses suffered any time soon.”


In short, not everyone finds the crisis so terrible.   Still surprised by the lack of action?


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