Facts about High unEmployment

U.S. Payrolls Grow at Slowest Pace in Nine Months as Jobless Rate Climbs
By Shobhana Chandra – Jul 8, 2011 4:32 PM ET


The spoils have really gone to capital, to the shareholders, said David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff + Associates in Toronto. Corporate profits are up by almost half since the recession ended in June 2009. In the first two years after the recessions of 1991 and 2001, profits rose 11 percent and 28 percent, respectively.

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People are more important than corporate profits: win, place show. Families that can pay their mortgage or rent, that can feed their children healthy food and fruit (blueberries; strawberries prevent cancer) and vegetables (broccoli; brussel sprouts prevent cancer), go to the movies and take a vacation, represent the American Dream. Being able to afford a modest life is more important than quarterly bonuses or share holder value. A wage earner, man or woman, who is laid off can not pay taxes to support the local government, which cascades into more layoffs of safety service personnel. Last week’s job report that stated the “new” economy generated a meagre 18,000 jobs is unacceptable. Below are undereported facts that explain our common employment crisis.

Sleepwalking through America’s Unemployment Crisis
Mohamed A. El-Erian


Sleepwalking through America’s Unemployment Crisis

NEWPORT BEACH – It was relegated to the Q&A session, rather than featured prominently in the opening statement, at last week’s first-ever press conference of US Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke. It is an issue that too many in Washington, DC are willing to dismiss as “transitory,” despite visible evidence to the contrary. It is extremely vulnerable to high oil and food prices. And it undermines the operational assumptions that underpin the long-standing characterization of the US economy as vibrant and responsive.

The issue is the scope and composition of unemployment in America – a problem that is yet to be sufficiently recognized for its increasingly detrimental impact on the country’s social fabric, its economic potential, and its already-fragile fiscal position and debt dynamics.

Let us start with the facts:

At 8.8% almost three years after the onset of the global financial crisis, America’s unemployment rate remains stubbornly (and unusually) high;

Rather than reflecting job creation, much of the improvement in recent months (from 9.8% in November last year) is due to workers exiting the labor force, thus driving workforce participation to a multi-year low of 64.2%;

·If part-time workers eager to work full time are included, almost one in six workers in America are either under- or unemployed;

·More than six million workers have been unemployed for more than six months, and four million for over a year;

·Unemployment among 16-19 year olds is at a staggering 24%;

·With virtually no earned income and dwindling savings, the unemployed are least able to manage the current surge in gasoline and food prices, they are effectively shut off from credit, and many have mortgage debt that exceed the value of their homes.

These and many other facts speak to an unpleasant and unusual reality for the United States. The country now has an unemployment problem that is large in magnitude and increasingly structural in nature. The consequences are multifaceted, involving immediate personal anguish, rising social and political tensions, economic losses, and budgetary pressures.

This is much more than a problem for the here and now. High and intractable unemployment has serious negative long-term consequences that threaten to become exponentially worse. This is a crisis.

Substantial international research shows that the longer one is unemployed, the harder it is to get a job. This erodes an economy’s skills base and saps its long-term productive capacities. And, if unemployment is particularly acute among the young, as is the case today, too many of the unemployed risk becoming unemployable.

Undoubtedly, the Great Recession triggered by the global financial crisis has contributed to this worrisome situation. Unfortunately, the problem is much deeper, as it was long in the making.

At its root, America’s jobs crisis is the result of many years of under-investment in human resources and the social sectors. The education system has lagged the progress made in other countries. Job retraining initiatives have been woefully inadequate. Labor mobility has been declining. And insufficient attention has been devoted to maintaining an adequate social safety net.

These realities were masked by the craziness that characterized America’s pre-2008 “Golden Age” of leverage, credit, and debt entitlement, which fueled a gigantic but unsustainable boom in construction, housing, leisure, and retail. The resulting job creation, though temporary, lulled policymakers into complacency about what was really going on in the labor market. As the boom turned into a prolonged bust, the longer-term inadequacies of the job situation have become visible to all who care to look; and they are alarming.

Left to its own devices, America’s unemployment problem will deepen. This will widen the already-large gap between the country’s haves and have-nots. It will undermine labor’s skills and productivity. It will accentuate the burden imposed on the gradually declining number of people who remain in the labor force and have jobs. And it will make it even harder to find a medium-term solution to America’s worsening public-debt and deficit dynamics.

The US government has little time to waste if it is to avoid an even more protracted and entrenched unemployment problem. It must move now to address the problem’s sources through multi-year programs that range from educational restructuring and worker retraining to productivity enhancement and housing-sector reform. And it must do so while better protecting the long-term unemployed, many of whom bear little responsibility for their current, once unthinkable, and unfortunately long-lasting predicament.

It is past time for the US to wake up and confront in a holistic fashion its unemployment crisis. As everyone who has ever had an unpalatable job knows, shutting off the alarm and pulling the blanket over one’s head is not a solution.

Mohamed A. El-Erian is CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO, and author of When Markets Collide.


BMW layoffs exemplify the evisceration of the middle class
Every working American should be dismayed by — and afraid of — what BMW is doing

July 03, 2011| Michael Hiltzik

By all accounts, BMW’s parts distribution warehouse in Ontario was one of the jewels of the company’s system.

Supplying dealer service departments throughout Southern California, Arizona and Nevada, it received gold medals from BMW for its efficiency and employed several of the top-ranked workers in the country. In the roughly 40 years its workers had been represented by the Teamsters union, there had never been a labor stoppage.

Times being what they are, when a Teamsters committee came to the plant in early June to open negotiations over a new contract to start Sept. 1, they thought they might be asked to accept minuscule wage increases and maybe some givebacks on health coverage.

They were stunned by what they heard instead: As of Aug. 31, the plant would be outsourced to an unidentified third-party logistics company and all but three of its 71 employees laid off.
The union contract will be terminated. Some of the employees might be offered jobs with the new operator, but there are no guarantees. And no one expects the new bosses will match the existing $25 hourly scale or the health benefits provided now.

The average seniority of employees at Ontario is about 20 years; five have spent 30 years or more at Ontario or its predecessor warehouse in Carson. Of the employees to be laid off (according to a notice BMW sent the union), 27 are age 50 or older. The word that came most often to the lips of workers and their families I’ve talked to is “devastated.”

“The hardest thing I ever had to do in my life was to look my family in the eyes and tell them that after 32 years I’m out of a job,” says Tim Kitchen, who at 53 is the longest-serving employee at the warehouse. The esprit de corps that once prevailed in the warehouse is gone, he says. “You walk in there now, it’s like a morgue.” Early retirement isn’t an option; Kitchen still has two kids’ college educations to pay for.

Every working American should be dismayed by — and afraid of — what BMW is doing.

These employees exemplified the best qualities of the American worker. They devoted their working lives to BMW, at a time when it was building and solidifying its U.S. beachhead. Their wages, with benefits, paid for a reasonable middle-class lifestyle if they managed it carefully. Throw in the job security they were encouraged to expect, and they had the confidence to make sacrifices and investments that contributed to the economy for the long term, like college education for the kids, an addition on the house, a new baby. Then one day they were handed a mass pink slip, effective in a matter of weeks.

The harvest will be weighed in foreclosed homes, college educations deferred or abandoned, new cars left in the dealers’ lots (BMWs not excepted) and consumer goods on the shelf, one more little cascade of blows to the U.S. Economy.

Miguel Carpinteyro, 42, had 14 years with BMW and every expectation of retiring there. In the backyard of their home in the San Bernardino County community of Highland, he and his wife, Jerri, just finished building a pool, which is good therapy for their two autistic sons. A daughter has a heart condition requiring frequent medical visits.

The family put money aside for retirement through a 401(k), but they may have to tap that to live on, never mind paying their medical bills without employer-sponsored insurance. Their household budget, based on a BMW wage, can’t be sustained on much less. “We’ll probably end up losing the house,” Jerri told me.

Many of the BMW employees can boast of tenures stretching back to the bygone era when a job was more than a job. The longevity of the workforce tells you that good wages and benefits kept turnover at the plant low — when companies cared about keeping turnover low. Some can measure their loyalty to BMW in the kids’ ballgames and dance recitals they missed over the years because the company needed them to pull double shifts. Will workers employed by an outsourcing contractor and earning closer to minimum wage do the same? To ask the question is to answer it.

BMW says for the record that it’s “very much aware of its legal obligations and corporate responsibilities.” The company will negotiate with the Teamsters over severance but won’t discuss that or other transitional issues in public. It notes that it still employs 10,000 people in California, including those at two vehicle technology centers and Newbury Park-based BMW DesignworksUSA, and says that number might grow in the future.

The company doesn’t concede that it’s outsourcing the Ontario plant to save money on wages. It says it brought in outside logistic contractors at Ontario and four of its other five parts depots nationwide because it prefers to focus on its “core expertise” of engineering and making cars. Of course, nonunion workforces generally receive lower pay and benefits than union — that’s the power of collective bargaining — so the math is hardly a secret.

If there are operational efficiencies to be gained from the outsourcing, as BMW contends, the firm presumably expects them to translate into higher profits, but it won’t be sharing the money with the warehouse workers. Among the most likely beneficiaries are its shareholders — maybe via another dividend boost on top of the $950-million raisethe company gave them out of its $4.7-billion profit last year.

BMW’s defenders will point out that the company has a perfect legal right to outsource any jobs it wishes. Fair enough. Yet by the same token, American taxpayers had a perfect legal right to tell BMW to drop dead when the firm’s credit arm asked the Federal Reserve for a low-interest $3.6-billion loan during the 2008 financial crisis. BMW got the money then because U.S. policymakers saw a larger issue at stake: saving the economy from going over a cliff. Just as there’s a larger issue involved at Ontario, which is saving the American middle class from going over the same cliff.

The Ontario union, Teamsters Local 495, got Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Reps. Joe Baca (D-Rialto) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) to write painfully polite letters to Jim O’Donnell, chairman of BMW North America, asking him to reconsider. When I say that’s the least they could do, I’m talking literally — it’s the very least. How about hauling him before a televised hearing and having him balance out a $3.6-billion taxpayer loan with the firing of 70 American workers? The company surely wouldn’t characterize its federal loan as charity, but neither is maintaining its parts distribution workers on a living wage.

It’s fashionable to observe today that the loyalty the BMW workers gave their employer was naive; complain to manufacturing CEOs about their remorseless hollowing out of middle-class livelihoods to maintain payouts to shareholders, and the answer you get is that this is merely the way of our hyper-competitive modern world. Nothing personal; it’s the tyranny of the marketplace.

Yet what gives BMW the freedom to convert good American middle-class jobs into low-wage piecework is the evaporation of American workers’ power of collective action. The labor lawyer and writer Thomas Geoghegan contends that BMW could never outsource union jobs like this in its home country, Germany, where union solidarity extending from the professional staff down to the shop floor would stomp the living daylights out of the very idea. “Foreign companies know there’s no solidarity here,” he says.

On Monday, the Fourth of July, Americans will gather to celebrate the overthrow of tyranny. But the ease with which we allow corporate employers to impoverish their loyal workers should make us pause under the fireworks and think about how over the ensuing 235 years we’ve simply substituted one set of tyrants for another, the new ones immeasurably more heartless and bloodthirsty than the ones we shed.


Corporate America’s chokehold on wages

By Harold Meyerson, Published: July 19

If you’re wondering why American consumers are still flat on their backs, rendering the economy similarly supine, the answer is both fundamental and simple: It’s not just that so many of them are unemployed. The ones who are employed are also underpaid.

Don’t take my word for it — take that of Michael Cembalest, the chief investment officer of J.P. Morgan Chase. He asserted in the July 11 edition of “Eye on the Market,” the bank’s regular report to its private banking clients, that “US labor compensation is now at a 50-year low relative to both company sales and US GDP.”

The primary subject of Cembalest’s report isn’t wages. It’s profits — specifically, the fact that profit margins (the share of a company’s revenue that goes to profits) of the Standard & Poor’s 500 companies are at their highest levels since the mid-1960s, despite the burdens of health-care costs, environmental compliance and other regulations that are presumably weighing down these large companies.

How can that be? To find the answer, Cembalest studied the rise in profit margins “from peak to peak” — that is, from their high point in 2000, just before the dot-com bust, to their high point in 2007, just before the financial crisis. In those seven years, profit margins rose from just under 11 percent of the S&P 500’s revenue to just over 12 percent. (Today, they’re near 13 percent.)


…Job creators? What job creators? Over the past two months, according to employment statistics, we seem to have completely run out of job creators, though American multinational corporations are having no trouble creating jobs in the cheap-labor nations of Asia. Small businesses, however, cannot expand until American consumers start buying more, and American consumers can’t start buying more until they work their way out of the debt they incurred during the recent decades of pervasive income stagnation.


Companies prefer to invest instead of hire
Survey results are more bad news for jobless still struggling to find work in bad economy
Tuesday, July 19, 2011 03:06 AM


WASHINGTON – More companies hold an optimistic outlook toward investing in new equipment than in hiring, a survey showed, another sign the labor market will struggle to improve.

Fifty-four percent of companies said they will boost capital spending over the next 12 months, compared with 43 percent that plan to increase payrolls by the end of the year, according to results of a poll taken last month by the National Association for Business Economics and issued yesterday. Respondents also scaled back forecasts for economic growth as sales and profits cooled.

“The economic landscape is weakening and the recovery is softening,” said Shawn DuBravac, who analyzed the report. He is chief economist for the Consumer Electronics Association in Arlington, Va. “Sales growth remains positive for the majority of firms responding, but that majority is now smaller than it was last quarter.”

Yesterday’s report combined with slowing payroll gains shows employment will be slow to recover the 8.75 million jobs lost as a result of the recession, raising the risk that household purchases will weaken further.

The index of the outlook for investment in new equipment and software over the next year, which reflects the difference between those planning increases and decreases, climbed to 50, seven points higher than in the last survey, issued in April. The measure of capital spending projects already initiated last quarter rose to 36, the highest level in more than five years.

The employment index for last quarter dropped compared with the group’s April survey as more companies said they dismissed workers. More said they planned to decrease payrolls through attrition than in April’s report, while the number of firms planning “significant” firings held at zero.

Fewer companies reported rising profit margins even as investment plans improved. Twenty-nine percent of firms said their profits increased last quarter, compared with 45 percent in April’s survey.


Companies spend on equipment, not labor
Owners consider machines a better value than people
Sunday, June 12, 2011 03:13 AM

Companies that are looking for a good deal aren’t seeing one in new workers.

Workers are getting more expensive while equipment is getting cheaper, and the combination is encouraging companies to spend on machines rather than people.

“I want to have as few people touching our products as possible,” said Dan Mishek, managing director of Vista Technologies in Vadnais Heights, Minn. “Everything should be as automated as it can be. We just can’t afford to compete with countries like China on labor costs, especially when workers are getting even more expensive.”

Vista, which makes plastic products for equipment manufacturers, spent $450,000 on technology last year. During the same period, it hired just two workers, whose combined annual salary and benefits are $160,000.

Two years into the recovery, hiring is still painfully slow. The economy is producing as much as it was before the downturn, but with 7 million fewer jobs. Since the recovery began, businesses’ spending on employees has grown 2 percent as equipment and software spending has swelled 26 percent, the Commerce Department says. A capital rebound that sharp and a labor rebound that slow have been recorded only once before – after the 1982 recession.

With equipment prices dropping, and tax incentives to subsidize capital investments, these trends seem likely to continue.

“Firms are just responding to incentives,” said Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist at Barclays Capital. “And capital has gotten much cheaper relative to labor.”

Indeed, equipment and software prices have dipped 2.4percent since the recovery began, thanks largely to foreign manufacturing. Labor costs, on the other hand, have risen 6.7percent, the Labor Department says.

The rising compensation costs are driven in large part by costlier health-care benefits, so those lucky workers who do have jobs do not exactly feel richer.

Corporate profits, meanwhile, are at record highs, and companies are hoarding cash. Many of the companies thinking about hiring say they are scared off by the uncertain future costs of health care and other benefits. But with the blessings of their accountants, these same companies are snatching up cheap, tax-subsidized tractors, computers and other goods.

“We had an opportunity to buy equipment at a very discounted rate,” Mishek said of his decision to make bigger investments in equipment than in workers. “Now that the economy has turned around a little bit, it made sense to upgrade.”

Usually, economists cheer on capital spending and have supported Congress’ tax breaks for capital investment, such as bonus depreciation, which lets companies expense the full cost of purchases immediately instead of waiting several years. That is because capital and labor can be complementary: A business that buys a new truck often hires a new driver, too.

But with the rising costs of hiring, companies such as Vista are finding ways to use capital to replace workers whose jobs are relatively routine.

“If you’re doing something that can be written down in a programmatic, algorithmic manner, you’re going to be substituted for quickly,” said Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard.

To add insult to injury, much of the equipment used to replace U.S. workers is made by workers abroad, meaning that capital spending is going overseas. Of the four pieces of equipment Vista bought last year, one was made domestically. The others came from Israel, Switzerland and Germany. (“I try to avoid buying Chinese at the workplace and at home,” Mishek said.)

Of course, the shift to more automated production predates the Great Recession. And in the long run, better technology lowers prices, raises living standards and helps workers move into higher-paying jobs. This was the case with the mechanization of farming, which a century ago employed 41 percent of the U.S. work force.

“We don’t have 11million unemployed farmers today because, over time, farmers and their children transitioned into different sectors,” said William C. Dunkelberg, chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Business. “We don’t usually have this kind of shock, though, that displaces a lot of workers at once.”

Better technologies may eventually offer better job opportunities, but only if people can upgrade their skills quickly enough to qualify. That is hard to do in the short run, especially when so many displaced workers need to be retrained at once.

“People don’t seem to come in with the right skill sets to work in modern manufacturing,” Mishek said, noting that job applicants were often deficient in computer, mathematics, science and accounting skills. “It seems as if technology has evolved faster than people.”


How the jobless rate has changed

Posted on Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Is high unemployment the ‘new normal’ even in a recovery?

By Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — A “new normal” is emerging for the U.S. jobs market, and a growing number of economists warn that it’s likely to mean that unemployment will remain persistently high, at 7 percent or more, for years to come.

The 9.1 percent unemployment rate reported in May remains high by post-World War II standards long after the economy resumed growth following the worst recession in 70 years. It’s prompting economists to rethink basic assumptions about the U.S. labor market.

At issue is what’s called the “full employment” rate. It’s generally thought to be the rate at which everybody willing and able to work can find a job. It’s a theoretical “ideal” rate; “full” employment can’t be zero because there’ll always be people in transition between jobs, and others with disabilities or just plain lazy who’ll be excluded from the workforce.

For much of the 1980s, the unemployment rate hovered between 6 percent and 7.5 percent. During the mid-1990s, the rate fell steadily to around what economists came to consider the rate of full employment — 5 percent. Anything above that would signal inefficiencies in the economy.

Then in 2000, the improbable happened. It hovered around 4 percent most of the year, then dipped to 3.9 percent during the final four months. Those numbers were stronger than most economists thought possible without triggering inflation.

Today perceptions are far different.

If the “new normal” means a full employment rate of 7 percent, that suggests a wide mismatch between available jobs and the skills that unemployed workers possess — construction workers lost jobs and don’t qualify for ones in the booming health-services sector, for example. Economists call this a structural shift in the workforce, and a growing body of research increasingly suggests that’s what’s happening now.

“It just screams out that there has been a structural break. We try to make it more complicated than it is,” said Mark Vitner, a senior economist with the Wells Fargo Securities Economics Group and author of a provocative report on the new normal in the labor market.

Vitner thinks the full employment rate is now around 7.1 percent, a figure he describes as conservative, meaning it could be even higher. The reason for his grim view is the bursting of the housing bubble. The jobs that fed into the boom in real estate amounted to an employment bubble.

These jobs include the construction sector, which lost at least 2.1 million jobs. It also includes the finance sector — sometimes dubbed FIRE for finance, insurance and real estate.

Construction employment peaked in 2006 and 2007, each year exceeding 7.6 million jobs, collapsing to 5.5 million jobs in 2010, the lowest since 1995. Similarly, financial sector employment peaked in 2006 and 2007 at 8.3 million jobs each year, tumbling to 7.6 million last year, the lowest since 1998.

To determine full employment, it’s important know what’s happening with gross domestic product_ the broadest measure of U.S. goods and services. Real GDP late last year rebounded to its pre-recession peak, an important sign of economic recovery. Employment lags behind economic growth, and that’s the case now. But this time the lag is much longer than usual.

Using historical data about past economic recoveries, Vitner determined that the average difference between the jobless rate and the full employment rate when GDP has returned to a pre-recession peak is about 1.3 percentage points. When the U.S. economy passed its pre-recession GDP peak late last year, the difference between the unemployment rate and “full employment” was a whopping 4.6 percentage points.

“This is the largest gap ever recorded for this measurement, even surpassing the recovery following the 1981-1982 recession when the labor market experienced a sizable structural shift associated with the sharp decline in manufacturing employment, particularly in the steel and automotive sectors,” Vitner wrote in his research report.

Vitner’s is not an isolated view. Economists at Bank of America Merrill Lynch were among the first to notice the trend, referencing in several reports over the past few months that full employment is likely now in the ballpark of 7 percent.

“We do think that we have a structural unemployment rate that’s going to be 6.5 percent to 7 percent for a while. … It will be a number of years before it is meaningfully lower,” Michael Hanson, a BofA Merrill Lynch economist, said in an interview.

In an Atlanta speech on Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made it clear that the U.S. labor market is clearly impaired.

“Particularly concerning is the very high level of long-term unemployment_ nearly half of the unemployed have been jobless for more than six months. People without work for long periods can find it increasingly difficult to obtain a job comparable to their previous one, as their skills tend to deteriorate over time, and as employers are often reluctant to hire the long-term unemployed,” Bernanke said. He was referring to the 6.2 million Americans who in May reported that they had been out of work half a year or longer. They make up 45.1 percent of the unemployed.

Others in the Fed are looking at full employment. In a Feb. 14 economic paper titled “What is the New Normal Unemployment Rate,” the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco concluded that full employment is now higher than its historical assumption of 4.8 percent to 5 percent.

“An examination of alternative measures of labor market conditions suggests that the ‘normal’ unemployment rate may have risen as much as 1.7 percentage points to about 6.7 percent, although much of this increase is likely to prove temporary,” the San Francisco Reserve Bank economists concluded. “Even with such an increase, sizable labor market slack is expected to persist for years.”

The bank’s conclusion comes from observations of the so-called Beveridge Curve. This financial indicator plots the relationship between unemployment and job vacancies. When the economy is expanding well, the jobless rate is low and job vacancy rates are high. It’s hard to find workers because they are in such high demand.

Likewise, during a downturn, the reverse is true. Job openings are few and far between, yet the jobless rate is high.

Since about April 2010, however, the Beveridge Curve shows something strange. The number of jobs openings is unusually high, but so is the unemployment rate.

To many economists, this indicates a structural mismatch. The skills possessed by today’s workers aren’t the ones being sought by employers.

“The construction, finance and real estate sectors have shrunk after the bursting of the housing bubble and the subsequent financial crisis. The skills of workers who used to be employed in those sectors may not be easily transferable to growing sectors such as education and health care,” the Fed economists theorized. They added that extension of unemployment insurance to 99 weeks during the recession may have led to an erosion of skills and played a role in the trend too.

Still, the San Francisco Fed report concluded that there is “mounting evidence” of structural unemployment that will leave the jobless rate higher than previously was normal for a long time.


June 9, 2011, 12:01 a.m. EDT

Many of us won’t be able to retire until our 80s
You’ll probably have to work much longer than you anticipated

…Well, it turns out that working longer is indeed an option, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute latest study. The only problem is that the latest research shows that you’ll have to work much longer than you anticipated. In fact, many Americans will have to keep on working well into their 70s and 80s to afford retirement, according to the study, titled “The Impact of Deferring Retirement Age on Retirement Income Adequacy.”

What’s more, it’s even worse for low-income workers, according Jack VanDerhei, one of the co-authors of the study. Those who earned (on average over the course of their careers) less than $11,700 per year, the lowest income quartile, would need to defer retirement till age 84 before 90% of those households would have just a 50% chance of affording retirement.

Those who earned between $11,700 and $31,200 will need to work till age 76 to have a 50% chance of covering basic expenses in retirement. Those who earned between $31,200 and $72,500 will need to work to age 72 to have a 50% chance and those who earned more than $72,500, those in the highest income quartile, catch a break; they get stop working at age 65 to have a 50/50 chance of funding their retirement.

So what can be done to make sure you have enough income in retirement? Well, the sad truth is that not working is no longer an option and working past age 65 is fast becoming a fact of life, at least for those in the lowest three income quartiles.

One bright spot, according to John Nelson, co-author of ‘What Color is Your Parachute? For Retirement’ is that working works: “For those in the lower half of the income spectrum, delaying retirement from 65 to 69 has a profound effect,” he said. “It increases retirement income adequacy by 25% to 50%! That’s a powerful incentive.”

The new normal

Now the reality about EBRI’s [Employee Benefit Research Institute] findings is that many Americans — who are able to continue working and whose skills are still in demand — are already working past age 65. In 2009, 17.2% of Americans age 65 and older were in the labor force, according to recent AARP Public Policy Institute report, “Family Income Sources for Older People, 2009.”

And about 14.2 million older persons (36.7% of the older population) had family incomes from earnings in 2009. The median family income from this source was $32,330, while the mean was nearly 1.6 times as large — $50,971. Read the AARP report here.

And the new normal isn’t that people are working past age 65, rather it’s this: They are also hunting for second jobs as all, according to Art Koff, founder of RetiredBrains.com. “Even those older Americans who are still working are looking for ways to make additional monies,” he said.
And many, judging from the page views at RetiredBrains.com’s website, are often exploring ways to work from home. “Those older Americans who are looking for a job, those who have already retired and those who are working but need additional income or want to start something that they can continue into their retirement years are all reading (the work-from-home) pages,” Koff said…


The trials of measuring and managing in a global economy
By Steven Pearlstein, Published: June 11


The Uncertainty Tax

Published: June 11, 2011

If you want to understand why the unemployment rate has been stubbornly lodged around 9 percent, a good place to start is with the eye-popping mortgage statistics released last week by the economic analysis firm CoreLogic: 38 percent of homeowners with second mortgages are underwater. They borrowed against the value of their homes, and they now owe more than their houses are worth. The total number of underwater homeowners in America, with first and second mortgages, is a stunning 22.7 percent. In Nevada alone, 63 percent of all mortgaged properties are worth less than the owners paid; in Arizona 50 percent, Florida 46 percent, Michigan 36 percent and California 31 percent.

When people are so underwater, they find it hard to move to take new jobs, they find it hard to borrow or raise cash for education or start-ups, and banks become even more cautious about lending. Until we as a country figure out how to divvy up these losses on housing and let these markets clear and move on, they will be a serious drag on employment.

Indeed, this mortgage mess just feeds the three other big problems undermining U.S. job growth today: weak aggregate demand, structural impediments and an epidemic of uncertainty about what the future holds for everything from health care to the rate of taxation to Social Security and Medicare spending to the availability of credit to the general direction of the economy — the sum of which has people holding back and thus undermining the government’s stimulus.

We need to be working on all three at once, and urgently. How? Others have focused on the aggregate demand problem, so I’d like to address some of the structural impediments and uncertainty.

On Friday, the McKinsey Global Institute released a long study of the structural issues ailing the U.S. job market, entitled: “An Economy That Works: Job Creation and America’s Future.” It begins: “Only in the most optimistic scenario will the United States return to full employment before 2020. Achieving this outcome will require sustained demand growth, rising U.S. competitiveness in the global economy and better matching of U.S. workers to jobs.”

Over the last 20 years, McKinsey notes, with each recession more employers have used the downturn to replace workers with machines and software, so it takes much longer for full employment to come back. I’ve been working on a book that required talking to a lot of entrepreneurs and have been struck by how many told me some version of: “I used the recession to downsize and get really efficient. None of those jobs are coming back. I am doing a little hiring now, but for people with more skills.”

At the same time, you talk to U.S. companies doing advanced manufacturing and many will tell you they struggle even now to find workers with the blue-collar skills they need to replace their retiring employees. Thanks to a credit bubble over the last decade, we created a lot of jobs for people — in construction and retail — who did not have globally competitive skills or post-high school degrees. Those workers will need retooling.

McKinsey says its research found that “too few Americans who attend college and vocational schools choose fields of study that will give them specific skills that employers are seeking. Our interviews point to potential shortages in many occupations, such as nutritionists, welders, and nurse’s aides — in addition to the often-predicted shortfall in computer specialists and engineers.”

The report concludes, “Progress on four dimensions is needed: Ensuring that the work force acquires skills needed for the jobs that will be in demand, finding ways for U.S. workers to win ‘share’ in the global economy” — by encouraging more foreign investment in the U.S. And by getting companies who have off-shored jobs to take advantage of falling telecom prices to on-shore them to low-cost American cities and towns instead — “encouraging innovation, new company creation, and scaling up of industries in the United States, and removing unnecessary impediments that slow business investment and job creation.”

Today, everything from patent delays to overlapping or conflicting land use regulations inhibit start-ups and factory creation. According to the World Economic Forum, America now ranks 27th on the ease of getting a construction permit, behind Saudi Arabia.

But do not underestimate uncertainty as a silent jobs killer. Congress and the White House seem paralyzed in deciding the future of taxes and spending. Where are we going in these areas? Investors and companies who have to make hiring decisions have no clue. “The economy is paying a high uncertainty premium right now,” says Mohamed El-Erian, the C.E.O. of the world’s largest bond fund, Pimco. “With such uncertainty, people delay as many decisions as possible.”

Any good news? Yes, U.S. corporations are getting so productive and sitting on so much cash, just a few big, smart, bipartisan decisions by Congress on taxes and spending (and mortgages) and I think this whole economy starts to improve again. Workers with skills will be the first to be hired.


The Irish Times – Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Crisis goes far beyond ‘bad apple’ economies


…The best way of grasping what is happening in the US is to look at the huge metropolitan areas that account for the vast bulk of its economic dynamism. On their own, big US cities make up some of the world’s largest economies. If they were countries, New York would rank 13th in the world, Los Angeles 18th and Chicago 21st. Even Washington DC has an economy larger than Norway’s, Austria’s or South Africa’s. Ireland’s GDP is about the same as that of Minneapolis or Detroit.

Between eight and nine in every 10 jobs created in the US are in the big cities. These cities aren’t just crucial to the American economy, however. They are the engines of globalisation. They soak up immigrants and exports from every continent. The capital they generate fuels investment around the world, including, of course, Ireland. If they’re in trouble, then so is the whole model of economic globalisation.

And they are in trouble. Not all of them, by any means. The cities with thriving economies – Houston, Oklahoma City, El Paso – tend to be the ones that benefit most from high commodity prices and rapid population growth due to immigration. But a very significant number of big US cities are in a crisis that is not going to end any time soon.

Many of these great urban centres have ceased to be engines of growth in employment. They have lost staggering numbers of jobs during the recession that started with the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007: Detroit has lost 323,400 jobs; New York 385,200. At the end of 2007, just 50 US metropolitan areas had unemployment rates of more than 6 per cent. The corresponding figure now is 331.

The crisis isn’t just the familiar one of the de-industrialised American rustbelt in the midwest. Of the 25 metropolitan areas with the highest unemployment, 13 are in California and seven are in the “sunshine states” of Florida, Nevada and Arizona. There are Californian cities like Fresno and Modesto with unemployment rates even higher than Ireland’s.

The mainstream view is that this is tough, but not untypical. It’s what happens in recessions and the US has shown an extraordinary capacity to bounce back from those before.

But the real story is that it is now being acknowledged that dozens of major US cities will not get back to the levels of employment they had before the subprime crisis hit any time this decade. In some cases, it will be after 2021 before they have recovered completely.

A recent report by the United States Conference of Mayors shows that nearly 50 major US cities will have to wait at least a decade to get back all the jobs they’ve lost in the crisis. They include big names like Cleveland and Dayton, Detroit and Reno, Atlantic City and Sacramento. In these places, the famous elasticity of the US economy seems to have snapped.

The problem isn’t just economic, it’s also political. US politics has been dragged so far to the right that very few elected officials dare to say that city governments need money to invest and that the only place they can get it is from taxes.

Cities and states have $2 trillion in debt and there have been predictions from respectable sources that up to 100 cities are close to bankruptcy. With the brief era of fiscal stimulus coming to an end, these cities are, in effect, on their own. The federal government won’t bail them out and their state governors can’t do so, even if they wanted to. Already, schools are being closed, teachers made redundant, and basic services such as road maintenance are being more or less abandoned. Meanwhile, 44.5 million Americans are on food stamps – one person in seven and a 64 per cent increase since March 2008.

This doesn’t mean that the US is about to collapse. But surely it suggests that the crisis in [getting rich is all that matters; government should get out of the way] neo-liberal capitalism is about much more than little rogue economies such as ours.


For many, it feels like recession never ended
Sunday, June 12, 2011 03:13 AM

CHICAGO – Two years into the recovery, layoffs have leveled off, jobs are being created and the economy is expected to keep growing.

Yet many families are still struggling as if they were in a recession.

In Chicago, Jeanette Taylor-Smith skips a bill payment to buy shoes for her children. Every month, Abraham Duenas reassesses whether he can keep his coffee shop running. And Leticia Moreno is still cutting her grocery bill by buying less meat and skipping the organics aisle.

It’s like recovering from a massive heart attack: People are alive, but they are not doing well, said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial.

But there are signs of hope. Companies have slowed layoffs to pre-recession levels, and Swonk expects exports to remain strong and business investment to increase on the heels of robust orders.

Still, unemployment rose in May to 9.1 percent, those who are employed are working more for the same salary or less, and the public sector continues to shed an average of 23,000 jobs a month.

Though the economy is growing and jobs are being created, nearly 14 million people are unemployed. About half have been unemployed for more than six months, the Labor Department says.

Among them is Taylor-Smith, who was laid off from her retail job at the end of 2009. Eight months later, her husband, Greg Smith, lost his job, too. Their savings now gone, Smith works odd jobs. Taylor-Smith has landed a few seasonal jobs and earns a small stipend as a community leader with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. But despite their efforts, they haven’t found full-time employment. Taylor-Smith said that not having a college degree has hurt her chances of landing the managerial jobs she had before the economic crisis.

Experts say she is not alone. Competition has forced people with college degrees to take jobs below their skill level, displacing those with less education.

To stretch her budget, Taylor-Smith is walking instead of spending $4.50 on bus fare. The savings allow her to buy an extra gallon of milk at the grocery store and two loaves of bread. And instead of fresh produce, she settles for cans of tuna, frozen pizza and lunchboxes packed with crackers, cheese, ham and juice.

Such cutbacks affect people like Duenas. Many of his customers can’t afford the specialty drinks. Instead of ordering a $3.45 mocha, they go for the $1.60 regular coffee.

About nine months ago, Duenas absorbed a 10 percent increase in the cost of coffee, fearful that he might lose more customers if he tried to pass on the higher cost to them.

For the past half-year or so, he has been focused on reaching new customers. He started a morning radio show as a way to advertise his shop, Catedral Cafe. He said he has noticed a slight increase in customers, but not enough to feel better about the economy.


Single female boomers: retired and broke

They’re the least-prepared of their generation


Cuts hit job program for older workers
Sunday, June 19, 2011 03:13 AM


BOISE, Idaho – Randy Goodro spends about 18hours a week at Habitat for Humanity Restore, a thrift store for housing materials, where he helps unload trucks of donated items and checks to see whether they work.

Goodro’s job pays minimum wage, $7.25 an hour. It comes through Experience Works, a program that deploys federal money to help low-income, unemployed people 55 or older get retrained in hopes of finding a job.

Federal dollars are used to pay wages for workers who qualify for Experience Works. The clients go to work for nonprofit organizations and other agencies to build skills.

Experience Works also helps people navigate the workplace in several ways, such as preparing resumes.

The program is in 30 states, and it is a lifeline for Goodro and others who found themselves out of work as the economy fell apart in 2008 and 2009. But now that lifeline is getting stretched as the federal government cuts back money for the program as part of a plan to whittle away at its massive deficit.

Experience Works in Idaho said it will lose $1.37 million of the $2.97 million it got from the feds last year, a 46percent drop. Some of those cuts were anticipated; others are a result of a congressional budget compromise to keep the federal government operating.

“We just had our throat cut,” said Gerry Autry, Experience Works employment training coordinator for southwestern Idaho.


‘Skills gap’ leaves firms without worker pipeline

Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — John Russo’s chemical lab in North Kingstown has been growing in recent years, even despite a deflated economy, and he expects to add another 15 to 20 positions to his 49 employees over the next year.

But the president of Ultra Scientific Analytical Solutions has found himself in a vexing spot, struggling to fill openings that require specialized training in a state where the jobless rate is close to 11 percent, the third-highest in the nation.

“It’s very difficult to find the right person, and there’s all walks of life trying to find jobs. I honestly think there’s a large swath of unemployable,” said Russo, whose firm manufactures and supplies analytical standards. “They don’t have any skills at all.”

He’s talking about the so-called skills gap, a national problem that has left businesses without a crucial pipeline of the skilled workers they need in a rapidly changing economy.

States from Rhode Island to Washington are taking steps to address the gulf. Michigan launched a “No Worker Left Behind” initiative, allowing unemployed or low-wage workers to get up to $10,000 in free tuition for community college study or other training. Several legislatures passed bills creating “lifelong learning accounts,” which, like a 401(k), help workers save for education, training or apprenticeships. The Aspen Institute is spearheading a national campaign that aims to do something that hasn’t happened nearly enough: get community colleges and employers talking.

The need for such efforts, experts say, is enormous.

In a major report in February, Harvard University highlighted what it called the “forgotten half” of young adults who are unprepared to enter the work force. Some drop out of high school. Some who finish can’t afford college. And some who can afford it find that what they’ve learned in college or vocational programs doesn’t match employers’ demands.

“Our system for preparing young adults is broken,” said William Symonds, director of the Pathways to Prosperity Project at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. “We’re not saying that the system is failing everybody, but it is leaving a lot of young people behind.”

Educators and business leaders say that a “college for all” mentality is no longer realistic, if ever it was. Many positions – known as “middle-skill” jobs – don’t require a degree from a four-year institution. The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce estimates there will be 47 million job openings in the decade ending in 2018. Nearly half will require only an associate’s degree.

Career and technical education programs, once derided as being for those who couldn’t cut it academically, offer one path. But growing those programs has not been a national priority and their quality is inconsistent at best. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called career and technical education the “neglected stepchild” of education reform.


Layoffs slow this year, but hiring yet to surge
Thursday, July 7, 2011 03:21 AM


Two years later, Great Recession recovery is still lopsided compared to the past
Saturday, July 2, 2011 5:30 a.m. CDT
 – The Associated Press
WASHINGTON – This is one anniversary few feel like celebrating.

Two years after economists said the Great Recession ended, the recovery has been the weakest and most lopsided of any since the 1930s.

After previous recessions, people in all income groups tended to benefit. This time, ordinary Americans are struggling with job insecurity, too much debt and pay raises that haven’t kept up with prices at the grocery store and gas station. The economy’s meager gains are going mostly to the wealthiest.

Workers’ wages and benefits make up 57.5 percent of the economy, an all-time low. Until the mid-2000s, that figure had been remarkably stable – about 64 percent through boom and bust alike.

Executive pay is included in this figure, but rank-and-file workers are far more dependent on regular wages and benefits. A big chunk of the economy’s gains has gone to investors in the form of higher corporate profits.

“The spoils have really gone to capital, to the shareholders,” said David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff + Associates in Toronto.

Corporate profits are up by almost half since the recession ended in June 2009. In the first two years after the recessions of 1991 and 2001, profits rose 11 percent and 28 percent, respectively.

And an Associated Press analysis found that the typical CEO of a major company earned $9 million last year, up a fourth from 2009.

Driven by higher profits, the Dow Jones industrial average has staged a breathtaking 90 percent rally since bottoming at 6,547 on March 9, 2009. Those stock market gains go disproportionately to the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans, who own more than 80 percent of outstanding stock, according to an analysis by Edward Wolff, an economist at Bard College.

Kathleen Terry is one of those who had to settle for less. Before the recession, she spent 16 years working as a mortgage processor in Southern California, earning as much as $6,500 in a good month, a pace of about $78,000 a year.

But her employer was buried in the housing crash. She found herself out of work for 2½ years. As her savings dwindled, the single mother had to move into a motel with her three daughters.

They got by on welfare and help from their church and friends. Terry started taking a 90-minute bus ride to job training courses. Eventually, she found work as a secretary in the Riverside County, Calif., employment office. She likes the job, but earns just $27,000 a year. “It’s a humbling experience,” she said.

Hard times have made Americans more dependent than ever on social programs, which accounted for a record 18 percent of personal income in the last three months of 2010 before coming down a bit this year. Almost 45 million Americans are on food stamps, another record.

Ordinary Americans are suffering because of the way the economy ran into trouble and how companies responded when the Great Recession hit.

Soaring housing prices in the mid-2000s made millions of Americans feel wealthier than they were. They borrowed against the inflated equity in their homes or traded up to bigger, more expensive houses. Their debts as a percentage of their annual after-tax income rose to a record 135 percent in 2007.

Then housing prices started tumbling, helping cause a financial crisis in the fall of 2008. A recession that had begun in December 2007 turned into the deepest downturn since the Great Depression.

Economists Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard University and Carmen Reinhart of the Peterson Institute for International Economics analyzed eight centuries of financial disasters around the world for their 2009 book “This Time Is Different.” They found that severe financial crises create deep recessions and stunt the recoveries that follow.

This recovery “is absolutely following the script,” Rogoff says.

Federal Reserve numbers crunched by Haver Analytics suggest that Americans have a long way to go before their finances will be strong enough to support robust spending: Despite cutting what they owe the past three years, the average household’s debts equal 119 percent of annual after-tax income. At the same point after the 1981-82 recession, debts were at 66 percent; after the 1990-91 recession, 85 percent; and after the 2001 recession, 114 percent.

Because the labor market remains so weak, most workers can’t demand bigger raises or look for better jobs.

“In an economic cycle that is turning up, a labor market that is healthy and vibrant, you’d see a large number of people quitting their jobs,” says Gluskin Sheff economist Rosenberg. “They quit because the grass is greener somewhere else.”

Instead, workers are toughing it out, thankful they have jobs at all. Just 1.7 million workers have quit their job each month this year, down from 2.8 million a month in 2007.

The toll of all this shows in consumer confidence, a measure of how good people feel about the economy. According to the Conference Board’s index, it’s at 58.5. Healthy is more like 90. By this point after the past three recessions, it was an average of 87.

How gloomy are Americans? A USA Today/Gallup poll eight weeks ago found that 55 percent think the recession continues, even if the experts say it’s been over for two years. That includes the 29 percent who go even further — they say it feels more like a depression.


About Jerry Frey

Born 1953. Vietnam Veteran. Graduated Ohio State 1980. Have 5 published books. In the Woods Before Dawn; Grandpa's Gone; Longstreet's Assault; Pioneer of Salvation; Three Quarter Cadillac
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