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Posts Tagged ‘Joblessness’

Earlier this week, I explained why Mitt Romney is a Republican version of Barack Obama. His transgressions include being open to a value-added tax, a less-than-stellar record on healthcare, weakness on Social Security reform, an anemic list of proposed budget savings, and support for reprehensible ethanol subsidies.

Now we can add something else to the list. He wants to cut off the bottom rungs of the economic ladder and hurt low-skilled workers.

Here are a couple of passages from a report in the Oregonian.

Mitt Romney…continues to be a supporter of indexing the minimum wage for inflation. Oregon and Washington were among the first states to index their own minimum wages to inflation — nine states now do so — and it’s a favorite of liberals… Romney campaigned in favor of indexing the minimum wage when he ran for governor in 2002.  However, ABC News noted in 2007 that he wasn’t sure he supported indexing the federalminimum wage (which is lower than the minimum wage in several states).  In this new video, you could quibble that he doesn’t explicitly say he’s talking about the federal minimum — but that sure seems to be the tenor of his comments.

In other words, Romney is willing to condemn lower-skilled workers to unemployment, in hopes that he will gain some sort of short-term political advantage. In this regard, he will be just like Bush.

For a good explanation of why the government should not try to dictate wages, here’s a video narrated by one of my former interns.

It’s also worth noting that the minimum wage imposes disproportionate damage on the African-American community, as Walter Williams has explained.

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The White House doubtlessly is happy that the unemployment rate has dropped to 8.5 percent, in part because the President is much more likely to get reelected if voters think the economy is heading in the right direction.

My political predictions have a mixed track record, so take this for what it’s worth, but I’ve been telling audiences for quite some time that Obama will definitely win reelection if the joblessness rate drops to 8 percent or below by next November.

But the latest drop in the unemployment is not unambiguous good new for the Obama Administration.

Before explaining why, let’s take a brief detour and look at how the unemployment rate is calculated. The key thing to understand is that there are two moving parts. First, the government estimates the number of unemployed people. That’s the obvious part of the calculation.

But in order to calculate the unemployment rate, the government has to estimate the size of the labor force. But this is not a simple number to calculate because many people who could work – such as women with young children, students, people approaching retirement age – sometimes decide that their time could be better spent doing other things.

So the government has to look at all the people who don’t have jobs and guess how many of them would like to work.

With this in mind, let’s look at the unemployment rate. The simple way to think about unemployment numbers is that the joblessness rate can rise or fall for good reasons and bad reasons.

If the unemployment rate drops because hundreds of thousands of jobs are being created each month, that’s obviously good news.

But if the jobless rate falls because the government estimates that lots of people have become discouraged and dropped out of the labor force, then that’s not good news.

In other words, sometimes the unemployment rate, by itself, doesn’t tell the full story.

That’s why one of the best statistics to look at is the employment-population ratio, which measures the number of people who have jobs and compares it to the number of people who could have jobs.

And by this measure, the Obama White House can’t be very happy. As illustrated in the chart, the job numbers have barely begun to recover.

This is a woefully under-reported piece of data. A few news outlets do mention the phenomenon of “discouraged workers” dropping out of the labor market, but only policy geeks like me seem to pay attention.

But the employment-population ratio does have real-world implications. The economy’s overall level of output (i.e., national income, gross domestic product, etc) depends on how many people are working. And that is what determines whether living standards are rising, falling, or stagnating.

This is why the Obama Administration can’t rely of a falling unemployment rate. As I’ve explained elsewhere, the American economy appears to have suffered a permanent loss of output in recent years.

So what does this mean, for those of you who care about political implications of economic statistics? The honest answer is that I have no idea. But since living standards are still stagnant, a falling joblessness rate won’t necessarily translate into a victory for the incumbent party.

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I’ve written before about the perverse impact of the unemployment insurance program, and I’ve even cited how left-wing economists such as Paul Krugman and Larry Summers admit that you get more joblessness when you pay people for not working.

I’ve even shared a very good cartoon making the same point. And who can forget Nancy Pelosi’s mindless comments about unemployment benefits being a great way to stimulate job creation.

But sometimes it helps to have real-world anecdotes, and this letter-to-the-editor from a newspaper in Ohio is very educational. Here are key excerpts.

Little did I know that attempting to hire the employees needed, which I had thought to be the easiest part, would turn out to be a nightmare if not impossible. …Before 2009 if our company advertised for an open position, on average we would get 20 to 30 applications, interview six to eight of the applicants, and hire one or two, based on the quality and potential of the candidates. This process has been deteriorating dramatically since 2009 and now at the end of 2011 it has completely hit bottom. Of all the applications that we have received this year, when asked why they were seeking a job with us, one out of three answered: my unemployment is running out and I have to go back to work. Earlier this year after I hired two new full-time employees, went through our company’s orientation process, fitted them with our work clothing and booked them to start within a week, they both quit. One called ahead of the start date to apologize but wanted to inform us he would not be coming in because the government had just extended unemployment benefits again. The second one just did not show on his first day and when I called him he said he couldn’t come in now because unemployment had been extended and he was making almost as much as we were planning to start him out with.  …Our government is considering extending unemployment benefits again soon. The final absurdity might be that extending unemployment is the only thing that both the Democratic and Republican majorities both agree on.

By the way, here’s a post with a similar real-world story from Detroit.

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Even though leftist economists such as Paul Krugman and Larry Summers have admitted that unemployment insurance benefits are a recipe for more joblessness, the White House is arguing that Congress should enact legislation to further subsidize unemployment.

It’s understandable that the Obama Administration is concerned about the issue. These four charts show that the labor market is in terrible shape.

But how can we convince the President that more government is just making a bad situation even worse? What will it take to educate him about the need to reduce government-imposed barriers to job creation?

Perhaps this cartoon will do the trick

And if statists learn from this cartoon, then maybe we should show them another cartoon showing the link between unemployment insurance benefits and joblessness.

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Herman Cain probably had the best reaction to the President’s speech: “We waited 30 months for this?”

My reaction yesterday was mixed. In some sense, I was almost embarrassed for the President. He demanded a speech to a joint session of Congress and then produced a list of recycled (regurgitated might be a better word) Keynesian gimmicks.

But I was also angry. Tens of millions of Americans are suffering, but Obama is unwilling to admit big government isn’t working. I don’t know whether it’s because of ideological blindness or short-term politics, but it’s a tragedy that ordinary people are hurting because of his mistakes.

The Wall Street Journal this morning offered a similar response, but said it in a nicer way.

This is not to say that Mr. Obama hasn’t made any intellectual progress across his 32 months in office. He now admits the damage that overregulation can do, though he can’t do much to stop it without repealing his own legislative achievements. He now acts as if he believes that taxes matter to investment and hiring, at least for the next year. And he now sees the wisdom of fiscal discipline, albeit starting only in 2013. Yet the underlying theory and practice of the familiar ideas that the President proposed last night are those of the government conjurer. More targeted, temporary tax cuts; more spending now with promises of restraint later; the fifth (or is it sixth?) plan to reduce housing foreclosures; and more public works spending, though this time we’re told the projects really will be shovel-ready.

And let’s also note that Obama had the gall to demand that Congress immediately enact his plan – even though he hasn’t actually produced anything on paper!

And then, for the cherry on the ice cream sundae, he says he wants the so-called supercommittee to impose a bunch of class-warfare taxes to finance his latest scheme.

What began as tragedy has now become farce.

If you didn’t see it when I posted it a month or so ago, here’s the video I did last year when Obama was proposing a second faux stimulus. Now that he’s on his fourth of fifth jobs-bill/stimulus/growth-package/whatever, it’s worth another look.

Though I must confess that I made a mistake when I put together this video. I mistakenly assumed the economy would have at least managed to get back to a semi-decent level of growth. More confirmation that economists are lousy forecasters.

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President Obama may have a buddy-buddy relationship with big labor, but he’s no friend to ordinary workers. Here are four damning pieces of evidence.

1. The unemployment rate remains above 9 percent according to the Labor Department data released on Friday.

This is about 2-1/2 percentage points higher than Obama promised if would be at this stage if we adopted the failed stimulus.

This is a spectacular failure.

2. Black unemployment has jumped to 16.7 percent.

I’ve already commented on how Obama has produced bad results for the African-American community, and the joblessness numbers are rather conclusive.

What makes that figure especially remarkable is that the black unemployment rate during the Obama years is more than 50 percent higher than it was during the Bush years.

3. More than 40 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for more than six months.

These bad numbers almost certainly are caused, at least in part, by the unemployment insurance program – as even senior Democrat economists have acknowledged.

4. Millions of people have dropped out of the labor force, dropping the employment-population ratio to the lowest level in decades.

Here’s the chart I posted last month. It hasn’t changed, and it’s perhaps the clearest evidence that Obama’s policies are crippling America’s long-run economic outlook.

All four of these charts are bad news. But the economy periodically hits a speed bump. The real problem is not bad numbers, but the fact that bad numbers have persisted for several years.

And the really bad news is that there is little reason to expect a turnaround given the current Administration’s affinity for bigger and more burdensome government.

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We all know about the wretched failure of Obama’s stimulus, and we can update the chart showing that the joblessness rate is two-and-one-half percentage points higher than the White House claimed it would be at this point if we flushed $800 billion down the Washington rat-hole.

But we also should pay attention to the second Obama jobs disaster. This chart shows the employment-population ratio from the Department of Labor, and it reveals that the number of people participating in the labor force has fallen off a cliff since 2008.

The decline began during the big-government Bush years, so Obama does not deserve all the blame. But we can say that his policies have hindered the economy’s natural tendency to bounce back from a downturn.

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