Several stories over the past few days have put a little more flesh on the grisly unemployment numbers of the past several months. A quick spin through some of the better ones:
If you’re one of those people who presumes that the majority of the hundreds of thousands of workers getting tossed off the job each month are at least getting unemployment benefits, think again. On Friday, Barbara Hagenbaugh of USA Today presented an absolutely dismal set of numbers on America’s unemployed. And as usual, the impact is greatest on those who are living closest to the line economically.
“While 13.2 million people were unemployed in March, approximately 5.8 million were collecting unemployment benefits at the end of the month, double the number from a year ago, the government said Thursday. That means less than half of those who were out of work and were actively trying to find a new job were receiving unemployment benefits….
“Often, those who worked part time or who were not at their job for very long before being laid off are not eligible. That tends to disproportionately include women, low-income workers and people with more seasonal jobs, such as construction, according to the NELP. A 2007 report from the Government Accountability Office found low-wage workers were about one-third as likely to collect unemployment benefits as those earning more.”
The very same job market contraction that’s causing many workers to be chopped off payrolls before they qualify for benefits is causing a lot of people who do qualify to remain out of work for longer than the benefits last. The federal stimulus package signed in February includes all of $7 billion to help states channel aid to those who might not otherwise get anything–enough to provide temporary assistance to about half a million, according to the National Employment Law Project, but a drop in the bucket compared to the scope of the problem.
As the New York Times noted this weekend, laid-off workers over the age of 45 are having an especially hard time of it, comprising more than their share of the long-term (six months or more) unemployed. Elsewhere in the Times, Eric Eckholm reports that at least 34 states are dealing with their fiscal crises through cuts to programs for the most vulnerable and needy Americans. Few states if any will ultimately escape this trap, which for the time being is mitigated by the infusion of federal stimulus dollars.
Where does all this lead? Check out Kathy Sanborn’s Counterpunch dispatch on the proliferation of tent cities.