Jobs Numbers Jimmied by Bush Admin

Last week the Bush Labor Dept released unemployment numbers nearly double what was expected. Now, this week, the NY Post’s John Crudele writes that the real number is – hang onto your hats – 147,000. The difference is pure smoke.

[T]he total loss was 147,000 when you include revisions that were made to previous months.

Not scared yet?

Well, the government kept last Friday’s reported loss at just 80,000 by adding 142,000 make-believe jobs to the count.

Those are positions that the Labor Department believes but can’t prove were created by newly formed companies that are beyond the surveying abilities of the government.

That little bit of razzle-dazzle is called the Current Employment Statistics Birth/Death Model, and you can look up that 142,000 number if you don’t believe me.

Previously the government added 135,000 jobs to the February job count, which lessened the loss in that month.

(emphasis added)

Ooooooh. So that’s how it’s done. Is there any reality at all in those…um…projections? Well, probably not.

A closer look shows why these birth/death assumptions are so preposterous.

According to the government, 28,000 jobs were quietly created – but couldn’t be officially counted – last month in the construction industry.

Construction! And that’s despite the fact that the homebuilding industry nationwide is flat on the seat of its Levis.

And through birth/death modeling the Labor Department would also like you to believe that 6,000 new jobs were created in “financial activities.”

Unless the government is talking about the hiring of a new crop of bankruptcy attorneys that’s absolutely crazy.

And then there’s the addition of 23,000 jobs in what the government calls “professional and business services” – in short, consultants.

People lose their corporate positions and go out on their own – and the Labor Department thinks this is actually a new job.

So the numbers – which we already knew were cooked because they don’t include people whose unemployment has run out, people who have taken part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time work, people who gave up looking for a job altogether, and people who had to take menial labor far beneath their training and previous pay-rate – are actually hopelessly skewed by the inclusion of tens of thoousands of fantasy jobs?

Well, um…yeah. So this is the Bush Administration. So what’d you expect? Honesty?

Job Losses This Year Far Worse Than Expected

It’s not my intention to load up my blogs with bad news but it just keeps coming, hand over fist, faster than I can write it down. This week the Labor Dept released employment figures that were far worse than anyone expected.

Joblessness soared and employers cut back in March, the deepest job losses in five years and strong evidence that the housing and financial market distress has spooked employers.

The Labor Department numbers released yesterday were far worse than economists had forecast. The unemployment rate rose to 5.1 percent from 4.8 percent in February and 4.4 percent in March 2007. Employers reduced their payrolls by 80,000 jobs in March, the third straight month of decline. And the department revised the previous two months’ employment levels down by 67,000 positions.

“We’re in recession,” said David Wyss, chief economist of Standard & Poor’s. “It’s hard to conclude anything else.”

Yes, well, when it gets to the point that professional Bush cheerleader and Fed Chief Ben Bernanke is forced to admit in front of Congress that the R-word is indeed in force, you know it’s beyond bad and heading for really really awful.

Mind you, the 80,000 jobs lost in March (don’t you just love that “reduced their payrolls” dodge? It’s like firing people and telling them they’re not really fired, they’ve been “involuntarily leisured”. That’s right-wing PC.) were on top of the 63,000 lost in February, making the grand total for just the last 2 months some 143,000 jobs down the Bush spout.

All of which makes the Admin’s prediction that job losses for the entire year will top out at 2-300,000 kind of, you know, rosy.

300,000 jobs lost is the upbeat projection??  Only in Bush’s America.

This wouldn’t be such a problem if new jobs were being created alongside the lost ones only in different fields, but that isn’t what’s happening. The economy is so bad right now (the Dow went in the tank again Friday) that businesses are reluctant to expand and no new industries have appeared (possibly because govt R&D, which corporate America generally feeds off of like sharks on minnows, has been cut to the bone for nearly a decade) to take their place.

Among the latest to cut jobs: GE Healthcare Information Technologies in Tampa notified the state this week that it was laying off 72 workers that helped design patient monitoring systems used in hospitals. Mercury Insurance Group in Clearwater said it is laying off 58 workers in its call center and billing departments.

In the meantime, few new jobs are being created, Brown said. “The problem here is a lack of new hiring, rather than job losses.”

The WaPo’s Neil Irwin & Michael Fletcher for a change do a pretty neat job of laying out the chain of effect.

The report shows how the problems in the housing and financial markets are rippling through other sectors, reflecting the deep connections between seemingly separate parts of the economy.

The number of construction jobs, which has declined steadily for 18 months, continued to fall. That sector shed 51,000 positions, as fewer homes are being built.

Fewer houses mean less construction and building materials; the number of manufacturing jobs fell 48,000, with some of the steepest losses among makers of lumber, drywall, and other materials. Automakers also cut jobs.

With their homes less valuable, U.S. consumers seem to be spending less, which means stores need fewer workers. The number of retail jobs fell 12,400, with the steepest losses in sellers of building materials and appliances, which are strongly tied to the housing business.

Financial firms cut 5,000 jobs, with the biggest losses in “credit intermediation” companies, which includes banks and mortgage brokers.

This has caused businesses that have little to do with housing to become less confident about the future. Professional and business services, a sector that had been keeping the economy afloat, trimmed 35,000 jobs.

Yup, that’s pretty much how she blows. Which is, no doubt, why Sen Chris Dodd – the guy we didn’t want to be president – is trying to pass a bill to do what the DLC/BD Alliance has so far refused to do: help the homeowners instead of the bankers.

The chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, reacting to criticism that a bipartisan housing bill would do little for homeowners facing foreclosure, vowed yesterday to move quickly on broader legislation to help troubled borrowers get cheaper mortgages backed by public funds.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) said he will hold hearings next week on the measure, which is aimed at assisting distressed borrowers, particularly those who owe banks more than their homes are worth because of plummeting prices — an issue at the heart of the nation’s housing crisis. Under the proposal, the Federal Housing Administration would encourage lenders to forgive a portion of the loans and issue new, more affordable mortgages in exchange for the federal government’s financial backing.

Barney Frank is working on a similar bill in the House. The GOP/DLC/BD/Corporate Alliance is gearing up to torpedo both of them.

Hang onto your hat, everybody. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Minimum Wage Bill Tied to Iraq Funding (2 Updates)

Nancy Pelosi gets more interesting by the minute. Refusing to sit still for a threatened Republican filibuster of the minimum wage bill because the House cut $$$7Billion in corporate tax breaks out of the Senate version, she has come up with a whole new tactic: she’s tying it to the war appropriations package.

House leaders have added legislation raising the federal minimum wage to an emergency spending bill for the Iraq war. They hope to break a logjam with the Senate over the wage bill, a top Democratic priority that was once seen on Capitol Hill as a relatively easy compromise.

House leaders also hope the addition of the wage provisions will induce House liberals to vote for the $105 billion war package, which authorizes funds for Iraq while setting a timeline for withdrawal that would require combat operations to end by August 2008.

House Democrats unveiled the plan yesterday but did not release a draft of the legislation, saying that details were being worked out. According to Democratic aides, the proposal would increase the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour from $5.15 over two years and grant $1.3 billion in tax breaks for restaurants and other affected businesses.

Those provisions have already passed the House. The Senate also approved the wage increase, but added $8.3 billion in business tax breaks to placate Republicans in that chamber. House leaders oppose such a large tax package and hope to force a smaller one through the Senate by tying the minimum-wage increase to the Iraq bill.

The Republics, of course, have been furious because she wouldn’t let them turn a bill to raise the minimum wage for ordinary workers into a huge barrel of corporate pork. Continue reading

Joblessness Falls Slightly. Maybe.

At first blush, this looks like good news.

The number of laid-off workers filing for unemployment benefits dropped sharply last week after having been driven higher the previous week by storm-related layoffs.

The Labor Department reported that applications for jobless benefits totaled 332,000 last week, down by 27,000 from the previous week.

The prior week jobless claims had jumped by 46,000, the biggest one-week increase since September 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Part of that big increase occurred because of winter storms that boosted layoffs in such industries as construction.

The four-week moving average for claims edged up from 326,700 to 328,000, the highest level for this average since early December.

The problem is, it may not mean anything. Continue reading

The Minimum Wage Compromise

The minimum wage bill is back, and the House Ways and Means Committee has compromised though it hasn’t caved. Continue reading

Republicans Filibuster Minimum Wage Bill

I must be getting naive in my old age. I actually thought the minimum wage bill had so much momentum that the Republicans wouldn’t be able to stop it. I was wrong. Shameless Pub Senators, corporate puppets all, are staging a filibuster against the bill. The Democrats tried to end the “debate” but lost the cloture vote as the Pubs demanded – get this – more tax breaks for businesses to “make up” for what they will supposedly lose when the minimum wage is raised. Continue reading

Labor and Business Join for Immigration Reform

There is almost no coverage of unions or labor issues in the nation’s mainstream press. As Studs Terkel pointed out 15 or 20 years ago – and before that, for all I know – every newspaper has a Business Section, along with a Lifestyle Section (now that’s critical news), an Entertainment Section, an Automotive Section. Not one – not one – has a Labor Section. Nor have they ever had one, not even in the 50’s when 35% of the US workforce belonged to a union. When (if) they cover labor news at all, they usually put it in the Business Section where you can pretty much count on a certain, well, slant to the reporting. (There. I’ve said it.)

One day a year, at least, we used to be treated to saccherine paeans to the Old Labor Movement, although they were almost always quickly undercut by “historical reminders” of how corrupt the Teamsters were. Nowadays we don’t even get that. We get instead stories about the modern (mainly non-unionized) workforce “adapting” to the “new workplace”. I’ve seen articles on the incredible levels of employee stress, on employee health care, child care, and the “productivity costs” of absenteeism due to sick children or sick parents. In virtually all of these articles there are two glaring omissions: any mention of unions and any mention of employer responsibility for the problems discussed. Few business reporters are willing to bite the bullet and name the obvious culprit: employers who expect too much and pay too little for it.

I wrote about this in the previous post – and no, I’m not going to get back on that horse again here – because it is the biggest unaddressed issue in the working world today, and probably the biggest reason for workers to unionize. Labor unions, as I wrote a few days ago, have been looking for ways to make alliances with corporations and conservative groups that promise to cut through some of the built-in animosity that exists between them by joining together to work on issues common to both. Yesterday the Washington Post reported on the second such merger this week. This time the issue is immigration reform, and once again the SEIU is right in the middle of it. Continue reading