Sequestering the unemployed

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One of the distinguishing aspects of the Great Recession has been the record number of workers coping with long-term unemployment — without a job for 27 weeks or longer. The May jobs report from the federal government put the number at 4.4 million people, or nearly two-fifths of those looking for work.

The previous high came in June 1983, when the long-term unemployed accounted for 26 percent of the jobless. Congress responded well for a time, extending the availability of jobless benefits, reaching as many as 99 weeks in some states. Yet the past year or so, lawmakers have narrowed the window, and lately, the sequester has hit.

The sequester involves $85 billion in automatic budget cuts, taking a heavy toll on domestic discretionary spending. A detrimental impact has been felt in such areas as public housing, furloughs for federal employees, including defense workers, and scientific research.

Such line items have little, if anything, to do with the country’s deficit problem, health spending, in particular, growing at rates that cannot be sustained for the long term. What is particularly harsh is requiring the unemployed to share the burden, or those who have experienced the toughest road in the recession and beyond.

On Tuesday, the National Employment Law Project released an analysis showing that the long-term jobless face an average reduction of $43 on a weekly payment of $289. In Ohio, the reduction amounts to 16 percent, though limited to a smaller share of the long-term unemployed. Who says the sequester won’t make a difference in real lives?


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