Summer jobs program, payroll tax cut could put many back to work
As the recession looms and families figure out how to pay the bills and keep their homes, no other segment of society has been hit harder than Black people. For more than 1.4 million African Americans, weeks have turned into months, and months into years.
It’s no secret, throughout President Barack Obama’s term in office, he has been criticized incessantly by pundits and those within the Congressional Black Caucus, who feel that he has not done enough to help African Americans in general.
So when he went before Congress last week with his $450 billion jobs bill, many wondered how this bill — providing it passes the GOP-controlled House intact — would significantly help people of color, particularly African Americans.
“It will be an extraordinary benefit to well over a million and half African American people…who are unemployed, because of the way the program is structured,” said U.S. Rep. Chaka Fatah, a Democrat who represents Pennsylvania’s second congressional district. “It will provide benefits to the long-term unemployed. There is a tax benefit to a company that hires someone who has been unemployed for more than six months. The bill also focuses on veterans and there are parts of the program that will help young people who are out of work as well.”
Here are some reasons why the president’s new Jobs Bill can help African Americans:
• The extension of unemployment insurance will benefit 1.4 million African- Americans and their families. At the same time, the president is proposing bipartisan reforms that will enable that — as these families continue to receive benefits — the program is better tailored to support re-employment for the long-term unemployed.
• Targeted support for the long-term unemployed could help the 1.4 million African-Americans who have been looking for work for more than six months: To help them in their search for work, the president is calling for a new tax credit for hiring the long- term unemployed.
• A commitment to rebuilding and revitalizing communities across the country will target investments to the communities hardest-hit by the recession. The president’s investments in infrastructure include a school construction initiative with a significant commitment to the largest urban school districts, an investment in revitalizing communities that have been devastated by foreclosures, and a new initiative to expand infrastructure employment opportunities for minorities, women, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
• Support for subsidized jobs and summer/year-round jobs for African-American youth — for whom unemployment is above 30 percent. In an environment with an unemployment rate of 32.4 percent for African-American youths, the president is proposing to build on successful programs like the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund to create jobs and provide training for those hardest-hit by the recession.
• An extension and expansion of the payroll tax cut for nearly 20 million African-American workers. By extending the payroll tax cut for employees next year and expanding it to cut payroll taxes in half, the president’s plan will help increase the paychecks of nearly 20 million African-American workers.
The early response to the bill has been favorable amongst Blacks, who had grown weary with the president throughout the years. Many felt he was indifferent to their needs.
Many hope the president’s Jobs Bill will translate into reduced misery for them over the coming months. While the country's unemployment rate stands at 9.1 percent, Black unemployment has hit 16.7 percent, the highest since 1984. Unemployment among male blacks is at 18 percent, and black teens are unemployed at a rate of 46.5 percent.
“Particularly in the African-American community, which often times has been expected to flourish and thrive without any investment at all and have done so in spite of a lack of resources, I think this (jobs bill) will be something that will be welcomed in our community and will be significant,” said Cindy Bass, the nominee for City Council for the Eight District. “I think it will be beneficial when it comes to employment readiness and opening up job opportunities for people of color. More than we have seen in quit sometime."
Prominent African-Americans like Kenneth Chenault, chairman and CEO of American Express and Mayor Michael Nutter, quickly applauded the plan. U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who has been one of the most vocal advocates for dealing more effectively with Black unemployment, was enthusiastic.
For the president, it was a welcome change in tone after a steady drumbeat of criticism from members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who held their own job fairs and town hall meetings while protesting that Obama's jobs tour across America last month bypassed black communities.
The caucus' urban blitz cleared a path for the country's first Black president to act, Waters said.
"I can see that our handprint is all over it," Waters said of Obama's plan. "We upped the ante a little bit by pushing, being a bit more vocal. This was not done in a way to threaten the president but to make it easier for him. We think we helped him to be able to formulate a response."
The jobs plan was praised by Ralph Everett, president and chief executive of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a nonpartisan black think tank.
Although the president did not specifically mention high unemployment among blacks, black people "are sophisticated enough to understand" how their communities will benefit, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said Friday.
"Obviously there is a debate raging, saying that we should come out and say this expressly for the Black and Latino community," Kirk said. "But this president got elected spectacularly on his premise that we are not a black America, a brown America, a white America. We are one America."
The White House moved quickly to capitalize politically on the good will, emailing an extraordinary blast of supportive statements from elected officials, union leaders and interest groups within minutes after Obama spoke Thursday night.
On Friday, while the president pushed his American Jobs Act in Richmond, Va., his aides promoted targeted relief to Hispanics, teachers, police officers, construction workers, small businesses and others.
Administration officials said the plan would extend unemployment benefits and provide support for 1.4 million blacks who have been unemployed six months or longer. It also would provide summer and subsidized jobs for youth; help boost the paychecks of 20 million black workers through an extension and expansion of the payroll tax, and benefit, in some way, more than 100,000 black-owned small businesses.
"With over 16 percent of African-Americans out of work and over 1 million African-Americans out of work over six months, I think the president believes this is a serious problem and the onus is on us to do everything we can to tackle this," Danielle Gray, deputy director of the National Economic Council, told reporters.
White House adviser Valerie Jarrett promoted Obama's plan on Steve Harvey's syndicated morning radio show, saying it would help "every part of our country, but particularly those who are the most vulnerable, who have been struggling the hardest, who have been trying to make ends meet and all they need is a little help from their government."
A factor in the early enthusiasm in Obama's plan with blacks is that most accept that, as the country's first black president, there are limits to what he can do about their specific problems — especially as he heads into the 2012 campaign.
“Obviously the president cares about the African American community as he does all Americans,” said Fattah. “This bill will benefit the African American community and the broader community as whole, because the minute someone goes to work, they start spending money. And that’s what stimulates the economy. It will have significant benefits in cities like Philadelphia, Detroit, Cincinnati, Chicago and the likes. I think what the president has done is structure a program that deals with the hardest hit communities.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
As the unemployment rate nears eight percent in Pennsylvania and nine percent across the country, many people are wondering what they need to do in order to obtain a good job in today’s job market.
Rather than viewing this issue as cause for despair, Tyrena Richardson looked at the unemployment rates as a cause for action.
Richardson, a member of the Prayer Chapel Church of God in Christ in Upper Darby, was unemployed for nine months after working in human resources since 1996. Determined not to let her situation defeat her, she decided she was going to help other people who were going through the same situation.
Richardson will be teaming up with her church for a job fair on Friday, Sept. 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The job fair will be held on the church’s grounds. The event is sponsored by Seeking with a Purpose (S.W.A.P.) ministry. The ministry’s mission is to help people who are looking to be gainfully employed. Richardson is the ministry leader.
“Rather than going through why I am going through this, I decided that I wanted to help other people that was going through the same thing as me,” Richardson said. “I went to my pastor, Reverend Nathaniel Goodson Jr., and asked him if I could help people find jobs by giving them advice. I started helping people with their résumés and [began] conducting mock interviews with people who were uncomfortable in job interviews.
“I do a face-to-face assessment with people when I go over their résumé,” she said. “I ask them, does their résumé capture what they want their employer to see. A lot of the résumés that I do need to be a little bit more detail oriented. In your résumé you have to [shape] it to what your accomplishments and skills are, so I think the most crucial part for job seekers is having that confidence and putting it down on paper. I want people to understand how important it is to sell yourself in order to obtain a job.”
Some of the businesses participating in the job fair are Allied Barton Security Systems, Colonial Penn Insurance Company, Community YMCA of Eastern Delaware County, the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS), Embassy Suites Hotels, Horizon House Inc., Juno Search Partners, the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Penn Financial LLC, Target, U.S. Army, U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy.
“I wanted to bring employers into the neighborhood, so that people who have varying skills set could meet different employers,” Richardson said. “The desire for the job fair is that it truly be diverse in nature and really transcend all lines of business and all industries.
“The job fair became a desire to give back to the community, because the church is a large part of the foundation of the community,” she said. “I want people to feel encourage, empowered and uplifted when they come to this job fair. They need to know that they are not alone and we care.”
In addition to the job fair, there will also be a free seminar for attendees. The seminar speaker will be career and leadership development consultant, coach and trainer of Career Consciousness Inc., Helen A. Richardson. Radio personality Marcus C. Smith, also known as Brother Marcus from Praise 103.9, will also be at the seminar.
“I just want to lift people up and inspire them,” Richardson added. “We all have the ability to touch a life. Everything happens for a reason, but it is up to us to help each other in time of need.”
Long-term unemployment impairs recovery
The Black unemployment rate has surged to a 27-year high.
The U.S. Labor Department recently reported that Black unemployment rose to 16.7 percent in August, while the rate for whites fell to eight percent.
Black unemployment has risen to its highest level since 1984.
Christian E. Weller, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, says there are varying reasons why high rates of unemployment continue to persist among African Americans.
Weller said the phenomenon of high unemployment spans across all subgroups of African Americans — whether you look at it by gender, age or educational attainment.
One reason has to do with economic impact on sectors that traditionally employed African Americans. For instance, Weller noted that Black men tend to be disproportionately employed in manufacturing, while Black women traditionally work in the areas of teaching and administrative jobs in local governments.
“To some degree this is a story about sectors — the sectors where African Americans have found job opportunities in the past — but those sectors are suffering more than other parts of the economy where African Americans are less represented,” said Weller.
“The other part is that unemployment sort of creates a vicious cycle. We have now had about 10 years of very high long-term unemployment. Once people lost their job, they were out of a job for long periods of time,” he said.
Weller says that when people are out of work for a long period of time, they start falling behind in terms of using their skills and keeping up with the latest technology being used in their fields — making them even less attractive to potential employers.
Algernon Austin, director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy, Economy Policy Institute is concerned that government budget cuts could lead to more job loss for African Americans.
“Because the federal government wants to join in and make cuts, we’re going to continue to see shrinking employment in the federal, state and local levels,” Austin said.
“African Americans are disproportionately in the public sector — particularly Blacks with college degrees. I am worried about job loss for the Black middle class going forward.”
Economist Bernard Anderson says that there are both short-term and long-term solutions to the problem of high unemployment for African Americans.
He said the short-term solution is to get the economy growing faster.
“If it’s one thing we know about the variability of employment in the Black community, it is that there is a direct relationship between the rate of growth in Black employment and the rate of growth in the economy as a whole. They will be employed if the economy is growing faster and there is a significant increase in the demand for labor,” said Anderson.
“The long-term solution is for Black workers to become more employable in those industries that are likely to grow fastest,” he said, noting this will require more education and more training.
“There aren’t many jobs available in this economy for people who don’t have a good education.”
According to the Labor Department, the nation’s general unemployment rate is 9.1 percent. The number of long-term unemployed — those jobless for 27 weeks or more — was six million in August and accounted for 42.9 percent of the unemployed. There was zero net increase in jobs during the month of August.
NEW YORK — Bank of America will cut about 30,000 jobs over the next few years in a bid to save $5 billion per year. The cost-cutting drive is part of a broader effort to reshape and shrink the nation's largest bank as it copes with fallout from the housing bust.
The bank announced the job cuts in a statement shortly after Brian Moynihan, the bank's CEO, disclosed the cost-saving goals in an address to investors in New York. "We're a much simpler company than we were 24 months ago," Moynihan said.
Bank of America stock was up 2 cents at $7 at midday. The stock has lost half its value this year, largely over problems related to poorly-written mortgages it acquired with its 2008 purchase of Countrywide Financial Corp. The bank faces lawsuits from investors and regulators over the sales of mortgage-backed securities that lost value after the housing boom collapsed.
The job cuts follow a revamp of the bank's top management team last week. Two senior executives, wealth management head Sallie Krawcheck and head of consumer banking Joe Price, left the bank. The bank also elevated commercial banking chief David Darnell and investment banking head Tom Montag to co-chief operating officers, reporting to Moynihan.
The latest job cuts will lead to a 10 percent reduction in the bank's work force of 288,000. The cuts come on top of 6,000 positions the bank has already eliminated through the third quarter of this year.
The Charlotte, N.C. company said it expects many of the cuts to come through attrition and eliminating unfilled positions. The bank says the number of job cuts isn't fixed, but that it expects they will total 30,000. It hopes to save $5 billion in annual costs through 2014 under a cost-cutting plan dubbed internally as "Project New BAC." -- (AP)
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama bluntly challenged Congress Monday to act immediately on his new jobs plan, brandishing a copy of the legislation in the Rose Garden and demanding: "No games, no politics, no delays."
Surrounded by police officers, firefighters, teachers, construction workers and others he said would be helped by the $447 billion package, the president said the only thing that would block its passage would be lawmakers deciding it wasn't good politics to work with him. "We can't afford these same political games, not now," Obama said.
The president said he was sending the package to Congress later Monday, after unveiling it last week in a speech to a joint session of Congress. Then he's heading out to try to sell it to the public, on Tuesday in Ohio — home state of House Speaker John Boehner — and Wednesday in North Carolina.
At the same time, the Democratic National Committee is backing up the effort with a new ad campaign in politically key states from Nevada to New Hampshire.
The centerpiece of the plan cuts payroll taxes that pay for Social Security, giving a tax break to workers and businesses. There's also new spending for teachers and school construction, and an extension of jobless benefits, among other elements. Republican lawmakers who control the House have promised quick review of the legislation and seem open to the tax-cutting elements, but some have already rejected new spending.
Boehner had a measured response to Obama's comments Monday, pledging to review it carefully.
"The record of the economic proposals enacted during the last Congress necessitates careful examination of the president's latest plan as well as consideration of alternative measures that may more effectively support private-sector job creation," the speaker said in a statement. "It is my hope that we will be able to work together to put in place the best ideas of both parties and help put Americans back to work."
The White House detailed the specifics Monday on how the legislation would be paid for. It would rely on a series of tax hikes that have all previously been proposed by the White House and rejected by Republicans. They are:
—$400 billion from limiting the itemized deductions for charitable contributions and other deductions that can be taken by individuals making over $200,000 a year and families making over $250,000;
—$40 billion from closing loopholes for oil and gas companies;
—$18 billion from requiring fund managers to pay higher taxes on certain income;
—$3 billion from changing the tax treatment of corporate jets.
White House budget director Jacob Lew said that Obama will also include those tax proposals in a broader debt-cutting package he plans to submit to a congressional supercommittee charged with finding $1.2 trillion in savings later this year. He said that the supercommittee would have the option of accepting the payment mechanisms for the jobs bill proposed by Obama, or proposing new ones.
In his Rose Garden comments, Obama adopted a newly sharp tone that has pleased dispirited Democrats, deriding Republican opposition at a time when the economy has stalled and unemployment stands at 9.1 percent.
"Instead of just talking about America's jobs creators, let's actually do something for America's jobs creators," Obama said. "We can do that by passing this bill."
But despite his suggestion that the GOP is playing politics, Obama himself has a huge political stake in success of the legislation. The 2012 presidential campaign is ramping up with Republican hopefuls attacking Obama at every turn over his stewardship of the economy, and polls showing deep public unhappiness with his economic leadership.
The new DNC ad campaign was to air beginning Monday in eight swing and early voting states, urging viewers to "Read it. Fight for it. ... Pass the President's Jobs Plan." -- (AP)
WASHINGTON — The unemployment rate, which has refused to budge from the 9 percent neighborhood for two and a half frustrating years, fell sharply in November, driven in part by small businesses that finally see reason to hope and hire.
Economists say there is a long way to go, but they liked what they saw.
The rate fell to 8.6 percent, the lowest since March 2009, two months after President Barack Obama took office. Unemployment passed 9 percent that spring and had stayed there or higher for all but two months since then.
The country added 120,000 jobs in November, the Labor Department said Friday. Private employers added 140,000 jobs, while governments cut 20,000.
The economy has generated 100,000 or more jobs five months in a row — the first time that has happened since April 2006, well before the Great Recession.
"Something good is stirring in the U.S. economy," Ian Shepherdson, an economist at High Frequency Economics, said in a note to clients.
The stock market rallied at the opening bell, after the report came out, but finished flat for the day. It was still up 787 points for the week. The only bigger point gain in a week was in October 2008, when stocks lurched higher and lower during the financial crisis.
The report showed that September and October were stronger months for the job market than first estimated. For four months in a row, the government has revised job growth figures higher for previous months.
September was revised up by 52,000 jobs, for a gain of 210,000. October was revised up by 20,000, for a gain of 100,000.
Unemployment peaked at 10.1 percent in October 2009, four months after the Great Recession ended. It dipped to 8.9 percent last February and 8.8 percent last March but otherwise was at or above 9 percent.
The rate fell not just because people found jobs. About 300,000 people simply gave up looking for work, and were no longer counted as unemployed. People routinely enter and leave the work force, though 300,000 is more than usual.
Obama, who faces a re-election vote in less than a year and a presidential campaign that will turn on the economy, seized on the decline to argue for expanding a cut in the tax that workers pay toward Social Security.
The tax cut affects 160 million Americans. It lowers a worker's Social Security tax by up to $2,136 a year. Someone earning $50,000 a year saves $1,000 with the tax cut. It will expire Dec. 31 unless Congress acts.
Republicans and Democrats have supported an extension but differ on how to pay for it. The Senate on Thursday defeated plans from both parties. Republicans had proposed paying for the cut by freezing the pay of federal workers through 2015. Democrats wanted to raise taxes on people making $1 million or more a year.
"Now is not the time to slam the brakes on the recovery. Right now it's time to step on the gas," Obama said Friday.
Inside the unemployment report, one of the most closely watched indicators of the economy's health, were signs of improvement for small businesses, which employ 500 or fewer people and account for half the jobs in the private sector.
The government uses a survey of mostly large companies and government agencies to determine how many jobs were added or lost each month. It uses a separate survey of households to determine the unemployment rate.
The household survey picks up hiring by companies of all sizes, including small businesses and companies just getting off the ground. It also includes farm workers and the self-employed, who aren't included in the survey of companies.
The household survey has shown an average of 321,000 jobs created per month since July, compared with an average of 13,000 the first seven months of the year.
When the economy is either improving or slipping into recession, many economists say, the household survey does the better job of picking up the shift because it detects small business hiring.
"We might finally be seeing new business creation expand again, which is critical to the sustainability of the recovery," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, a financial services company.
The National Federation of Independent Business, a small business group, said Friday that its own survey of small companies in November found that more of them are planning to add workers than at any time since September 2008, when the financial crisis struck.
LogicBoost, a Washington, D.C., software consulting firm with 19 employees, has hired a sales worker and a marketing worker in the past three months and planned to post an opening for a software engineer Friday.
"Business is going gangbusters," CEO Jonathan Cogley said. "It would be great if the economy were stronger. I think we'd be growing even faster."
Outside Detroit, Grace Dersa opened the Frank Street Bakery this week with her husband. They took the $60,000 gamble after seeing signs that the local economy is improving. They, too, plan to add a worker soon.
"When we go to a restaurant here, there's a 30-minute to two-hour wait. Homes are selling in this area," Dersa said. "People are spending."
Indeed, Americans dropped a record $52.4 billion over the Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation, a trade group. A separate report from MasterCard found spending was up almost 9 percent from last year.
The unemployment report was the latest encouraging indicator for the economy. Other reports this week have shown that factories are producing more, construction is growing, and people are buying more cars.
The accelerating debt crisis in Europe has loomed over the economy for months. An economic collapse there would hammer sales of American exports. And if the crisis caused banks to stop lending money, the world economy would suffer.
But there are signs that Europe is moving toward a solution. Earlier this week, six central banks around the world made it easier for commercial banks overseas to borrow American dollars to do business. The coordinated action calmed financial markets and bought time for politicians to work something out.
The leaders of Germany and France appear to be pushing for stronger rules to make sure European governments are responsible with their budgets, the first step in a strategy to save the euro currency from collapse.
European leaders meet next Friday for a crucial summit on the matter.
In the United States, about 13.3 million people are counted as unemployed.
More than half the jobs added last month were by retailers, restaurants and bars. But professional and business services rose by 33,000, and those tend to be higher-paying jobs, such as engineers and accountants. The category also includes temporary jobs, which increased.
The household survey found that the number of unemployed fell by nearly 600,000 last month. About half found jobs, while the other half stopped looking for work. The decline of 600,000 is the biggest since January.
The so-called underemployment rate fell to 15.6 percent from 16.2 percent. That includes three groups: people who are unemployed and looking for work, people who are unemployed and have stopped looking, and people who are working part-time but would rather be working full-time.
But even with the recent gains, the economy isn't close to replacing the jobs lost in the recession. Employers began shedding workers in February 2008 and cut nearly 8.7 million jobs over the next 25 months. The economy has regained about 2.5 million.
And many people aren't getting raises. Average hourly pay slipped 2 cents last month to $23.18. In the past year, wages have risen 1.8 percent, but inflation has risen twice as fast, eroding buying power.
Obama may face voters next fall with the highest unemployment of a sitting president seeking election since World War II. Gerald Ford faced 7.8 percent unemployment when he lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976. Ronald Reagan faced 7.2 percent unemployment in 1984 and trounced Walter Mondale. Unemployment was 7.8 percent when Obama took office in January 2009.
The economy grew at a 2 percent annual rate in July, August and September. Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, estimates growth will speed up to 2.5 percent in the last three months of the year, but slow to 1.5 percent in 2012. Ashworth's estimate assumes a recession in Europe, but not a nightmarish collapse of the euro. -- (AP)
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Imploring Congress to follow his lead, President Barack Obama on Tuesday lobbied lawmakers to adopt his nearly $450 billion jobs plan, promising it would help workers in the construction industry and rebuild schools in crumbling condition. Said Obama: "My question to Congress is, what on earth are we waiting for?"
From a high school in the critical electoral state of Ohio, Obama delivered a fiery speech to plug his plan. The outdoor audience was receptive to the point of adopting his refrain and chanting it back to him, shouting: "Pass this bill!"
The event had the feel of an Obama re-election event, right down to the music that played as Obama came out to speak, suit coat off and sleeves rolled up on a sunny day. He tailored his latest pitch to how his proposed legislation would help education, built around a $25 billion spending initiative for school renovations.
In Ohio alone, Obama said, the bill would create jobs for tens of thousands of constructions workers.
Yet Republican lawmakers who control the House flatly oppose his plans to pay for his plan by raising taxes on wealthier Americans.
In trying to win over the voting public and build pressure on Congress, Obama has made his pitch in Virginia, the home state of House Republican Leader Eric Cantor, and Ohio, home of House Speaker John Boehner. He will travel on Wednesday to North Carolina.
Republicans on Capitol Hill say the president is merely repackaging ideas they have already rejected. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Obama was essentially daring Republicans to vote against his ideas again. "I think most people see through all this," McConnell said.
Obama's jobs package would offer tax cuts for workers and employers by reducing the Social Security payroll tax. Spending elements include more money to hire teachers, rebuild schools and pay unemployment benefits. There are also tax credits to encourage businesses to hire veterans and the long-term unemployed.
He proposes to cover most of the cost, nearly $400 billion, by limiting the deductions on charitable contributions and other items that wealthy people can take. There's also $40 billion from closing oil and gas loopholes, $18 billion from hiking taxes on certain income made by fund managers, and $3 billion from changing the tax treatment of corporate jets.
"We've got to make sure that everybody pays their fair share including the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations," said Obama outside Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School. "We've got to decide what our priorities are."
Boehner and other Republicans grew notably more skeptical Monday once the White House announced plans to pay for the costly measure entirely with tax increases on the rich and corporations. In turn, Obama renewed his attack on the GOP, contending they're standing in the way just to deny him a political win.
The crowd booed.
"This isn't about giving me a win, it's about giving the American people a win," Obama said.
On the public works projects, Republicans have made clear they're eyeing such new spending askance, but Obama said such the money is needed to repair aging classrooms and bring students high-tech equipment, as well as employ construction workers and others.
The Fort Hayes campus that includes the high school underwent a $60 million renovation adding improvements including modern graphic design classrooms, one of which Obama toured before making remarks.
For Obama, some progress on the economy has become a political imperative as he approaches his re-election campaign with the economy stalled, unemployment at 9.1 percent and polls showing the public unhappy with his stewardship of the issue.
Obama's top campaign strategist, David Axelrod, said Tuesday that the White House wants Congress to act on the entire bill rather than approaching it piecemeal. "We're not in a negotiation to break up the package," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America." ''It's not an a la carte menu."
But later Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney made clear that the president would sign elements of the package into law in pieces, if needed, if that's what lawmakers send him. He said the White House would prefer the bill is not changed but that "we understand how Congress works." -- (AP)
WASHINGTON — The American job market improved modestly in October, and economists looking deeper into the numbers found reasons for optimism — or at least what counts for optimism in this agonizingly slow economic recovery.
The nation added 80,000 jobs. That was fewer than the 100,000 that economists expected, but it was the 13th consecutive month of job gains. Fears of a new recession that loomed over the economy this summer have receded.
The unemployment rate nudged down, to 9 percent from 9.1 in September.
"Those are pretty good signs," said Michael Hanson, senior economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "We're hanging in there."
No one looking at Friday's report from the Labor Department saw a quick end to the high unemployment that has plagued the nation for three years. The jobless rate has been 9 percent or higher for all but two months since June 2009.
The government uses a survey of mostly large companies and government agencies to determine how many jobs were added or lost each month. It uses a separate survey of households to determine the unemployment rate.
The household survey picked up a much bigger job gain — 277,000 in October, and an average of 335,000 per month for the last three months. The household survey picks up hiring by companies of all sizes, including small businesses.
The household survey is more volatile and less comprehensive than the other survey, and is not followed as closely by economists. Still, job growth in the household survey has not been this strong for three months since the end of 2006.
People counting themselves self-employed increased by 200,000 in October, accounting for most of the increase, but it is difficult for economists to explain the three-month trend.
Economists pointed out other bright spots in the unemployment report:
— Average hourly wages rose 5 cents a week, to $23.19. More pay for workers means they have more spending power in the economy. Many businesses are waiting for customer demand to pick up before they hire in big numbers again.
— August and September turned out to be much better months for job creation than first thought. The nation added 104,000 jobs in August and 158,000 in September, a total of 102,000 more than earlier estimates. The August figure was first reported as zero.
— The number of people considered long-term unemployed, meaning they have been looking for work for at least six months, fell by 366,000, to 5.9 million. That is the fewest since April.
"Overall, while this report is not good enough, several key numbers are now moving in the right direction," Ian Shepherdson, an economist at High Frequency Economics, a data analysis company, told clients. He said the prospects for the next few months "seem to be improving."
The job gain was the smallest in four months. And because the population is always growing, it takes many more jobs, about 125,000 a month, to keep up with population growth, more to bring down the unemployment rate.
The job market turned consistently negative in February 2008. The nation lost jobs for 25 months in a row — almost 8.8 million in all. Since then, the economy has only recovered 2.3 million jobs. The adult nonmilitary population has grown 7.5 million.
The Federal Reserve earlier this week lowered its economic forecast for the rest of this year, and said unemployment is not expected to fall significantly through the end of next year. It should still be at 8 percent even through 2013, the Fed said.
President Barack Obama will almost certainly go before voters next November with the highest unemployment of any sitting president seeking re-election since World War II. The highest so far was Gerald Ford, who faced 7.8 percent unemployment in 1976 and lost to Jimmy Carter. Ronald Reagan faced 7.2 percent unemployment in 1984 and beat Walter Mondale in a landslide.
Obama, appearing at the G-20 economic summit in Cannes, France, said the U.S. economy is growing "way too slow." He repeated his call for Republicans in Congress to pass his $447 billion jobs bill, a mix of tax cuts and spending on roads and rail lines.
"There's no excuse for inaction," the president said.
On Thursday, Republicans in the Senate blocked a $60 billion measure for building and repairing infrastructure, the third in a string of defeats for Obama's jobs agenda. Republicans opposed it because it was tied to a tax surcharge for the wealthy and because they said it cost too much.
Republicans laid blame on Obama and Democrats in Congress for the economy's problems.
"At virtually every step of the way, President Obama and Democrats have increased uncertainty," said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas. "This has discouraged businesses from making new investments."
Hiring last month was broad. Professional and business services, which includes the accounting, engineering and temporary help industries, added 32,000 jobs. Hotels, restaurants and entertainment companies added 22,000. Health care added 12,000.
The construction industry cut 20,000 jobs for the month, the most since January. That industry is examined closely because a pickup in the housing market could add force to the economic recovery.
The private sector added 104,000 jobs for the month, but state and local governments cut 24,000 jobs, resulting in the net increase of 80,000. State and local governments have cut 288,000 jobs this year. That's unusual for an economic recovery, when state, local and federal governments typically are hiring workers.
But as the economy recovers and they receive more tax revenue, those layoffs should be limited in the months ahead, said Carl Riccadonna, senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank.
The number of discouraged workers, those who have given up looking for work and are no longer counted as unemployed, is down 47,000 from last year, at about 2.55 million. And there were fewer people with part-time jobs who were looking for full-time work, another positive sign.
The economy grew at an annual rate of 2.5 percent in July, August and September, its best performance in a year. In the first half of this year, the economy expanded at the slowest pace since the Great Recession ended in June 2009.
The stronger economy over the summer was powered by consumer spending, which grew three times as fast as it had this spring. Americans spent more even in the face of fears of a new recession and wild gyrations in the stock market.
Still, companies appear to be waiting for customer demand to pick up even more before they hire again in great numbers. People have been dipping into savings to finance their spending, and that may not be sustainable.
Companies learned during and after the recession to live with fewer employees. Worker productivity rose from July through September by the most in a year and a half. More productivity is usually good because companies can pay workers more without raising prices. But workers generally are not getting raises this time.
The Federal Reserve this week lowered its forecast of economic growth to 1.7 percent for this year, down from a forecast of 2.7 percent issued over the summer. It also says unemployment will not come down substantially through the end of 2012.
The economy has absorbed a series of body blows this year.
In the spring, the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan disrupted manufacturing of cars and other products in this country. The price of gas rose to a national average of almost $4 a gallon.
Then in the summer, Washington was seized by gridlock over whether to raise the borrowing limit for the federal government and how best to tackle the nation's long-term debt problem.
More recently, economists have fretted over a debt crisis in Europe. Europe buys 20 percent of American exports, so a slowdown there would take a bite out of the U.S. economy, too.
The Greek prime minister this week called for a surprise popular vote on a European plan to bail out the debt-addled Greek economy. He later backed down, but even if Greece is stabilized, other European economies are weighed down by debt. -- (AP)
WASHINGTON — Facing a frustrated public and a skeptical Congress, President Barack Obama will pitch at least $300 billion in jobs proposals aimed at getting Americans back to work quickly and forcing Republicans to take a share of the responsibility for solving the country's economic woes.
The underlying political strategy: If Obama can't get his ideas passed heading into his re-election year, he at least hopes to show why he shouldn't take the fall.
In a rare speech Thursday to a joint session of Congress, Obama is likely to offer a package of ideas that would affect people in their daily lives — tax relief, unemployment insurance, spending to support construction jobs, aid to states to keep people in their jobs. Businesses would get their own tax breaks. And he will promise a long-term plan to pay for it all.
Yet all of it ultimately will depend on a Republican-controlled House that has a different economic approach and no political incentive to help a Democrat seeking a second term.
White House officials said Obama would formally send his plan — coined by the administration as the American Jobs Act — to Congress next week.
Obama's chief of staff, William Daley, urged Republican lawmakers to abandon their politically driven refusal to work with Obama and take action on his jobs proposal. Daley declined to provide details of the president's jobs proposal, saying only that it would help teachers, construction workers, first responders and small businesses, and that many of the ideas have been supported by Republicans in the past.
"The only reason some of these people may not support it now is because of the politics that's going on, which is again unfortunate for the American people," Daley said.
He said the jobs programs would be paid for without borrowed money.
Obama is expected to propose paying for some of his jobs initiatives by closing corporate tax loopholes and increasing taxes on wealthier Americans, measures he failed to win during summer negotiations over increasing the nation's debt ceiling. Offsetting some cost of his economic plan with new tax revenue is likely to meet stiff resistance from Republicans, but the White House has argued that the public has supported a mix of spending cuts and revenue as a way to avoid higher deficits.
Daley said wealthy Americans "ought to pay a little more."
Obama's goal is also to put Republicans on the spot to act — in their face, and in their chamber. Obama is expected to speak for up to 45 minutes, beginning at 7 p.m. EDT.
Given the country's political and economic reality, two key questions hang over the president's speech: Will any of his ideas get approved, and will they actually work?
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he was hopeful that there would be some proposals the White House and Republicans could agree on.
"We know the two parties aren't going to agree on everything, but the American people want us to find common ground and I'm going to be looking for it," Boehner said.
But some other Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, were criticizing the planned proposals even before the president had uttered a word. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Obama seemed determined to simply reintroduce economic policies that haven't worked.
"It's time the president start thinking less about how to describe his policies differently and more time thinking about devising new policies," McConnell said.
A Pew Research poll out this week also found majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents skeptical that the proposals Obama is expected to discuss would do a lot to create jobs. And a series of new polls by major news organizations finds that the mood is downright dismal about the direction of the country, with Obama's standing and approval on the economy at or near the lowest levels of his presidency.
Yet voters are holding all leaders accountable, supporting the White House's point that Congress is under pressure to act, too. An Associated Press-GfK poll found that more people assign chief blame for the economy to former President George W. Bush and congressional Republicans and Democrats than to Obama.
Democrats familiar with the president's plans say the White House sees the speech as a pivot point after spending the spring and summer focused on negotiations over deficit spending. They say the fall offers the president a window to press congressional Republicans to act on his economic plan — and if they don't, Obama will spend 2012 running against them as obstructionists. Whether that's enough to win over voters is another matter.
Obama's chief campaign strategist, David Axelrod, said the president won't start with ideas that have been "preapproved" by Republicans in Congress.
"Ultimately, the test for any of these ideas: Are they right? Can they help the economy? Can they help get people back to work?" Axelrod told The Associated Press.
The president's plan to pay for his ideas is a political necessity in a time of fiscal austerity. Deficit-boosting stimulus spending is out. But here, too, he is banking on a lot of help.
Obama plans to cover the cost by asking a new congressional supercommittee debt panel to go beyond its target of finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction by the end of November, so the extra savings can pay for short-term economic help. That debt panel met for the first time Thursday.
In one upbeat sign for those looking for a Washington compromise, Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor have told Obama they see potential areas of agreement on jobs — for example, infrastructure, which Obama has pushed repeatedly. Cantor also signaled to reporters Wednesday that he might support a payroll tax cut.
"It is not games and politics for people out across this country. It's real," Cantor said about the state of the economic debate. "The fact that we have had such sustained joblessness in this country, the fact that people are doing anything they can in many instances just to stay afloat and to pay the bills, it's real."
At the heart of Obama's plan will be extending, by one more year, a payroll tax cut for workers that went into effect this year. The president wants the payroll tax, which raises money for Social Security, to stay at 4.2 percent rather than kick back up to 6.2 percent. That tax applies to earnings up to $106,800.
Obama is expected to seek continued unemployment aid for millions of people receiving extended benefits. That program, too, is set to expire at year's end.
Among the other potential proposals by Obama:
—Tax credits for employers who hire.
— A major school construction initiative.
— Aid to local governments to prevent layoffs of teachers and other workers.
—Other tax help for businesses, such as continuing to allow them to deduct the full value of new equipment.
Since Obama took office in January 2009, nearly 2 million Americans have lost jobs. Almost 14 million people are out of work.
The unemployment rate, which stood at 5 percent at the start of the deep recession and 7.8 percent when Obama began in office, is at 9.1 percent. Most troubling is the trend line. After a period of steady if modest job creation, employers have stopped hiring. -- (AP)
Despite silence on details, city says more building plans are in the works
Plans for a $60 million, nine-story, 246-room hotel adjacent to the Pennsylvania Convention Center were announced on Monday by a beaming Mayor Michael Nutter, who touted the project as a jobs generator.
“Every hotel generates economic activity and jobs,” he said. “Folks have to build it right here and of course people have to work in the hotel.”
Construction is expected to create 123 jobs and upon opening the hotel, the Hilton Home2 Suites is expected to generate 146 jobs.
In addition to more than 200 rooms, the project includes 846 parking spaces, 2,000 square feet of meeting space and 9,750 square feet of retail space. Groundbreaking at 12th and Arch streets is expected in December, with the building scheduled for completion early in 2013.
It was the second announcement of a new hotel in the last two weeks.
On Sept. 14, Nutter announced that Kimpton Hotels would open a new hotel, the Hotel Monaco, in the Lafayette Building on Independence Mall. That 286-room project is expected to create 400 construction jobs and employ 200 people when it opens.
Philadelphia hotels tend to employ people who live in Philadelphia, Nutter said on Monday while lauding Hilton’s plans.
“It is estimated that 80 percent of the jobs related to hotels here in the city of Philadelphia are held by Philadelphia residents,” he said. “It is a tremendous job generator. These are folks who live in the neighborhoods, who are taking care of themselves and taking care of their families.”
Earlier this month, administration officials told reporters that Nutter would make a number of “economic development” announcements this fall. They were expected to include announcements about the construction of six mid-sized hotels, expansion of a healthcare facility, relocation of a major company to the city and the opening of a new corporate headquarters.
Just after that, officials at Children’s Hospital announced an expansion in West Philadelphia and the Kimpton announced plans for Hotel Monaco. Administration officials remain mute as to what the other projects might be.
“All in all, when you consider us in comparison to some other cities across the country, quite frankly, we’ve done a little better than some other cities,” the mayor said. “That’s because of a tremendous diversity and great balance: education, medicine, pharmaceutics, life sciences, and of course, the green economy.”
Hilton’s hotel will be 25 percent more energy efficient than required by city code, earning green status with features like a partially green roof and a high-efficiency HVAC system.
Several city agencies will kick in funding for the hotel: $5 million in loans will come from the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., $3 million in EnergyWorks funds from PIDC and the Reinvestment Fund and $2.75 million from the state.
Officials estimate the city needs 1,000 more hotel rooms to match the recently completed expansion of the convention center.