November and December: These holiday months are meant to be cozy, exciting times with our families. But for many, this holiday season will be tough. I always think of the homeless when colder weather sets in, but this year my heart also goes out to the jobless. It will be difficult to buy Christmas gifts for the kids when mom or dad is out of a job.
But this is our state, America: Jobless claims rose this week 78,000 to 439,000, a two-and-a-half year high. Economists expected a surge after Hurricane Sandy, but they did not expect the surge to be quite so bad. Now economists say the uptick in jobless claims will be only temporary. We can only hope they are right.
Why a surge after a storm? (Don't broken windows create jobs a la Paul Krugman?) The increase is actually due to a hold-up in jobless claim reports, which depend on electronic systems that were down during the storm.
Usually this time of year opens some new employment opportunities (even if many of them are part-time, low-skill, minimum wage jobs). Retail establishments are usually looking for extra staff to open the doors at 3 am on Black Friday, etc.
But even Santa cannot solve our joblessness problem. As Fox News reports:
Continuing claims, which are filed by those out of work for more than a week, soared by 171,000 to 3,334,000 in the week ended November 3. That leaves this measure of unemployment at levels unseen since July 2008, just prior to the start of the U.S. financial crisis.
It is not a storm or "economic headwinds" (as the President is fond of saying) that are driving our economic and unemployment woes. Another component of this year's troubles comes from the federal government's inability to pass a budget, deal with sunsetting tax measures, and give American businesses the certainty they need to prepare for the next quarter (let alone the next year).
Paul Ryan frequently refers to the financial collapse of 2007/2008 saying it was a crisis we could not foresee. He urges his colleagues in Congress to act now to correct our budgeting problems, because a fiscal crisis is something we can easily foresee, and we are obligated now to avoid debt if we can, for the sake of the next generation.
Today we face a joblessness crisis, and for the sake of those today who are wondering how they will afford a Thanksgiving dinner or a Christmas gift, we should urge our government to be fiscally responsible and clear on forthcoming regulations. Congress should avoid job-costing tax increases, and the Adminstration should work to offer business-friendly guidance on a slew of year-end health-care rules.
Even then, it will take time for our economy to recover. The financial crisis and the recession were terrible, yes, but for the past few years the government has only made things worse for American businesses.