Interfaith Worker Justice

Working together to make good jobs a national priority.

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Unemployment in the African American Community

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As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. With this month’s release of unemployment rates, we see yet another sign that while economists say that the recession has ended, the reality of unemployment and under-employment remains true for millions of Americans—particularly those often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery.

The unemployment rate in the month of January increased to 7.9%. While the total jobless number is 12.3 million, 157,000 jobs were created in January.  Still there remains a startling 4.7 million who are long term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) — 38.1% of the unemployed population. Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was
7.3%, adult women 7.3%, whites 7%, blacks 13.8%, Hispanics 9.7%, and Asians 6.5%.

As our nation celebrates Black History Month, we also have to come to terms with the unfortunate reality that the average unemployment rate among blacks in 2012 was 13.8%. This has gone down significantly since the Great Recession peak of 16.7%. Still out of all racial and ethnic groups in 2012, blacks averaged the highest in joblessness (where whites were 7.2% and Hispanics were 10.3%).

Reports, including a February 2012 report, “The African-American Labor Force in the Recovery” from the Department of Labor, have found that out of all racial and ethnic groups, African-Americans have struggled the most with unemployment. “Aggregate numbers show that the African-American community as a whole has exhibited poorer labor market outcomes than other races even prior to the recession and during the recovery, demonstrating that they often
face different and greater challenges.”

One explanation for the higher rate of unemployment among this community is the cut back in public sector job creation. According to a November 2011 New York Times article, blacks are one-third more likely than whites to be employed in the public sector. According to the Department of Labor report, “The slower recovery for African-Americans in the labor market has been partly the result of government layoffs after the official end of the recession. Blacks have been more vulnerable to the drastic layoffs in government in the past two years because they make up a disproportionate share of public sector workers. Moreover, with the exception of health and education, Blacks are under-represented in the sectors that have experienced the greatest job growth during the recovery, including manufacturing and professional and business services.”

The Department of Labor reports, “Nearly half (49.5 percent) of all unemployed Blacks were unemployed 27 weeks or longer in 2011, compared to 41.7 percent of unemployed Whites and 39.9 percent of unemployed Hispanics.” Moreover, because blacks experience long-term unemployment at higher rates than other populations, it is likely that such families are also negatively impacted by cuts to safety net programs like food stamps, job training programs, and reductions in the amount of weeks unemployment insurance is available.

As Georgetown Law Center Professor Peter Edelman pointed out in his book So Rich, So Poor, in an earlier economic downturn, “nearly half of African American children who began their lives in middle-class circumstances when the economy began to sour landed in poverty (or near
it) when they grew up, whereas just one in six whites were downwardly mobile.” Unemployment among blacks results in more negative long term circumstances.

Economists may say the recession is over and recovery has begun, but many households and communities around the country, particularly among our most vulnerable populations, just don’t see this reality. This cannot be a full recovery if certain populations continue to be left behind.

As we consider these monthly reflections of our economy’s health, we remind our elected officials that they must act now on legislation that aims to create jobs and strengthen our economy for those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship, including the African-American community. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our emphasis must turn to putting people to work. When they are placed in this position, they can then examine how to use their creative energies for the social good.”

Jobless statement from Domestic Human Needs Coalition

You can find DHN’s Jobs Statement of Principles at

http://domestichumanneeds.org/uploads/DHN-Jobs-Statement-of-Principles.pdf.

 Organizations signed onto this statement:

American Friends Service Committee

Bread for the World

Church of the Brethren

Disciples Justice Action Network

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Interfaith Worker Justice

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

The Jewish Federations of North America

Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

The Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team

Union for Reform Judaism

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society

Reflecting Back, Looking Forward

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Reflecting on 2012, we give prayerful thought to the 12.2 million Americans who found themselves without a job at the year’s end. As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. While we are encouraged by the steady growth experienced over the past year, we remain particularly concerned for those individuals often left on the margins of the economic recovery. We also recognize that budgetary and deficit reduction decisions soon to be made by Congress may either enhance or repress this growth.

We began the year with a jobless rate of 8.3%, and ended the year with a decreased rate of 7.8%. The average unemployment rate for 2012 was 8.1%. Still, we continue to be deeply concerned about the long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), of which there were 4.8 million last month alone— 39.1% of the unemployed population. We were encouraged in December to see that Congress extended unemployment insurance through the end of the year, since this program is such a vital resource for the millions of people who are experiencing long-term unemployment.

Among specific worker groups the average unemployment rate in 2012 for adult men was 7.5%, adult women 7.4%, whites 7.2%, blacks 13.8%, Hispanics 10.3%, and Asians 6.0%. Charts with a month-by-month analysis of unemployment among specific worker groups can be found at the end of this statement.

2012 was a year of steady growth, yet Congress still failed to pass any major piece of legislation that created jobs in a large-scale manner. Mixed with the potential threats of massive program and budget cuts, our economy still struggles with the danger of a double-dip recession. Steady growth is encouraging. However, until we start to see a significant change in the number of new jobs being created each month—especially those targeted at vulnerable communities— the faith community still remains cautious about the job situation.

As Congress negotiates the second phase of deficit reduction, steady job growth throughout 2013 must be prioritized. As such, it is paramount to protect funding for programs that provide job training and education including the Workforce Reinvestment Act. Moreover, Congress must continue to provide a strong safety-net for those yet without work especially unemployment insurance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.)

Furthermore, it is vital that Congress and the White House introduce a serious and comprehensive job proposal that helps Americans get back to work, in both the public and private sector. Another year should not pass while Congress waits to pass real job creation legislation.

A particular emphasis should be made in providing training and jobs in growth industries such as home healthcare, technology, education, and construction. In addition, any new jobs created through federal legislation must generate sustainable employment that pays fair wages and provides opportunities for advancement. Any new jobs program must address the immediate needs while also creating a long-term path to economic security for both workers and employers.

Our faiths inspire our deep commitment to unemployed workers and their families. We are now looking to Congress to ensure that the federal government continues to work with our faith communities in this effort. To this end, we will keep you abreast on the monthly unemployment situation, sharing stories and information on struggling families who often fall under the radar.

As we reflect on our economy’s health during the past year and look to the year ahead, we remind our elected officials that they must quickly act to aid those who have suffered unemployment far too long. As scripture tells us, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”Proverbs 31:8-9

Jobless statement from Domestic Human Needs Coalition

You can find DHN’s Jobs Statement of Principles at

http://domestichumanneeds.org/uploads/DHN-Jobs-Statement-of-Principles.pdf.

 Organizations signed onto this statement:

American Friends Service Committee

Bread for the World

Church of the Brethren

Disciples Justice Action Network

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Interfaith Worker Justice

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

The Jewish Federations of North America

Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

The Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team

Union for Reform Judaism

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society

Young Workers Worst Hit by Job Crisis

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As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. With this month’s release of unemployment rates, we see yet another sign that while economists may say that the recession has ended, the reality of unemployment and under-employment remains true for millions of Americans—particularly those often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery.
 
The unemployment rate in the month of September decreased to 7.8 percent. While the total jobless number is 12.1 million, 114,000 jobs were created in September.  Still there remains a startling 4.8 million who are long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) — 40.1 percent of the unemployed population. Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was 7.3 percent, adult women 7 percent, whites 7 percent, blacks 13.4 percent, Hispanics 9.9 percent, and Asians 4.8 percent.
 
Both high school and college students who were members of the Class of 2012 graduated more than four months ago, and it is very likely that many of these graduates are still struggling to find a full-time job. For workers age 17-24, the past six years have been incredibly troubling as young workers attempt to enter a struggling job market during a recession.
 
A February 2012 Pew Research Center study found that America is currently experiencing the lowest employment rate for workers age 18-24 since the government began keeping track in 1948.  The Pew study goes on to describe additional concerns for this age group, stating “The recession has eroded young workers’ paychecks to a far greater degree than any other age group. Among adults ages 18 to 34, more than a third said they have gone back to school in the face of tough labor market [which only adds to their student debt in the future]. Nearly a quarter have taken an unpaid job or moved back in with parents.”  The study, “The Class of 2012: Labor market for young graduates remains grim,” by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), adds,  “The wages of young high school graduates dropped by 10.1 percent between 2007 and 2011, and the wages of young college graduates dropped by 4.6 percent over the same period.”
 
According to EPI, “In economic recession as well as expansion, the unemployment rate for young workers (those under age 25) is typically around twice as high as the overall unemployment rate.” For high school graduates 17-20, who are currently not enrolled in additional schooling, the unemployment rate on average was 31.1% over the last year. For recent college graduates ages 21-24, the unemployment rate on average has been 9.4% over the past year. By comparison, the average unemployment rate for the entire country in 2011 was 8.9%
 
The issues presented by the recession are also likely to follow this young worker population into the next few decades. According to EPI, entering the labor market during a downturn can lead to


lower earnings, greater salary instability and more spells of unemployment over the next 10-15 years. Even those young adults lucky enough to find a job struggle with long-term employment. A May 2012 Gallup poll found that 1 in 3 18-29 year-olds in the U.S. workforce are underemployed.
 
Young workers entering the labor market for the first time during such economic uncertainty often have to settle for lower-level jobs, adding to the severe and long-lasting negative impact on earnings and career advancement, which they will accumulate over the course of a lifetime. Also, their lack of experience makes them oftentimes more vulnerable to layoffs and salary reductions than their more experienced coworkers.
 
In order to make space in the job market for these young workers, the economy needs an infusion of new jobs for workers at all levels of experience. As we consider these monthly reflections on our economy’s health, we remind our elected officials that they must soon create and debate legislation that aims to create jobs and strengthen our economy without forgetting about those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship, including young workers.

As scripture tells us, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.”Jeremiah 29:11.

Jobless statement from Domestic Human Needs Coalition

You can find DHN’s Jobs Statement of Principles at

http://domestichumanneeds.org/uploads/DHN-Jobs-Statement-of-Principles.pdf.

 Organizations signed onto this statement:

American Friends Service Committee

Bread for the World

Church of the Brethren

Disciples Justice Action Network

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Interfaith Worker Justice

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

The Jewish Federations of North America

Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

The Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team

Union for Reform Judaism

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society


Immigrants Fare Worse in Economic Crisis

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As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. With this month’s release of unemployment rates, we see yet another sign that while economists may say that the recession has ended, the reality of unemployment and under-employment remains true for millions of Americans—particularly those often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery. 

The unemployment rate in the month of August slightly decreased to 8.1%. While the total jobless number is 12.5 million, 96,000 jobs were created in August. Still there remains a startling 5 million who are long term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) — 40% of the unemployed population. Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was 7.6%, adult women 7.3%, whites 7.2%, blacks 14.1%, Hispanics 10.2%, and Asians 5.9%. 

An October 2010 study by the Migration Policy Institute and BBC World Services found that “Immigrants, particularly men and youth, have been hit disproportionately by the global economic crisis that began in autumn 2008 and now confront a reality of dwindling budgets for public services and immigrant integration programs.” The study goes on to state, “While the recession may be over in almost all advanced industrial nations, the ongoing jobs crisis is many countries is likely to have a pronounced effect on the long-term economic prospects for immigrant workers and their families. High unemployment among the most vulnerable of these groups could persist for some time, with long-lasting ‘economic scarring’ for more recently arrived immigrants who entered the job market during the downturn.” 

 A report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on May 24th, 2012 found that the unemployment rate for the foreign born was 9.1% in 2011. Comparatively, the native born unemployment rate for the same time period was 8.9%. For the purposes of this study the foreign born include “legally-admitted immigrants, refugees, temporary residents such as students and temporary workers, and undocumented immigrants.” The Bureau found that unemployment is particularly high for immigrant women (9.5%), foreign born blacks (12.5%), and immigrant youth ages 16 to 24 (14%). 

 A March 2011 Pew Research Center study found that employment among immigrants can be stagnant and unreliable. In addition, since the start of the recession immigrants have experienced a decline in wages. The study states, “Research finds that immigrants are more likely to exit from and enter into employment on a month-to-month basis. Our October 2010 report also noted a sharper decline in earnings for immigrant workers from mid-2009 to mid-2010. Our review of the data for the final two quarters of 2010 suggests that this differential persisted through the end of last year.” 

It is also important to note that immigrants are often ineligible for government programs or have to go through a waiting period (sometimes up to five years) before being able to access human needs programs. Some do not apply out of fear of being deported or their mistrust for the government. This means those immigrants who are unemployed or under-employed could find themselves at a disadvantage compared to those of the general population that can access safety net programs. 

As we consider these monthly reflections on our economy’s health, we remind our elected officials that they must soon create and debate legislation that aims to create jobs and strengthen our economy without forgetting about those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship, including immigrant workers. 

As scripture tells us, “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:33). 


The Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs, which includes Interfaith Worker Justice, issued this analysis of the August unemployment report. 

Slow recovery takes toll on Families, Children

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As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. With this month’s release of unemployment rates, we see yet another sign that while economists may say that the recession has ended, the reality of unemployment and under-employment remains true for millions of Americans—particularly those often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery.

The unemployment rate in the month of July remained increased to 8.3%. While the total jobless number is 12.8 million, 163,000 jobs were created in July. Still there remains a startling 5.2 million who are long term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) — 40.7% of the unemployed population. Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was 7.7%, adult women 7.5%, whites 7.4%, blacks 14.1%, Hispanics 10.3%, and Asians 6.2%.

Economists state that the recovery from the recession is steadily improving. Still, the economic downturn still has had a heavy toll on American families and children. According to a December 2011 study by First Focus, “2.7 million more children lived with an unemployed parent during a typical month in 2011 compared to 2007 (an increase of 71%), bringing the 2011 total to 6.5 million children.” 3 million children in 2011 had a parent who was unemployed for six months of longer. The situation is even worse for minorities. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), in 2010, “One in four black and Hispanic families had an unemployed or under-employed parent.”

The repercussions of adult unemployment on children range from the psychological (increased worry and stress) to the long term (lower annual earnings as adults). In 2009 a New York Times article on the topic of unemployment and children, stated, “Children, especially, have become hidden casualties, often absorbing more than their parents are fully aware of. Several academic studies have linked parental job loss—especially that of fathers—to adverse impacts in areas like school performance and self-esteem.”

According to child welfare experts, including EPI, an unemployed parent increases a child’s risk of hunger, homelessness and disruptions at school—all of which increases if a family was already in the low-to-moderate-income category. And as First Focus writes, “In addition, unemployed parents often experience psychological distress, which tends to diminish their parenting capacity, and can lead to child abuse in some cases.”

As if the short-term effects of unemployment are not bad enough, long-term effect of unemployment on children can include grade repetition, stunted educational attainment, sinking the child’s aspirations for his or her own future success in the labor market, and lowering the child’s earnings upon reaching adulthood. With around 6.5 million children living in a household with an unemployed parent, the ramifications of ignoring this issue are profound.

As we consider these monthly reflections on our economy’s health, we remind our elected officials that they must soon create and debate legislation that aims to create jobs and strengthen our economy without forgetting about those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship, including children and families. As scripture tells us, “If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor.” (Deuteronomy 15:7-11).

It's Time to Raise the Minimum Wage

0 Comment(s) | Posted | by Cathy Junia |

For too many working families across the country, everyday life has become almost like a game of rock, paper, scissors — only it’s rent, food or healthcare. With the cost of basic goods on a steady climb and the federal minimum wage stagnant, millions of hardworking wage earners are forced to support their families on poverty-level wages.

Today marks the third-year anniversary of the last increase in the federal minimum wage. Since July 24, 2009, the federal wage floor has been stuck at $7.25 per hour, or just over $15,000 per year for a full-timeworker.

According to a recently-released report by the National Employment Law Project, most of the nation’s largest low-wage employers –led by Walmart, McDonald’s and Yum! Brands– have fully recovered from the recession and are now enjoying strong profits. Meanwhile, millions of workers still struggle to survive.

These companies can afford to pay their workers better. It’s time for a raise! The top 50 low-wage employers examined, which together employ nearly eight million workers, have largely recovered from the recession: 

  • 92 percent were profitable last year
  • 78 percent were profitable for the past 3 years
  • 75 percent are earning higher revenue now than before the recession
  • 63 percent are earning higher profits now than before the recession
  • 63 percent have a higher operating margin (a measure of profitability) now than before the recession
  • 73 percent have higher cash holdings now than before the recession

Putting money back into the pockets of America's workers is the right thing to do for the economy and workers. If the federal minimum wage kept up with inflation during the last 40 years, it would be $10.55.

Today, thousands of workers, people of faith and allies will gather in cities across the country to tell Congress and low-wage employers it's time to increase the nation’s minimum wage. Click here to find an action near you.

Get involved and join thousands of workers and allies across the country in pushing for an increase in the federal minimum wage.

Jobs harder to find for ex-offenders

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As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. With this month’s release of unemployment rates, we see yet another sign that while economists may say that the recession has ended, the reality of unemployment and under-employment remains true for millions of Americans—particularly those often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery. 

The unemployment rate in the month of June remained unchanged at 8.2%. While the total jobless number is 12.7 million, 80,000 jobs were created in June. Still there remains a startling 5.4 million who are long term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) — 41.9% of the unemployed population. Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was 7.8%, adult women 7.4%, whites 7.4%, blacks 14.4%, Hispanics 11%, and Asians 6.3%. 

In our current economic environment it is hard enough for an unemployed worker to find a job when they have a college degree, an impressive resume, and a clean record. It becomes close to impossible for the members of our community that have a criminal record to find employment. 

According to a November 2010 Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), “In 2008, about one in 33 working-age adults was an ex-prisoner and about one in 15 working-age adults was an ex-felon.” It is estimated that in 2010, federal and state prisons held over 1.6 million inmates and released over 700,000 individuals back into their communities. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not keep track of the ex-offender unemployment number, but a January 2011 New York Times articles states, “various studies have found unemployment rates of 50 percent or higher for former prisoners nine months or a year after their release.”  

The recession has allowed hiring managers to be picky among their larger applicant pools. Anecdotal evidence suggests employers are choosing workers with a clean background and continue to hire ex-offenders, regardless of their offense, at a severely decreased rate. As an Arizona Republic articles states, “Even entry-level positions or manual-labor jobs that would be a typical workforce re-entry point for felons have dried up.” Many employers conduct background checks. In addition, in some states a felony conviction limits a person’s ability to apply for certain jobs including government employment and professional licensing. 

While states across the country are experiencing their own budget crises, they are choosing to release thousands of prisoners rather than deal with the increasing costs of keeping them incarcerated. At the same time, rehabilitation funding— including The Second Chance Act— is dwindling. Without the proper skills and support systems, ex-convicts are finding it increasingly difficult to find steady work, which directly affects a person’s ability to remain out of trouble and avoid criminal activity. 

The failure to find stable work is directly related to the recidivism rate. As Thomas O’Connell, deputy chief of administration for the Maricopa County Adult Program Department stated in a June 13, 2012 interview, “When someone maintains employment, this demonstrates stability, provides a source for positive social interactions and provides a means for financial stability, including the ability to support a family and meet their financial obligations.” Considering how beneficial a good job can be, the ex-offender and ex-prisoner population is facing an uphill battle at a time of stalled economic recovery 

As we consider these monthly reflections on our economy’s health, we remind our elected officials that they must soon create and debate legislation that aims to create jobs and strengthen our economy without forgetting about those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship, including ex-offenders.  

As scripture tells us, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” (Hebrews 13:3). 

Older Workers Struggling to Find Jobs

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As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. With this month’s release of unemployment rates, we see yet another sign that while economists may say that the recession has ended, the reality of unemployment and under-employment remains true for millions of Americans—particularly those often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery.

The unemployment rate in the month of May increased slightly at 8.2%. While the total jobless number is 12.7 million, 69,000 jobs were created in May.  Still there remains a startling 5.4 million who are long term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) — 42.8% of the unemployed population. Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was 7.8%, adult women 7.4%, whites 7.4%, blacks 13.6%, Hispanics 11%, and Asians 5.2%.

While there seems to be steady recovery for certain subgroups of the worker population, specific groups, like older workers, continue to struggle to find work. Older workers are defined as 50 and older—a population that is rapidly increasing as Baby Boomers age. According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, “The unemployment rate for people aged 55 or older rose from 5.9 percent in February [2012] to 6.2 percent in March [2012]. At the start of the Great Recession in December 2007, the unemployment rate for this age group was only 3.2 percent. Nearly 2 million people aged 55 or older were unemployed in March.” Older workers are also an increasing percentage of the unemployed population, “Older jobseekers were 15.7 percent of the unemployed in March, a somewhat higher percentage than in February (14.7).”

Particularly concerning for this population is how long they remain unemployed. According to a March 2012 issue brief on older unemployed workers from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) , “Older unemployed workers were the most likely to be unemployed for one year or longer—about 4 in 10 (41.6%) jobless workers age 50 and older.” The AARP also found that the long-term unemployment rate among older workers only increased as the recession and recovery moved forward, “Average duration of unemployment for older jobseekers first exceeded one year in March 2011.”

Long-term unemployment opens this population up for a number of ongoing problems. In her May 15th testimony to the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, NELP Executive Director Christine Owens stated, “Prolonged periods of unemployment may have a severe impact on older workers’ retirement prospects and later-life well-being generally. A national survey of workers who lost their jobs during the recession at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University found that a majority of respondents age 55 and older experienced a decline in savings while unemployed.” In addition, older workers have less time than younger workers to replace lost savings because they are closer to the traditional retirement age. Many people have ended up delaying retirement because their savings became so severely depleted. And still others found themselves in forced early retirement because they went so long without finding a job.

The AARP reports, “The long-term unemployed are at risk of skills erosion and weakening labor force attachment, which further undermine the probability that they will find work.” Older workers are more likely than younger workers to have been laid off from industries, like manufacturing, that had already been experiencing a decline prior to the recession and then worsened when the economic downfall hit. Those older workers will require new skills and training in order to transition into a new filed in order to find employment. Employment experts have also been tracking the serious issue of hiring discrimination, especially among older workers and the long-term unemployed. According to NELP, “Compounding the effects of a weak labor market on older workers, evidence shows that employers are explicitly excluding the unemployed from hiring consideration. Because this kind of discrimination is more likely to affect those who have been out of work for the longest amount of time, older workers are more likely to be its victims.”

As we consider these monthly reflections of our economy’s health, we remind our elected officials that they must soon create and debate legislation that aims to create jobs and strengthen our economy without forgetting about those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship, including older workers. As scripture tells us, “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.” Deuteronomy 15:11

Harkin: Let's Link Arms For a More Just Society

0 Comment(s) | Posted | by James Parks |

The nation’s middle class has been shrinking over the past three decades because of “misguided policies” in Washington making it harder to remain in or to enter the middle class, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said on the monthly Faith Advocates for Jobs call May 10.

Harkin

Harkin, who chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, introduced the Rebuild America Act—a comprehensive bill that creates jobs and rebuild the economy. The bill would modernize the nation’s infrastructure creating millions of new jobs, expand manufacturing, provide more job training for workers and strengthen economic security for working people.

The bill also would raise the minimum wage, require paid sick days and expand overtime pay coverage, three of the top priorities for FAJ and IWJ.

 

Jen Kern, minimum wage coordinator for the National Employment Law Project (NELP) said raising the minimum wage is critical to reviving the economy because low-wage workers would spend the increase. The economy needs an increase in consumer spending, she said.

Kern said 18 states and D.C. have raised the minimum wage above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour and seven states have eliminated the paltry $2.13 minimum wage for tip workers (like waiters and parking lot attendants). NELP is organizing the latest research, media coverage and campaign news on action to raise the minimum wage.

Both Harkin and Kern urged those concerned about creating good jobs to make their voices heard, especially in an election year. Responding to a caller’s question, Harkin urged people of faith to attend congressional town hall meetings and make sure their representatives know that people are watching to see what they do to create jobs. He called on the faith community to include issues on jobs in congregations’ newsletters and group discussions.

“Let’s link our arms together and make our society more fair and more just for all,” Harkin said.

Check out a fact sheet on the Rebuild America Act.

A Report from All Saints Catholic Parish

0 Comment(s) | Posted | by Joe Bova |

Joe Bova is part of the Unemployed Support Group at All Saints Catholic Parish in Milwaukee, WI. Here he shares stories from the group:

All Saints Catholic Parish serves diverse group of 560 families in the northwest side of Milwaukee. Our faith community is noted for its outreach to the broader community. In November 2010, our pastor, Fr. Carl Diederichs, initiated the Support Group for the Unemployed, which I now facilitate. As a retiree, I am currently unemployed by choice, but I had experienced droughts of unemployment three times in my career lifetime.  

Through weekly meetings over the course of a year and a half, our small support group of five unemployed adults has evolved into a family of sorts. Together each week we pray, review resumes, share job leads, resource information and other job-hunting tips. Since the group started, at least 25 other people have joined at one point or another.

Group meetings provide a safe space for our community's unemployed. What is said in the room – the weekly personal ups and downs – stays in the room. Beyond our personal stories, our conversations in general range from what’s happening in the resource world, the economy, Catholic social justice teaching, and all forms of injustice at the workplace.   

Collectively, group members submitted hundreds of resumes, but very few have had luck finding employment.

 Seeing how applying for jobs and sending resumes wasn't enough, two group members helped create the Garden Homes Neighborhood Jobs and Competitiveness Panel in June 2011 to address our community’s 28 percent unemployed rate. We convinced 12 corporations and entities that serve the unemployed to collaborate on unemployment issues. The Jobs Panel has since devised a program to link 200 neighborhood unemployed with family-supporting jobs and job training programs. Our support group has three seats on this 15-member panel and collectively we are taking steps to launch the program.

Through our meetings, we also soon realized that there are plenty of companies that clearly do not adhere to the principles of distributive justice or to the paradox of “sharing your blessings returns in receiving more blessings.” Still too many are making money by having fewer people do more work. Hiring was just not a priority.  

We asked ourselves what we could do to change the situation? Here's an idea: if our Catholic leader could convince Catholic business owners/leaders to each hire one additional person, then x-number of unemployed people would get jobs. We realize that those jobs may be few, but it's a start. We've discussed this idea with the director of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Office of Social Ministry, and we are hopeful. We are in process of formulating our plan of action.   Although our future remains uncertain, our faith is alive. We keep going.

(For comments and questions about the support group, please contact Joe Bova at joebova7@aol.com)