Written by Arthur Delaney

Unemployment rates climbed in all U.S. metropolitan areas from last June to this June, the government announced on Wednesday. Some of the jumps were dramatic. And the unemployment rate in 18 areas now surpasses 15 percent. Most of the hardest hit metro areas are in California and Michigan.

Of the 49 metropolitan areas with a population of over 1 million, the Detroit area once again claims the sad prize of highest unemployment, with a rate of 17.1 percent, up from 14.9 percent in May and an 8.1 percent point increase year over year. The Riverside-San Bernardino area came in second, with a rate of 13.7 percent, followed by the Charlotte area at 12.4 percent.

The large area with the lowest unemployment rate in June was Oklahoma City, at 6 percent. Second-lowest was the greater Washington D.C. area, at 6.6 percent.

El Centro, Calif., again recorded the highest unemployment rate of all metro areas, with 27.5 percent out of work.

The Huffington Post has been profiling regular folks dealing with the recession. Click here to see some of their stories.

Here’s a map from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows the damage. Areas in dark gray surpassed the national rate of 9.7 percent while areas in light gray were 9.7 or below in June.

Click here for a PDF of the Labor Department’s report.

By JASON DePARLE
Published: July 23, 2009

WASHINGTON — Years of state and federal neglect have hobbled the nation’s unemployment system just as a brutal recession has doubled the number of jobless Americans seeking aid.

In a program that values timeliness above all else, decisions involving more than a million applicants have been slowed, and hundreds of thousands of needy people have waited months for checks.

And with benefit funds at dangerous lows even before the recession began, states are taking on billions in debt, increasing the pressure to raise taxes or cut aid, just as either would inflict maximum pain.

Sixteen states, with exhausted funds, are now paying benefits with borrowed cash, and their number could double by the year’s end.

Call centers and Web sites have been overwhelmed, leaving frustrated workers sometimes fighting for days to file an application.

While the strained program still makes more than 80 percent of initial payments within three weeks — slightly below the standard set under federal law — cases that require individual review are especially prone to delay. Thirty-eight states are failing to make those decisions within the federal deadline.

For workers who survive a paycheck at a time, even a week’s delay can mean a missed rent payment or foregone meals.

Kenneth Kottwitz, a laid-off cabinet maker in Phoenix, waited three months for his benefits to arrive. He exhausted his savings, lost his apartment and moved to a homeless shelter.

Luis Coronel, a janitor at a San Francisco hotel, got $6,000 in back benefits after winning an appeal. But in the six months he spent waiting, there were times when he and his pregnant wife could not afford to eat.

“I was terrified my wife and daughter would have to live on the street,” Mr. Coronel said.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said: “Obviously, some of our states were in a pickle. The system wasn’t prepared to deal with the enormity of the calls coming in.”

The program’s problems, though well known, were brushed aside when unemployment was low.

“The unemployment insurance system before the recession was as vulnerable as New Orleans was before Katrina,” said Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, who is chairman of a House panel with authority over the program.

Now the number of unemployed Americans has doubled since 2007 to 15 million and the program is more than tripling in size. About 9.5 million people are collecting benefits, up from about 2.5 million two years ago. Spending is expected to reach nearly $100 billion this year, about triple what it was two years ago.

Given how suddenly the workload has increased, some analysts say the delays might have been even worse.

“Payments are later than they should be, and later than they used to be, but states have been overwhelmed,” said Rich Hobbie, director of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, which represents the program’s administrators. “Considering the significant problems in the program, unemployment is responding well.”

The recovery act passed in February provided states an additional $500 million for administration. It also suspended interest payments through 2011 for states paying benefits with federal loans.

Unemployment insurance began as a New Deal effort with dual goals: to sustain idled workers and stimulate weak economies. States finance benefits by taxing employers, typically building surpluses in good times to cover payments in bad.

In 2007, the average state paid about $290 a week and aided 37 percent of the unemployed.

As downturns over the last 20 years proved infrequent and mild, states cut taxes, and the federal government, which pays administrative costs, reduced its support by about 25 percent. The states’ performance sagged.

In a recent report to the Department of Labor, Ohio said its computer problems “kept the system performance at a snail’s pace.” Louisiana said its call center was staffed with “temporary workers, with little knowledge” of unemployment insurance.

North Carolina said a wave of retirements had left it “unable to maintain pace or volume of work.” Virginia wrote “performance continued to be very stagnant” and called the odds of improvement “bleak.”

By 2007, 11 states were paying benefits so slowly they violated multiple federal rules, up from just two at the start of the decade.

While most eligibility reviews can be done by computer, about a quarter require a caseworker — to ensure, say, the applicant was laid off, rather than quit.

In the last year, states processed just 61 percent of these cases within three weeks — well below the federal requirement of 80 percent. More than a half-million cases, 6 percent, took more than eight weeks, and 350,000 took more than 10 weeks.

The Safety Net

Work-Based RewardsWith millions of jobs lost and major industries on the ropes, America’s array of government aid — including unemployment insurance, food stamps and cash welfare — is being tested as never before. This series examines how the safety net is holding up under the worst economic crisis in decades.

Multimedia

Of the 12.8 million eligibility reviews that have occurred during the recession, 4.6 million took more than three weeks. That is 2.1 million more than federal rules allow.

Appeals take even longer, with 28 states violating timeliness rules, many of them severely.

Perhaps no state is as troubled as California, which has not met timeliness standards for nine years. As in most other states, its 30-year-old computer runs on Cobol, a language so obsolete the state must summon retirees to make changes.

Yet a major overhaul in California has been delayed for five years, with $66 million in federal funds still waiting to be spent. In part, the shelved project was meant to upgrade the call centers, which were “completely swamped” last winter, a legislative analyst wrote, with “desperate unemployed Californians dialing and redialing for hours.”

Deborah Bronow, who runs the state’s unemployment insurance program, said, “The systems were antiquated to begin with,” and “we were unprepared.”

In April, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency, saying the failure to efficiently process checks posed “extreme peril to the safety of persons and property.”

California has not met federal standards for adequate reserves since 1990. Still, it cut taxes and raised benefits in the last decade. It is now paying benefits with federal loans, with its debt projected to reach nearly $18 billion next year.

Among those hurt by delays was Mr. Coronel, the San Francisco janitor who lost his hotel job in January. With the phone lines jammed, it took him two days to file an application and a month to learn it had been denied.

Then the waiting really began, as Mr. Coronel filed an appeal and heard nothing for three months. Luckless as he applied for new jobs, he borrowed to pay the rent, then moved in with his mother, and joined his pregnant wife in skipping meals.

“The worst day was when my daughter was born,” he said. “I had no clothes for her, and no car seat.”

While federal rules require states to decide 60 percent of appeals cases within a month, in recent years, California has met that deadline for just 5 percent. A report by the state auditor last year found the appeals board rife with nepotism and mismanagement.

Mr. Coronel won the appeal, but is soothing a marriage strained by a six-month wait. “It’s extremely stressful when you don’t know how you’re going to support your family,” he said.

Nationally, the program is the worst financial shape since the early 1980s, when back-to-back recessions left more than half the states borrowing from the federal government. Tax increases and benefit restraints gradually rebuilt the funds, then states changed course and pushed taxes well below historical levels.

From 1960 to 1990, the tax rate averaged about 1.1 percent of overall payroll. Over the last decade, it fell to 0.65 percent. That represents a tax cut of 40 percent.

Measured against a decade’s payroll, that saved employers $165 billion. But by 2007, when the recession began, the average state had just six months of recession-level benefits in reserve, half the recommended sum.

“The attitude became, ‘We don’t need a firehouse — we can buy hoses when the fire starts,’ ” said Wayne Vroman of the Urban Institute, a Washington research group.

Some analysts defend the tax cuts, saying they helped both employers and workers, by spurring the economy and creating jobs.

“Lower tax rates make it easier to attract business,” said Doug Holmes, president of UWC, a group that advocates on behalf of employers. “We don’t want to spend a whole lot of time beating ourselves up because we didn’t raise taxes enough. Nobody anticipated a recession this size.”

A big reason the reserves fell, Mr. Holmes said, is that the jobless now spend more time on the rolls — 15 weeks in recent years, up from 13 weeks several decades ago. Each extra week costs the program about $3 billion a year. The solution, he said, is stronger job placement provisions.

But others see an irresponsible past that now promises future pain.

“Workers who had nothing to do with the funds becoming insolvent are going to be asked to pay for that with benefit cuts,” said Andrew Stettner, an analyst at the National Employment Law Project, a workers’ rights group. “That’s the worst thing states can do — it takes money straight out of the economy.”

Among those who say timely benefits are essential is Mr. Kottwitz, the Arizona cabinet maker, who lost his job just before Christmas. He filed a claim and promptly received a debit card, with no money on it. It took him weeks to reach a program clerk, who told him to keep waiting.

“They said, ‘We’re behind — be patient,’ ” he said.

With little savings, no family nearby, and a ninth-grade education, Mr. Kottwitz, 42, had limited options. He got $100 a month in food stamps, collected cans and applied for jobs. When his landlord put him out, he moved to a shelter so overcrowded he spent his first few nights on the ground.

“I felt like I was the scum of the earth,” Mr. Kottwitz said.

In March, the shelter referred him to Ellen Katz, a lawyer at the William E. Morris Institute for Justice, an advocacy group, who secured his benefits. By the time the money arrived, Mr. Kottwitz had lost nearly 40 pounds. His first stop was an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Now back in an apartment, he said he was sharing his story in the hope that someone might read it and offer him a job.

“You think that someone would have seen this coming and been more prepared,” he said.

Written By Arthur Delaney   reported on Huffingtonpost.com

The U.S. economy lost 467,000 jobs in June as the national unemployment rate rose to 9.5 percent, the government announced on Thursday morning. While that’s only one-tenth of a percentage point from May, the current rate is the highest rate in 26 years.

Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute, said that the loss of 6.5 million jobs since the start of the recession combined with the growth of the workforce means that the gains of the previous business cycle have been completely blown away.

“This is the only recession since the Great Depression to wipe out all jobs growth from the previous business cycle, a devastating benchmark for the workers of this country and a testament to both the enormity of the current crisis and to the extreme weakness of jobs growth from 2000-2007,” said Shierholz in a statement.

The ranks of the long-term unemployed — people out of work for 27 weeks or more — grew by 433,000 in June to a total of 4.4 million. Three in 10 of the unemployed are now long-term unemployed. The collapse of the housing industry contributes to their plight.

“We know right now because of the housing crisis that people can’t move to find another job,” Shierholz said. “People that in previous recessions may have been able to relocate to find another job can’t now.”

The Huffington Post has been profiling people who’ve been out of work for long periods of time. Marvin Bohn of Ohio hasn’t worked for a year and has been paying for his meds out-of-pocket. Steve Dittmann of Kansas said of the unemployed life, “I feel like I’m on the other side of a Plexiglass wall looking in.”

A broader measure of labor underutilization that accounts for people who’ve stopped looking for work hit 16.5% in June, a 0.1 percentage point increase.

“In June, there were large decreases in manufacturing, construction, and professional and business services,” said Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Keith Hall in a statement. “Together, these three sectors have accounted for nearly three-quarters of the jobs lost since the recession began.

Many economists have predicted that even when the recession is technically over with the economy beginning to expand, there will be a “jobless recovery” as unemployment hovers in the double-digits.

Written by Arthur Delaney HuffingtonPost

On Friday, the Labor Department announced terrible, terrible news: more than a quarter million people lost their jobs in May. But in a sign of how bad things are, commentators from all quarters are heralding the news as good.

The U.S. unemployment rate hit 9.4 percent in May as employers shed 345,000 jobs — the highest since the recession of 1983, the Labor Department announced. The “silver living” is that the losses announced today are about half the monthly average for the past six months.

Friday’s unemployment numbers came as a surprise. Private payroll firm ADP estimated that U.S. companies lost 532,000 jobs in its National Employment Report on Wednesday. Economists had made similar predictions.

“Job losses continued to be widespread in May, but the rate of decline moderated in construction and several service-providing industries,” said Keith Hall, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in a statement.

“The loss of 345,000 jobs in May — 0.3% of employment — makes this jobs report the second worst in a quarter century not including the current recession, but in today’s economy a loss of only 345,000 jobs is welcome news,” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute.

Of course, in a Wednesday conference call to help reporters throw cold water on overly cheery reactions to bad numbers, Shierholz stressed that regular folks wouldn’t be seeing any economic benefit for a long time.

“After the 1990 recession unemployment rose for another 15 months, and after the 2001 recession, unemployment rose for another 19 months,” Shierholz said. “If last two recessions any indication, unemployment will rise for at least another year.”

A lot of people are unemployed now.

“The number of unemployed rose by 787,000 to 14.5 million,” said Commissioner Hall. “Since the recession began, the jobless rate has increased by 4.5 percentage points, and the number of unemployed persons has grown by 7.0 million.”

The number of long-term unemployed is also discouraging: “Among the unemployed, the number who have been out of work 27 weeks or more increased by 268,000 in May to 3.9 million. These long-term unemployed represented 2.5 percent of the laborforce, the highest proportion since 1983.”

2009-06-05-jobs.png

Thu May 21, 2009 10:24am EDT

Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by James Dalgleish

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. economy will likely start growing again in the second half of this year but unemployment will likely keep rising through 2010 to peak over 10 percent, the Congressional Budget Office said on Thursday.

“The growth in output later this year and next year is likely to be sufficiently weak that the unemployment rate will probably continue to rise into the second half of next year and peak above 10 percent,” CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf said in prepared testimony to the U.S. House Budget Committee.

It will likely take several years for the unemployment rate to fall back to levels seen before the recession hit, in the neighborhood of 5 percent, he said in the prepared remarks.

 

Let us know your thooughts. You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

Written by Jeannine Aversa   AP

WASHINGTON — The pace of layoffs slowed in April when employers cut 539,000 jobs, the fewest in six months. But the unemployment rate climbed to 8.9 percent, the highest since late 1983, as many businesses remain wary of hiring given all the economic uncertainties.

The Labor Department tally released Friday wasn’t nearly as deep as the 620,000 job cuts that economists were expecting, and was helped by a burst of federal government hiring of temporary workers to prepare for the 2010 Census. The rise in the unemployment rate from 8.5 percent in March matched economists’ forecasts.

The new report underscored the toll the longest recession since World War II has taken on America’s workers and companies. However, the slowdown in layoffs may bolster expectations that the worst of the downturn’s hefty job losses are past.

“There are glimmers of hope. We are moving in the right direction in terms of layoffs. They are measurably less bad than what we’ve been through,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com.

On Wall Street, the employment news gave stocks a lift. The Dow Jones industrials gained about 100 points in morning trading.

Still, companies will remain cautious in hiring, making it harder for laid-off workers to find new jobs.

If laid-off workers who have given up looking for new jobs or have settled for part-time work are included, the unemployment rate would have been 15.8 percent in April, the highest on records dating back to 1994. The total number of unemployed now stands at 13.7 million, up from 13.2 million in March.

Companies also kept a tight rein on workers hours. The average work week in April stayed at 33.2 hours, matching the record low set in March.

Since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has lost a net total of 5.7 million jobs.

As the recession eats into sales and profits, companies have turned to layoffs and other cost-cutting measures to survive the storm. Those including holding down workers’ hours, and freezing or cutting pay.

Job losses in February and March turned out to be deeper, according to revised figures. Employers cut 681,000 positions in February, 30,000 more than previously reported. They cut 699,000 jobs in March, more than the 663,000 first reported.

The deepest job cuts of the recession _ 741,000 came in January. That was the most since the fall of 1949.

Employers last month cut the fewest jobs since 380,000 in October. Nonetheless, the April job losses were widespread.

Construction companies axed 110,000 jobs, down from 135,000 in March. Factories got rid of 149,000 jobs, down form 167,000 the month before. Retailers cut payrolls by nearly 47,000, less than the nearly 64,000 cut in March. And job losses in financial activities dropped by 40,000, down from 43,000 in the previous month.

The slower pace of job losses _ along with 66,000 more federal jobs _ helped to temper the overall payroll reductions in April. The pickup in federal employment was mainly due to the hiring of 63,000 temporary Census workers.

Looking ahead, economists expect monthly job losses for most _ if not all _ of this year. However, they hope the reductions won’t be as deep.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, wouldn’t speculate on the future pace of layoffs, but warned that some of the jobs lost “may not come back.” She urged jobseekers to get the training and education needed to be contenders for work in growing industries, such as health care, which added nearly 17,000 jobs in April.

Fallout from housing, credit and financial crises _ the worst since the 1930s _ has hurt America’s workers and companies, and the pain will continue. The jobs market traditionally doesn’t rebound until well after an economic recovery starts.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke earlier this week gave his most optimistic prediction yet about the end of the recession, saying he expects the economy to start growing again this year _ although the comeback could be weak and more jobs will disappear even after a recovery takes hold.

Companies will have little appetite to ramp up hiring until they feel the economy is truly out of the woods and a recovery is firmly rooted.

Against that backdrop, many economists predict the unemployment rate will hit 10 percent by the end of this year. Bernanke stopped short of that figure, saying it will be somewhere in the 9 percent range. Regardless, both private economists and Bernanke agree the unemployment rate will keep climbing into next year.

The Fed says unemployment will remain elevated into 2011. Economists say the job market may not get back to normal _ meaning a 5 percent unemployment rate _ until 2013.

And the job cuts have continued this week. Steelmaker Severstal International said it’s idling plants in Wheeling, W.Va., and Warren, Ohio, resulting in 3,100 layoffs due to the continuing deterioration of the steel industry. Microsoft Corp. said it was starting thousands of the 5,000 job cuts it announced in earlier this year and left the door open to even more layoffs.

The Commerce Department on Friday said wholesale inventories dropped 1.6 percent in March, much larger than the 1 percent fall that analysts had expected. That followed a 1.7 percent drop in February, the largest monthly decline on records that go back 17 years.

It was the seventh straight month that wholesale inventories fell as businesses struggled to get stockpiles in line with plunging sales. Wholesalers saw sales drop 2.4 percent in March, the fifth decline in six months.

Still, glimmers of hope have emerged that the recession may be losing its grip on the country.

The Labor Department on Thursday said the number of newly laid-off workers filing applications for jobless benefits plunged to the lowest level in 14 weeks, a possible sign that the wave of layoffs has peaked. Still, the number of unemployed workers drawing benefits climbed to a new record _ 6.35 million.

Other reports showed sales at many retailers fared better in April, with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. leading the way.

However, Friday’s employment report showed that workers’ wages barely budged in April, meaning consumers will probably stay somewhat cautious in the months ahead. Average hourly earnings nudged up to $18.51 in April, a 0.1 percent rise from the previous month.

In the U.S., the economy shrank at faster than a 6 percent annual rate late last year and early this year, the worst six-month performance since the late 1950s. Analysts think it is still shrinking now _ but probably at about half that pace. Many predict the economy could start growing in the third or fourth quarter as tax cuts and government spending on big public works projects included in President Barack Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package take hold.

 By Peter Whoriskey

In Record Numbers, Employers Move to Block Unemployment Payouts

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 12, 2009; Page A01

 

It’s hard enough to lose a job. But for a growing proportion of U.S. workers, the troubles really set in when they apply for unemployment benefits.

This Story

More than a quarter of people applying for such claims have their rights to the benefit challenged as employers increasingly act to block payouts to former workers.

The proportion of claims disputed by former employers and state agencies has reached record levels in recent years, according to the Labor Department numbers tallied by the Urban Institute.

Under state and federal laws, employees who are fired for misbehavior or quit voluntarily are ineligible for unemployment compensation. When jobless claims are blocked, employers save money because their unemployment insurance rates are based on the amount of the benefits their workers collect.

As unemployment rolls swell in the recession, many workers seem surprised to find their benefits challenged, their former bosses providing testimony against them. On one recent morning in what amounts to one of Maryland’s unemployment courts, employees and employers squared off at conference tables to rehash reports of bad customer service, anger management and absenteeism.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Kenneth M. Brown, who lost his job as a hotel electrician in October.

He began collecting benefits of $380 a week but then discovered that his former employer, the owners of the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, were appealing to block his unemployment benefits. The hotel alleged that he had been fired for being deceptive with a supervisor.

“A big corporation like that. . . . It was hard enough to be terminated,” he said. “But for them to try to take away the unemployment benefits — I just thought that was heartless.”

 

After a Post reporter turned up at the hearing, the hotel’s representative withdrew the appeal and declined to comment. A hotel spokesperson later said the company does not comment on legal matters. Brown will continue to collect benefits, which he, his wife and three young children rely on to make monthly mortgage payments on their Upper Marlboro home.

Unemployment compensation programs are administered by the states and funded by payroll taxes that employers pay. In 2007, employers put up about $31.5 billion in such taxes, and those taxes typically rise during and after recessions, as states seek to replenish the funds.

With each successful claim raising a company’s costs, many firms resist letting employees collect the benefit if they consider it undeserved.

“In some of these cases, employers feel like there’s some matter of principle involved,” said Coleman Walsh, chief administrative law judge in Virginia, who has handled many such disputes. But, he said, “nowadays it appears their motivation has more to do with the impact on their unemployment insurance tax rate. Employers by and large are more aware of unemployment as a cost of business.”

The cost of unemployment insurance has created an industry of “third-party agents” — companies that specialize in helping employers deal with the unemployment insurance administration. These firms represent employers in disputes with former employees over jobless benefits.

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One of the largest is …., a St. Louis company active in the Washington area, which claims more than 8,000 clients.

The company’s Web site says that it removes “over $6 billion in unemployment claims liability annually.”

Joyce Dear, chief operations officer for tax management services at …., said firms such as hers help bring to light the issues surrounding an employee’s departure.

“You are limited to what is permissible,” she said. “What an employer can do is provide the facts around a separation. The awarding of the benefits is in the hands of the state.”

Wayne Vroman, a researcher at the Urban Institute, has documented the rise of challenges to unemployment claims using the Labor Department data. He found that the proportion of claims challenged on the basis of misconduct has more than doubled, to 16 percent, since the late 1980s. Claims disputed on the grounds that the worker simply quit represent about 10 percent of the otherwise eligible applications.

Even as more employers have alleged employee misconduct, their success rate has stayed relatively stable — they lose on such issues about two-thirds of the time.

“What is clear is that employers have become more willing to contest claims from claimants,” Vroman said of the data.

Hearing officers and others in the industry said it isn’t clear why the number of challenges to unemployment claims has grown. The labor force has changed over the years, with less of it devoted to manufacturing and more of it from the service sector.

Some suggested the rise in disputed benefits stems from the fact that it is easier today for employers to track claims and try to block those they consider unwarranted.

“Automation has contributed to the ease with which protests from the employer can be filed,” said Doug Holmes, president of UWC Strategy, a group that claims large and small employers among its members and represents their interests in unemployment matters.

Others speculated that changes in the law have made it easier for employers to block unemployment claims.

Rick McHugh, a staff attorney for the National Employment Law Project who began handling such cases in the 1970s, said court rulings have slowly enlarged the definition of employee misconduct, making it easier for employers to say they rightfully fired a worker.

“The courts are just not showing as much sympathy for employees who get fired,” he said. “There’s a higher standard of behavior that is expected of employees.”

For example, back in 1941, the Wisconsin Supreme Court considered the case of a cab driver who’d had three accidents in two weeks and also shorted the company on a 40 cent fare, turning in only 25 cents.

The court ruled that the driver was entitled to unemployment benefits because unintentionally careless or shoddy work did not constitute misconduct. It’s unlikely, McHugh said, that the case would be determined the same way today.

In many states, hearings are held daily on unemployment claims. The outcome most often turns on whether the former employee was guilty of misconduct.

With employees and employers as adversaries, it’s often difficult to determine the facts of a case, and just as difficult at times to separate misconduct from incompetence, which is not a reason to withhold the benefits.

During a day of hearings this week in Wheaton, human resources personnel sat across tables from former employees, and the discussion often turned to written warnings, company handbooks and who-told-what-to-whom.

A former assistant manager at Ri Ra, an Irish Bar in Bethesda, fended off complaints that, among other things, he’d failed to greet guests at the door and one time poured a beer for himself after hours.

A Verizon technician was charged with, in company terms, “detour and frolic.”

And a former salesman at Ethan Allen complained that there was no way he could have made his $35,000 sales quota — and that’s why he quit.

“It’s almost like a daily soap opera — but it’s real life,” veteran hearing examiner Scott Karp said. “In this economic climate, the threshold for what employers consider minimum acceptable behavior has changed. They decide they’re not going to put up with it anymore, so they start documenting the employee’s behavior and often enough, the issue winds up here.”

Our Perspective:

Unemployment claims are a much overlooked business expense.

Did you know that Unemployment Tax is the 2nd largest Employer mandated tax?

Basically, the Unemployment Fund can be seen as being a checking account with the state.

The state determines what your rate is.

The rate determines how much money you put into this account to pay claims.

Then the state notifies you how much they have taken out of the account to pay claims.

How do you know these rates are correct?

How do you know your reserves are correct?

How do you know if you are paying the proper amount for each claim?

Many business never ask this question!

This is one of the only employer taxes that you can control!

You could be overpaying unemployment taxes into the fund.

You may be overpaying claims!

You may be paying for claims that are not your responsibility!

We have worked with clients to review their rates and have provided a long term solution to manage their claims. As a result, we have reduced their rates and reduced the contribution they have to annually pay into the unemployment fund.

Would you like to know more, email george@hbsadvantage.com or you may call

856-857-1230.

We have clients who have operations thruout the United States.

We are a boutique firm with success with many high profile clients.

Visit us on the web to learn more

www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com

Unemployment hits 7.6%

February 6, 2009

Written by JEANNINE AVERSA | February 6, 2009 10:34 AM EST  AP

WASHINGTON — Recession-battered employers eliminated 598,000 jobs in January, the most since the end of 1974, and catapulted the unemployment rate to 7.6 percent. The grim figures were further proof that the nation’s job climate is deteriorating at an alarming clip with no end in sight.

The Labor Department’s report, released Friday, showed the terrible toll the drawn-out recession is having on workers and companies. It also puts even more pressure on Congress and President Barack Obama‘s administration to revive the economy through a stimulus package and a revamped financial bailout plan, both of which are nearing completion.

“These numbers, and the very real suffering of American workers they represent, reinforce the need for bold fiscal action,” said Christina Romer, chief of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers. “If we fail to act, we are likely to lose millions more jobs and the unemployment rate could reach double digits.”

The latest net total of job losses was far worse than the 524,000 that economists expected. Job reductions in November and December also were deeper than previously reported.

With cost-cutting employers in no mood to hire, the unemployment rate bolted to 7.6 percent in January, the highest since September 1992. The increase in the jobless rate from 7.2 percent in December also was worse than the 7.5 percent rate economists expected.

All told, the economy has lost a staggering 3.6 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. About half of this decline occurred in the past three months.

“Companies are in survival mode and are really cutting to the bone,” said economist Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics. “They are cutting and cutting hard now out of fear of an uncertain future.”

Factories slashed 207,000 jobs in January, the largest one-month drop since October 1982, partly reflecting heavy losses at plants making autos and related parts. Construction companies got rid of 111,000 jobs. Professional and business services chopped 121,000 positions. Retailers eliminated 45,000 jobs. Leisure and hospitality axed 28,000 slots.

Those reductions swamped employment gains in education and health services, as well as in the government.

Just in the 12 months ending January, an astonishing 3.5 million jobs have vanished, the most on record going back to 1939, although the total number of jobs has grown significantly since then.

On Wall Street, investors pushed up stock prices on hopes that the miserable jobs report would get Congress to move quickly on the economic revival package. The Dow Jones industrials gained about 120 points in morning trading and broader stock indicators also rose.

Employers are slashing payrolls and turning to other ways to cut costs _ including trimming workers’ hours, freezing wages or cutting pay _ to cope with shrinking appetites from customers in the U.S. and overseas, who are struggling with their own economic troubles.

The average work week in January stayed at 33.3 hours, matching the record low set in December.

With no place to go, the number of unemployed workers climbed to 11.6 million. In addition, 7.8 million people were working part time _ a category that includes those who would like to work full time but whose hours were cut back, or those who were unable to find full-time work.

Job hunters also are facing longer searches for work.

The average time it took for an unemployed person to find any job _ full or part time _ rose to 19.8 weeks in January, compared with 17.5 weeks a year ago, underscoring the increasing difficulty the out-of-work are having in finding a new job.

Workers with jobs saw modest wage gains.

Average hourly earnings rose to $18.46 in January, up 0.3 percent from the previous month. Over the year, wages have risen 3.9 percent.

An avalanche of layoffs is slamming the nation from a wide swath of employers.

Caterpillar Inc., Pfizer Inc., Microsoft Corp., Estee Lauder Cos., Time Warner Cable Inc., and Sprint Nextel Corp. are among the companies slicing payrolls. Manufacturers _ especially car makers _ construction companies and retailers have been particularly hard hit by the recession. Talbots Inc., Liz Claiborne Inc., Macy’s Inc. and Home Depot Inc. are all cutting jobs. So are Detroit’s General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co.

Americans cut back sharply on spending at the end of last year, thrusting the economy into its worst backslide in a quarter-century. The tailspin could well accelerate in the current January-March quarter to a rate of 5 percent or more as the recession drags on into a second year, and consumers and businesses burrow deeper.

Vanishing jobs and evaporating wealth from tanking home values, 401(k)s and other investments have forced consumers to retrench, which has required companies to pull back. It’s a vicious cycle where the economy’s problems feed on each other, perpetuating a downward spiral.

Many economists predict the current quarter _ in terms of lost economic growth _ will be the worst of the recession.

With fallout from the housing, credit and financial crises _ the worst since the 1930s _ ripping through the economy, analysts predict 3 million or more jobs will vanish this year even if lawmakers quickly approve Obama’s stimulus plan, which has ballooned to more than $900 billion in the Senate.

Obama has repeatedly pressed Congress to swiftly enact a package of increased government spending, including big public works projects and tax cuts, to revive the economy and create jobs. He says his plan will save or create more than 3 million jobs in the next two years.

But the recession has proven stubborn. Despite record low interest rates ordered by the Federal Reserve and a raft of radical programs, including a $700 billion financial bailout, consumers and businesses face high hurdles to borrow money. Foreclosures are skyrocketing, home prices are sinking and Wall Street remains on edge.

Our Perspective:

The public has lost confidence in our economy. Companies are scrambling to cut cost and one of the first things you look at is jobs.

Where will all this lead? I see people shaking their head saying, “I have never seen anything like this before!”

Everyone is looking to Washington. Do they have the answer. Decisions they have made in the past have put us here. A delicate balance must be met. To stimulate the economy, they must only focus of items that will truly stimulate the economy. Cut the pork.

Money put towards rebuilding our schools, infrastructure and alternative energy are quality of life issues and are considered an investment in our own future. This will create jobs. All the other projects fall under special interest that should be looked at in more detail and not be part of a stimulus package.

Cut out the politics and realize that we should all be focused on helping one another. Extend your hand and and offer real help.

Let us know your thoughts? You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

Visit us on the web www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com

 

David Duprey / AP     As reported on MSNBC.com

Manufacturing particularly hit, analyst sees trend continuing through year

WASHINGTON – Rising unemployment spared no state last month, and 2009 is shaping up as another miserable year for workers from coast to coast.

Jobless rates for December hit double digits in Michigan and Rhode Island, while South Carolina and Indiana notched the biggest gains from the previous month, the Labor Department said Tuesday. A common thread among these states has been manufacturing industry layoffs tied to consumers’ shrinking appetite for cars, furniture and other goods.

With tens of thousands of layoffs announced this week by well-known employers such as Pfizer Inc., Caterpillar Inc. and Home Depot Inc., the unemployment picture is bound to get worse in every region of the country, economists say.

 

“We won’t see a light at the end of the tunnel until 2010,” said Anthony Sabino, a professor of law and business at St. John’s University.

The number of newly laid off Americans filing claims for state unemployment benefits has soared to 589,000, while people continuing to draw claims climbed to 4.6 million, the government said last week. There’s been such a crush that resources in New York, California and other states have run dry, forcing them to tap the federal government for money to keep paying unemployment benefits.

Aside from manufacturing, jobs in construction, financial services and retailing are vanishing — casualties of the housing, credit and financial crises.

  Highs, lows
States with the highest unemployment rates in December 2008:

1. Michigan, 10.6 percent
2. Rhode Island, 10 percent
3. South Carolina, 9.5 percent
4. California, 9.3 percent
5. Nevada, 9.1 percent
6. Oregon, 9 percent
7. District of Columbia, 8.8 percent
8. North Carolina, 8.7 percent
9. Indiana, 8.2 percent
10. Florida, 8.1 percent

States with the lowest unemployment rates in December 2008:

1. Wyoming, 3.4 percent
2. North Dakota, 3.5 percent
3. South Dakota, 3.9 percent
4. Nebraska, 4 percent
5. Utah, 4.3 percent
6. Iowa, 4.6 percent
7. New Hampshire, 4.6 percent
8. New Mexico, 4.9 percent
9. Oklahoma, 4.9 percent
10. West Virginia, 4.9 percent

Clobbered by problems at Detroit’s auto companies, Michigan’s unemployment rate soared to 10.6 percent in December. Rhode Island’s jobless rate hit 10 percent, the highest on records dating back to 1976.

Those states — along with eight others and the District of Columbia — registered unemployment rates higher than the nationwide average of 7.2 percent, a 16-year high.

South Carolina and Indiana posted the biggest bumps in their monthly unemployment rates. Each state logged a 1.1 percentage point rise in unemployment from November to December.

In South Carolina, the unemployment rate bolted to 9.5 percent as laid-off textile, clothing and other factory workers found it difficult to find new jobs.

“The money I was making, I’d be hard-pressed to find a job paying that,” said Gregory Smalls, a 49-year-old Columbia, S.C., resident who lost his more than $50,000-a-year job as a truck body shop manager when his department merged with a dealership’s service department.

Indiana’s jobless rate soared to 8.2 percent in December as workers were hit by layoffs in manufacturing — including at engine maker Cummins Inc. — as well as in construction and retail.

Many Indiana counties with high jobless rates are in the northern part of the state, which has been battered by layoffs in the recreational vehicle industry. Hundreds of workers have lost their jobs at RV makers such as Monaco Coach Corp., Keystone RV Co. and Pilgrim International.

Gayle Glaser, who owns the Shortstop Inn restaurant in Wakarusa, Ind., said those job losses have hurt her business, too.

“We just don’t have the traffic here from the plants,” she said. “All my customers coming in — they’re all laid off.”

States that have been spared the worst of the recession’s pain tend to benefit from energy and agriculture production, while also having relatively minimal exposure to the housing and manufacturing busts.

  Economy in Turmoil
Unemployment rose in every state in Dec.
  Rising unemployment spared no state last month, and 2009 is shaping up as another miserable year for workers from coast to coast.

Wyoming posted the lowest unemployment rate, 3.4 percent in December. It was followed closely by North Dakota at 3.5 percent and South Dakota at 3.9 percent.

In 2008, the country lost 2.6 million jobs, and in 2009 at least 2 million more jobs are forecast to disappear.

Minneapolis-based retailer Target Corp. said Tuesday that it will cut an undisclosed number of workers at its headquarters. Elsewhere, specialty glass company Corning Inc. said it would cut 3,500 jobs, or 13 percent of its work force, as demand slumped for glass used in flat-screen televisions and computers. And chemical company Ashland Inc. said it would eliminate 1,300 jobs, freeze wages and adopt a two-week furlough program.

Roughly 40,000 layoffs were announced on Monday by a string of companies, including Pfizer, Caterpillar and Home Depot.

To stimulate job growth and the broader economy, President Barack Obama and Congress are racing to enact a $825 billion package of tax cuts and increased federal spending, including money for big public works projects.

The U.S. has been mired in a recession since December 2007. It is on track to be the longest downturn since World War II.

Written by JEANNINE AVERSA | January 9, 2009 01:12 PM EST | AP

As reported in Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — The nation’s unemployment rate bolted to 7.2 percent in December, the highest level in 16 years, as nervous employers slashed 524,000 jobs, capping one of the worst years in modern history for American workers.

The Labor Department’s report, released Friday, underscored the grim toll the deepening recession is having on workers and companies. And it highlights the difficulty President-elect Barack Obama faces in resuscitating the flat-lined economy. This year has gotten off to a rough start with a flurry of big corporate layoffs, pointing to another year of hefty job reductions.

“There is no end in sight in terms of layoffs,” said economist Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics. “January could be worse because some companies put layoffs on hold because of holiday sensitivities.”

Not only are employers slashing jobs; they also are cutting workers’ hours and forcing some into part-time work. The average work week in December fell to 33.3 hours, the lowest level on records dating to 1964 _ and a sign of more job reductions in the months ahead, economists said.

Obama called the unemployment report “a stark reminder of how urgently action is needed” to revive the nation’s staggering economy. And Hilda Solis, his pick for labor secretary, called the job losses “a crisis situation” and said one of her initiatives would promote “green jobs” that could reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

For all of 2008, the economy lost a net total of 2.6 million jobs. It was the first time payrolls had fallen for a full year since 2002 and was the most since 1945, when nearly 2.8 million jobs were lost. Though the U.S. labor force has more than tripled since then, losses of this magnitude are still being painfully felt.

With employers throttling back hiring, the nation’s jobless rate averaged 5.8 percent last year. That was up sharply from 4.6 percent in 2007 and was the highest since 2003.

All told, 11.1 million people were unemployed in December. In addition, 8 million people were working part time _ a category that includes those who would like to work full time but whose hours were cut back or those who were unable to find full-time work. That was up sharply from 7.3 million in November.

While economists were forecasting even more payroll reductions in December _ around 550,000 _ job losses in both October and November turned out to be deeper than previously estimated. Revised figures showed employers slashed 584,000 positions in November and 423,000 in October.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, rose from 6.8 percent in November, to 7.2 percent last month, the highest since January 1993. Economists were expecting the jobless rate to rise to 7 percent.

During President George W. Bush’s nearly eight years in office, 3 million jobs were created. In President Clinton’s two terms, nearly 21 million jobs were generated.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department reported Friday that wholesale inventories dropped 0.6 percent in November, the third straight month of business cutbacks, while sales were down a record 7.1 percent. On Wall Street, stocks slid. The Dow Jones industrials lost more than 110 points in afternoon trading.

Job losses were widespread in December. Construction companies slashed 101,000, and manufacturers axed a a whopping 149,000 jobs. Professional and business services got rid of 113,000 jobs. Retailers eliminated nearly 67,000 jobs, and leisure and hospitality reduced employment by 22,000. That more than swamped gains in education and health care, and the government.

Employers are chopping costs as they try to cope with dwindling appetite from customers in the U.S. as well as in other countries, which are struggling with their own economic problems.

Workers with jobs saw modest wage gains. Average hourly earnings rose to $18.36 in December, up 0.3 percent from the previous month. Economists were expecting a 0.2 percent increase.

Over the year, wages have risen 3.7 percent, though high prices for energy and food earlier this year made people feel that their paychecks weren’t stretching that far.

The U.S. recession, which just entered its second year, is already the longest in a quarter-century and is likely to stretch well into this year. The fact that the country is battling a housing collapse, a lockup in lending and the worst financial crisis since the 1930s make the current downturn especially dangerous.

Corporate layoffs continue to pile up. G&K Services Inc., which provides uniforms and facility services, on Friday said it is eliminating 460 jobs as it aims to trim costs amid weak demand. And late Thursday, Intermec Inc., which makes electronic devices for tracking inventory, said it plans to cut 150 jobs, or 7 percent of its work force.

Earlier this week, drugstore operator Walgreen Co., managed care provider Cigna Corp., aluminum producer Alcoa Inc., data-storage company EMC Corp. and computer products maker Logitech International all announced major layoffs to cope with the recession.

All the problems have forced consumers and companies alike to retrench, feeding into a vicious cycle that Washington policymakers are finding difficult to break.

Obama says a bold approach is needed to bust through this cycle and revive economy.

“I don’t believe it’s too late to change course, but it will be if we don’t take dramatic action as soon as possible,” he said Thursday.

“If nothing is done, this recession could linger,” Obama warned. “The unemployment rate could reach double digits.”

Obama, who takes over Jan. 20, is promoting a huge package of tax cuts and government spending that could total $775 billion over two years. With add-ons by lawmakers, the package could swell to $850 billion, his advisers say.

Even with a new government stimulus and the Federal Reserve’s decision to ratchet down a key interest rate to an all-time low, the unemployment rate is expected to keep rising. Some economists think it could hit 9 or 10 percent at the end of this year.

Our Perspective:

Where will all this end? 

This is the result of always putting bandaids on everything.

Politicians are always running for re-election so they can’t focus on long term solutions, their results have to be measurable, for they will be held accountable for them. 

Maybe it is time to bring in a new type of focus. It seems President Obama is banging the drum. Is anybody listening?

Let us know your thoughts? You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com