As budget talks continue in Congress, the prospect is waning for an extension of expiring unemployment benefits.
While some congressional Democrats continue to press for extended benefits for jobless workers, an Associated Press story reported Dec. 9 that it is unclear how strongly the White House would support them and even Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has not made their absence a budget deal-breaker.
While we’re sympathetic to the people who are finding it difficult to secure new jobs, we can’t help but feel the benefits extension approved during the recession has served more to institutionalize unemployment than to help people get back on their feet.
On Dec. 6, NPR reported that the number of Americans falling off the unemployment rolls remains high. That’s not people going back to work. That’s people who either no longer have access to benefits or have given up on looking for a job.
The stock market has rebounded, but the job market has done anything but as businesses find ways to increase their profit margins either by mechanizing or expecting more work out of fewer employees.
Take Amazon.com, for example, which reported last week that working to develop drone delivery of packages with a goal to “get packages into customers' hands in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles.”
Whether or not this is a pipe dream, as some competitors suggest, the end result would be fewer workers in package delivery.
The trend toward mechanization has been with us since the industrial revolution and, with modern advances in technology — like the drone — it shows no sign of waning.
As much as we would like it to be otherwise, we are not looking at an abberation in the jobs marketplace, but the new normal: lower-paid jobs, a dying middle class and a short-sighted business sector that fails to recognize the stability a healthy chunk of middle class consumers provides for markets.
Many of the jobs of a few years ago are no longer available, yet there are jobs going a-begging.
Under The Dalles’ Oregon Employment Department listings alone can be found more than 100 separate job listings, including jobs in the service sector, education, health care, technology and much more. Many are full-time.
As some sectors of the economy shrink, others grow and open the door to new opportunities. But those opportunities often mean either a decline in income or a need for retraining.
In lieu of paying workers not to work for an extended period, we need better access to affordable — or even free — training programs that won’t leave people who have already gone through the severe economic strife of unemployment then mired for the rest of their future in the perpetual debt of heavy student loans.
Many local unemployed workers have also taken advantage of small business loans to — for better and worse — start new businesses and chart their own employment course.
The bottom line is that unemployment insurance was never intended to be a long-term substitute for labor, only a stop-gap measure. The longer people stay on unemployment, the dimmer their prospects for getting back in the labor force.