We Need 402,000 Jobs a Month: Does the Senate Get It?

Unless the magnitude of the jobs crisis is made clear and the grassroots demands bold action, the Senate process will be a race between the parties to see how small can you make a jobs bill and still call it a jobs bill.
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Today, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled plans for a series of job-related bills, but details remained sketchy, apparently because negotiations are still ongoing to secure enough Republican support to avoid a filibuster. Unsurprisingly, weaker tax cut proposals are more likely to get bipartisan support than robust public investment proposals.

So far, Senate leaders are not saying how big their proposals will be, nor how many jobs they are expected to create.

Perhaps they need us to put a fine point on how giant the jobs hole is that we're in.

To return the level of employment we had before the recession began, we need to create 402,000 jobs month for three years straight.

The $154 billion House jobs bill won't come close to filling that jobs gap either -- only a third of the cost goes towards creating jobs, the rest to prevent layoffs and help the jobless -- but it would least take a bigger step than what the Senate is cooking up.

Unless the magnitude of the jobs crisis is made clear, and unless the grassroots loudly demands bold action that meets the size of the crisis, the Senate process will be a race between the parties to see how small can you make a jobs bill and still call it a jobs bill.

For more on the size of the crisis, read the Campaign for America's Future jobs fact sheet below.


Jobs Now: The Urgency Of The Need

The official unemployment rate stood at 10.0 percent in December 2009. But that only tells part of the story. To understand the real magnitude of the recession, add those forced to work part-time or who have given up searching for a job altogether. That means a combined unemployment/underemployment rate of 17.3 percent. That's 27 million Americans who need a full-time job. That's double the number of people needing work in 2008.

We're making progress, but not nearly enough. We still lost more than 7 million jobs since the recession began. According to the Economic Policy Institute, to fill the gap in employment and keep up with population growth, we need to create about 402,000 jobs a month over the next three years. That's ambitious, but we've come close before: In 1994, the economy created an average of 320,000 jobs a month. But we never came close to that performance between 2001 and the start of the economic meltdown, and we're certainly nowhere close to that right now.

The best jobs are disappearing most quickly. In December 2009, we lost a total of 85,000 jobs--but a third of those jobs were in the manufacturing sector. Overall, service-producing sectors have fared much better, and in some instances gained jobs, in the recession compared to the goods-producing sector. This indicates that workers may be settling for lower-paying jobs in order to find work.

America's manufacturing sector has been on the decline as a result of offshoring, global competition and absence of a national industrial policy. In 1980, manufacturing jobs made up 20 percent of the workforce; today manufacturing represents just 9 percent of jobs. Since 2000, one in three manufacturing jobs has been lost--1.2 million of those in 2009.

We know what works. We just need the political will. We can jump-start the economy by putting people to work doing the work that needs to be done. Here are the facts:

  • Every dollar spent on infrastructure projects generates $1.59 worth of economic benefits: people hired, goods and services purchased, taxes paid. Every dollar spent on corporate tax cuts or on making the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy permanent only generates about 30 cents of economic benefit. (EPI/Moody's Economy.com)
  • Every billion in federal transportation investment supports 35,000 jobs (SharedProsperity.org); every billion spent on school construction supports 8,000 jobs (Congressional Research Service).
  • Each billion spent on the Apollo Alliance green-energy investment program would create 200,000 jobs; the full $60 billion program would create 1.2 million short-tern and long-term jobs, plus yield billions of dollars worth of economic and environmental benefits. (Apollo Alliance)
  • A transaction tax on Wall Street trading of just 0.5 percent--less than one-tenth of the percentage tax many people pay in sales tax on clothes or a restaurant meal--would in 10 years cover the full cost of a robust jobs and economic recovery plan. It would have a negligible impact on routine stock trades but it could curb the kind of high-velocity, speculative trading that helped inflate the Wall Street bubble and set up the financial crash. (EPI)
With 27 million Americans out of work or underemployed, now is not the time to cut deficits and freeze spending. The Obama budget projects unemployment to be at 9.8 percent when the domestic discretionary spending freeze kicks in, and the biggest danger is that spending restraints will stall recovery--and increase deficits as mass unemployment continues.

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