With Labor Day over, the race for the White House in 2012 has kicked off and at the top of everyone’s agendas are jobs. The August report card for employment was awful with not a single job created in the entire month. Currently there are 14 million unemployed persons in the USA – 9.1 per cent of the work force.
With these figures it is understandable that the president is pivoting to jobs, and his speech to Congress on 8 September, on the subject. His ‘American Jobs Act’, will cost $447 billion dollars to implement and includes tax cuts, infrastructure building and the extension of unemployment insurance, to make sure that those long-term unemployed individuals do not lose their entitlements while looking for work.
Long-term unemployment is termed as those who are out of work for over 27 weeks. Currently six million people are deemed long term unemployed by the statistics that make up 42.9 per cent of the total unemployment figure.
Ripples from the financial crisis of 2008 can still be felt in these figures and those who have not recovered from them face an uphill battle to find gainful employment. Alongside the crushing confidence blow that it is to be constantly turned down, the expense incurred in keeping up one’s appearances and travelling to multiple locations, employers have been discriminating against those who have been out of employment for over six months.
The New York Times discovered that many employers are making it a prerequisite that the candidate currently be in employment or have left within the previous six months. While employment lawyers cannot see a legal case against this stipulation, the New Jersey state legislature has already passed a law banning businesses from discriminating against the long-term unemployed, with New York and Michigan mulling over similar options.
As the bill faces this divided Congress it seems the prevailing view that elements of the Jobs Act will be stripped out and passed with little fuss while others will be stuck in partisan gridlock. Long-term unemployment is a social ill that equally upsets both sides of the house. America’s work ethic is imprinted in its DNA; nowhere has Max Weber’s sociological observations on the spiritual good of earning capital been more aptly applied.
In the UK we are unfortunately all too familiar with the sociological problems that come from long-term unemployment. There are those in our own society who have never had a job, nor have their parents. If the statistics are correct, neither will their children.
America is pivoting to jobs and the country will watch to see if Congress can do anything that will help the society out of the economic mess it finds itself in.