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Keeping Up With Zero

September 2, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The August jobs report is out — the first since the debt deal passed and the S&P downgraded the U.S. credit rating — and the key number to the whole thing is zero. Zero jobs were created in August. The private sector produced a measly 17,000 jobs, but those gains were entirely erased by the 17,000 jobs that were lost in the public sector due to state and local government budget cuts. Hours worked were down, wages were down, and the unemployment rate for blacks jumped by nearly a full percentage point to 16.7% nationally. There’s basically nothing good in the report to point to.

When Congress comes back next week, the focus is going to be on competing jobs bills from the Republican House and the Obama Administration. Unfortunately, it looks like none of them are going to pass. Both sides have decided that their best move is to try to use the gridlock to their advantage politically. They’re not willing to do for the jobless what they did for the banks with TARP — throw the political concerns aside and do what it takes to save them.

But it’s not just jobs bills that Congress will be fighting over when they come back. They also have some important authorization bills up for renewal that have so far been stymied over partisan battles on union-organizing rules and other issues. If they’re not going to pass a job-creation measure they should at least find a way to pass these bills so they can prevent millions of of private and publica jobs from being lost.

The Federal Aviation Administration will shut down on September 16th, and 80,000 or so government workers and contractors will be out of work, if Congress doesn’t reauthorize it. The sticking point is a provision from Republicans in the House that would change union-formation rules for airlines so that workers who abstain from voting are counted as votes against unionization. According to the Huffington Post, all other issues with the authorization bill have been resolved. The only question remaining is whether the House will stick to the union provision, which probably couldn’t pass the Senate and is already under veto threat from Obama. 

The next re-authorization pending after that will be for Surface Transportation, due by September 30th, which Senate Democrats say could affect more than a million jobs if it is not completed. “Based on the U.S. Department of Transportation jobs models, the $52 billion in Federal funding provided through these programs, when matched by State and local investments, supports over 1.8 million jobs nationwide through all sectors of the economy,” the senators wrote in a letter to their colleagues yesterday. Senate Democrats want to reauthorize surface transportation funding at current levels for two years, while House Republicans are supporting a bill that would reauthorize the programs for six years but cut the budget by one-third from current levels. The House bill would slow investments in infrastructure jobs over the next several years, reducing jobs in that area, many of which are union.

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