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A Second Stimulus

April 4, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

There’s a new jobs report (pdf) out today, and it’s not good:

>US employers cut payrolls by a bigger-than-expected 80,000 in March, adding more evidence that a housing downturn and credit crisis have pushed the economy into a recession.
>It was the third monthly decline in a row and the biggest in five years, according to the Labor Department.
>Adding to the bleak picture, the department revised the first two months of the year’s job losses to a total of 152,000 from a previous estimate of 85,000.
>The March unemployment rate jumped to 5.1 percent from 4.8 percent, the highest since a matching rate in September 2005.
>Economists polled ahead of the report forecast a decline of 60,000 in non-farm payrolls and a rise in the unemployment rate to 5 percent.

And an even more disturbing job trend is emerging when you look at just the private sector. The new data shows that, in March, 98,000 private sector jobs disappeared, marking the fourth consecutive month of private-sector losses.

For the past few months, the most active part of OpenCongress, by far, has been the comments section of S.2544, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2008. The bill would provide for 20 more weeks of unemployment insurance benefits for unemployed people whose benefits expired with the last year.

There are well over 1,000 comments on the page — people telling their personal stories of struggling with unemployment, as well as vigorous efforts to organize and push the bill into the media’s attention and to get the Senate to pass it. The page has become an impromptu petition, with people from across the country sending it to their members of Congress to show them how bad the unemployment problem is.

Today’s jobs report may have tipped the scales a little closer towards the bill being passed. In response to the report, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other congressional leaders have begun a serious push for a second stimulus bill, which would almost definitely contain the unemployment insurance extension:

>“When congressional leaders meet with the President next week, I will urge him to refocus his attention on America’s economy and to again work in a bipartisan manner on a new stimulus package. We need to work together to restore consumer and market confidence, to assist millions of Americans threatened with the loss of their homes, and to help families meet the rising costs of necessities"
>House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel, D-Illinois, said, “We need an economic program that rebuilds America and offers real help to the middle class. The Democratic Congress will now begin work on a second stimulus package to help American families and get our economy back on track.”
>A Democratic leadership aide says House leaders have been discussing the need for another stimulus, but have not reached any decisions on what they want included in it. Some measures likely to be considered include funding for infrastructure projects, unemployment assistance, and food stamps.

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