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January 03, 2003

Why Even Track 240,000 Lost Jobs?

On Christmas Eve (nicely dumping the story per Bush practice on a night to bury the story), the Bush administration announced that the Bureau of Labor Statistics no longer thought it worth the effort to keep track of mass layoffs across the country. Yes, the fact that 2150 employers in November laid off 240,000 employees is not considered relevant information for policymakers across the country. State employment and poverty agencies across the country are protesting:

"In the current recession, MLS data have increased in value and are being followed and evaluated more closely," Catherine B. Leapheart, president of the National Association of State Work Force Agencies, wrote in a letter to Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao. "The states have come to rely on this information as an economic indicator and a tool for operational decisions on service delivery and funding allocations for dislocated-worker programs."

State officials around the country said they were surprised and unhappy to hear the report was canceled.

"In these times when the economy is in transition, knowing what's going on and who it's going on to, is critical," said Harry E. Payne Jr., chairman of the North Carolina Employment Security Commission. "It's an axiom of human nature that you focus on what you can measure. Now they are taking away a measure."

Of course, the last sentence is the point. Take the focus off the mass layoffs by eliminating the monthly reports, so reporters don't get a story. The Bush administration doesn't have a plan to deal with mass layoffs, other than to now pretend they don't exist.

So what statistics will the Department of Labor focus on? Well check out its home page here and see a smiling DOL Secretary Elaine Chao trumpeting the increase in volunteering. Why track unemployment when you can talk about nice people helping anonymous people who have mysteriously appeared at soup kitchens?

But why is the administration cutting funding for the report? According to the article, an official said that the Labor Department had only $30 million for its dislocated-worker demonstration project, and that it could no longer afford the report. "We believe we need to be funding programs that get people back to work," Deputy Secretary Maave Bishop declared.

But why isn't there more funding? How about because there's been systematic defunding of the displaced worker program. See this official legislative report noting the reduction in funding for worker displacement programs.

So the rightwing defunds various programs to help the unemployed, then use that defunding to justify ending reports tracking the source of unemployment, thereby hoping to support further reductions in funding for help for the unemployed. It's just a cycle of vicious anti-worker policy.

Posted by Nathan at January 3, 2003 06:15 AM

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