Stimulus plan mixes long and short term job goals
|Dressed in a suit and with resume in hand, Chris Adams, 29, an unemployed salesman, tries to find a job on a busy corner in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Jan. 30, 2009.|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- No matter the color of your work shirt, this recession is sparing few.
From blue collar construction workers to white collar financial sector employees, the economic crisis has dragged a growing swath of American workers into joblessness.
Economic downturns predominantly used to hit blue-collar and young workers. But in this recession, layoffs and business closings are affecting bankers, middle managers, even scientists and journalists.
White collar unemployment jumped 1.6 percentage points - to 4.6 percent - from December of 2007 to December of 2008. But blue-collar workers are still bearing the largest brunt of unemployment, at 11.3 percent.
The shared pain helps explain the varied priorities in the $800 billion-plus rescue package put together by President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. The $50 billion for building roads, bridges and schools addressed the hardest hit of the unemployed first - hardhat workers.
But there are also piles of wage-producing money for college-educated workers: $62 billion in the House version for health information and renewable energy technology, improving the nation's power grid and scientific research. Getting it all to them will take longer.
Policymakers are also counting on greater public acceptance for social spending - on the likes of food stamps, unemployment and health insurance - because the victims of the collapse in housing and credit markets cross socio-economic levels.
"The intensity of where we are right now creates a much larger scale of interest by the public," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute. "You need many more sectors to recover and broad-based policies for that are a new challenge."
Republicans complain that too much is being directed to expanding the safety net for assisting victims and argue that tax cuts, particularly those addressed at businesses, will produce more sustainable jobs over the long term.
The one thing both sides agree on is that more jobs are paramount. A Pew Research Center poll shows 76 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Republicans now rate jobs as the nation's top priority.
The White House economic team, in an analysis this month, concluded the spending would directly create nearly 1.5 million jobs by the end of the fourth quarter of 2010. It also determined the indirect effects - the pass-along benefits of newly employed workers spending more - would create more than 2.2 million jobs.
Included are 305,000 in direct energy jobs and 166,000 in direct health care jobs. Those jobs would, in turn, indirectly produce another 230,000 jobs, according to the analysis.
Mark Anderson, President of ExecuNet, a Connecticut-based firm that provides recruitment services, said executive recruiters are beginning to show more confidence in the market than they had in November.
"The big industry winners are environmental technologies, IT technologies, health care and hospitals and pharmaceutical and bio-tech firms," Anderson said.
But the White House's 3.5 million job projection by the end of 2010 could be more optimistic than the spending patterns for the stimulus would suggest.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates $525.5 billion of the $816 billion in the House stimulus bill would be spent in the first two years. That's a lower spending rate than the 75 percent White House officials want to spend in the first 18 months after the stimulus becomes law.
A CBO analysis cautioned that federal agencies in many instances are not equipped to handle a large influx of money and will be forced to put off billions in spending by one, two or more years.