Employment Won't Increase until Economic Recovery Is Kickstarted

By Thomas Olson; Joe Napsha | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 4, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Employment Won't Increase until Economic Recovery Is Kickstarted


Thomas Olson; Joe Napsha, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Candice Zawoiski of Friendship has searched for a teaching position for a year and hasn't found any kind of full-time job for two years.

"Because of all the budget cuts to education, I can't get a job," said Zawoiski, 32, who holds a master's degree in elementary education. "And I know I'm not the only one. It's a huge problem."

It's hardly limited to the education field or to the Pittsburgh region.

Policymakers are scrambling for ways to add jobs and energize the anemic economic recovery. President Obama is scheduled to lay out job-creating initiatives to a joint session of Congress on Thursday evening. Analysts expect he'll propose creating a fund for public works projects, extending payroll tax cuts beyond year-end, putting money toward worker retraining programs and providing temporary tax cuts to companies that hire people.

Yet hiring is not likely to pick up anytime soon, cautions Tom Henschke, president of SMC Business Councils in Churchill, a trade group that represents 1,500 small- and medium-sized firms in the region.

"The elements that need to exist just aren't present," Henschke said, citing slack demand for goods and services, tight credit and a lack of business and consumer confidence.

Experts say the main sources of new jobs in Western Pennsylvania are likely to be in the health care, education and natural gas industries and the spinoff jobs they bring in accounting, finance and information technology -- the same sources of most recent job growth here.

The nation has 6.8 million fewer jobs than when the Great Recession started in December 2007, according to the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. To keep up with growth in the working-age population since then, 4.3 million new jobs were needed. At that rate, it would take an average 400,000 new jobs per month to fill the gap by 2014.

On Friday, the government reported that zero jobs were created in August. It was the worst report in nearly a year, raising fears of another recession. The last one technically ended in June 2009.

"Unemployment has affected every group of workers," said institute President Lawrence Mishel. "Those with college degrees have double the unemployment rate, and young college grads are hurt the most."

"If Americans want to return to full employment, which means unemployment would be around 5 percent, then they'll have to wait until 2018 if employers are infused with a new confidence and began hiring at the same average rate they did during the 2003-2007 expansion -- 176,000 jobs a month. But 176,000 jobs a month is a far cry from the zero new jobs reported Friday," the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, said in a statement.

Cenaya Crawford of the North Side got an associate's degree in business management four years ago but has searched fruitlessly for work since June. That's when she lost her job as a news store supervisor at Pittsburgh International Airport after the Hudson Group put her on weekends, when buses there run infrequently.

"I'm either too educated or not educated enough," said Crawford, 23. "I've been living off my savings, and my bank account is almost gone."

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office forecasts the nation's unemployment rate of 9.

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