The jobs report will also be the first since Congress failed to pass a bill extending longterm unemployment benefits, which leaves 1 million Americans unable to collect unemployment anymore. Many of those people will now stop looking for a job — a requirement of collecting the extended unemployment benefits — and the unemployment rate will drop as a result. A Wall Street Journal story about the jobs report notes, “'It would continue the trend of the unemployment rate falling for the wrong reasons,'” said Chris Christopher, an economist at IHS Global Insight. In December, only 62.8% of people in the U.S. older than 16 were in the labor force. That matched the lowest participation rate since 1978, a time when women were entering the labor force in greater numbers." Meanwhile, fewer people are making new claims for unemployment benefits, which means the economy may be ready to improve and leave the longterm unemployed in its dust. As Peter Coy notes, "the more the overall job market recovers, the more the long-term unemployed tend to get ignored — or even worse, treated as losers or shirkers. Congressional Republicans have blocked extended unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed this year in part because of concern that those benefits breed dependency. 'I’m not against having unemployment insurance,' Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican, said on ABC’s This Week in January. 'I do think, though, that the longer you have it, that it does provide some disincentive to work and that there are many studies that indicate this.'"
The fate of the longterm unemployed will be one of the biggest question marks the United States needs to solve in 2014. Right now, one in six men between the ages of 25 and 54 don't have a job. Thirty-one percent of the unemployed 20-24 year olds in the country haven't had a job for over 27 weeks. Employers are far less likely to consider applicants who haven't had a job in months. Longterm unemployment hasn't been this bad in the U.S. since the Great Depression. It's a big problem, and if it's not fixed, the unemployment rate isn't going to budge. President Obama has made helping them one of the policy themes of the year, including a new initiative with over 300 companies that pledged to change their hiring processes not to discriminate against the longterm unemployed. A $150 million grant program to encourage nonprofits to help the longterm unemployed with their job search is also in the works.
There is a lot that Congress can do to help the situation too, as Derek Thompson points out:
In a market failure like this, only Washington can intervene — through stimulus, through direct hiring, or through clever incentives. That's not some hippy-dippy conclusion. Plenty of conservatives and Republicans agree, including Michael Strain at AEI and Sen. John Thune, who teamed up to propose a plan that would give businesses a six-month payroll-tax holiday for each long-term jobless worker they hired and give the workers special loans to move to areas with lower unemployment. Strain's colleague at AEI, Kevin Hassett, has repeatedly argued that government should hire these workers directly.
That they haven't tried anything yet, however, isn't an encouraging sign.
Bidens are a train's best friend
Per usual, Biden had prepared one line to have the press jumping for joy at its utter Biden-ness, giving him and his beloved steam engine all the media he thinks both warrant.
If I blindfolded someone and took them to into the airport in Hong Kong and said, where do you think you are? They'd say, This must be America; it's a modern airport. If I took them blindfolded and took them to Laguardia Airport in New York, they'd think, I must be in some third world country. No, I'm not joking!
Although some news outlets jumped on it as a gaffe, many New Yorkers came to the vice president's defense.
Joe Biden said today that Laguardia seems like "it's in some third world country." Not sure why you'd insult third world countries like that
— Second Ave. Sagas (@2AvSagas) February 6, 2014
LaGuardia Airport is actually much worse than Biden is saying. #LGA
Donald Trump and a former Port Authority executive have also likened LaGuardia to a third-world country airport. Phillip Bump, on the other hand, challenged Biden to tell the difference between Delaware and third-world countries. Thomas Friedman is likely somewhere wondering why we aren't still talking about how Union Station looks like it's in a third-world country.