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Posts Tagged ‘unemployment’

A couple weeks ago I shared my ambivalence toward the fact that the “unemployed [are] busying themselves with voluntarism.” For expressing cynicism toward those giving their hearts and times to good causes, I recently received my just desserts.

At a recent Red Cross training I met a young woman who, like me, volunteers for what we call (awesomely) the Disaster Action Team. Young people who volunteer on DAT are a rarity – our team consists mostly of retired folks who have a lot of time to give and have a bit of an excitement deficit – so we chatted about why we volunteer.

It turns out that this woman, like some of our retired friends, has a bit of time to give – she was laid off not too long ago. So she’s volunteering for the Red Cross and other organizations. As we chatted outside,  I noticed she had two nametags on, one for the Red Cross and the other bearing CAP’s logo. It turns out she’s also volunteering for us. (I won’t say where since I didn’t ask her permission to tell this story and I don’t want to identify her.)

It was clear to me in our conversation that voluntarism was an important consolotation for her from the pain of losing her job. In volunteering she not only finds an opportunity for new experiences and relief from boredom, but a chance to give to others with one asset that she finds currently abundant – her time. I didn’t tell her about the article I’d read or the blog post I’d written or how I felt about it. I just listened.

I’m glad to have been reminded that in this economic crisis we’re all in it together, that we should all give with what we have, and that we should be grateful for every unexpected gift – both the unemployed volunteers and the unanticipated lessons – we receive along the way.

Thanks to all of you for all you give.

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I’m not exactly sure how I feel about this article in the New York Times. Apparently newly unemployed white collar workers are beating down the doors of NYC-area nonprofits in search of volunteer opportunities. A volunteer matching website called volunteernyc.org has seen its searches increase by 30 percent over the prior year. Many of these new volunteers admit either to being bored or hoping their service will lead to a paid position down the road, while the article speculates the influx may be in part due to President Obama’s praise of the spirit of voluntarism. It seems clear that the volunteers are not, however, inspired by any sort of feel-good camaraderie they feel for others struggling through the economic crisis.

In fact, I suspect the waves of newly minted public servants are driven neither by public-mindedness, the president’s pronouncements, sheer boredom, nor even the promise of future employment. (more…)

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Oklahoma Policy Institute puts out a monthly publication called Numbers You Need, capturing key economic and budget trends in Oklahoma. It’s a good quick way to keep track of conditions in our state.

Their February report (PDF) indicates that the state is faring better than the rest of the nation, with key indicators moving more mildly than elsewhere. So while the number of unemployed in Oklahoma spiked 32 percent since September and the unemployment rate has risen from 3.8 to 4.9 percent, the state is still in considerably better shape than the rest of the nation (whose unemployment rate was 7.2 in December).

Meanwhile, the inflation rate was 0.0 percent over 12 month period since December. Obviously that’s mostly due to the decline in gas prices. The overall rate conceals increases in areas like food and beverages, though, which were up 5.8% for the year in the South region. Families reliant on food stamps thus saw their food budgets stretched tighter, as the benefit is only adjusted on an annual basis.

Finally, enrollment in most work supports in Oklahoma showed only modest growth, with increases of 4.2 percent in food stamps, 4.0 percent in WIC, and just 0.3 percent in Sooner Care (Medicaid). Child care subsidy participants actually declined. Since this benefit covers only child care for the purposes of work or training, rising unemployment may actually make it more difficult to keep children in early childhood programs.

Anyway give it a read, sign up for their email updates, join their facebook group (but not while at work!), or follow them on Twitter. (Way to skip the blog and go straight for the micro-blogging, David!)

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A couple workforce-related items to bring our week to a close:

  1. Workforce Oklahoma saw twice as many job-seekers in December as they did in the prior month.  They saw 3,000 in December. (Not sure if that’s statewide or just in Tulsa.) The unemployment rate has climbed from one percentage point since September, from a low of 3.6 to 4.6 as of November (BLS).
  2. The Workforce Alliance reports that the Senate version of the stimulus bill (S. 1) contains $3.25 billion in Workforce Investment Act funding. The language focuses on providing services to low-income, low-skilled, and other hard-to-serve populations; allows Workforce Investment Boards to contract with institutions of higher education to provide training services (apparently this is a new provision); and provides $450 million for dislocated workers, especially in high growth sectors.

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The Economic Policy Institute reports on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that the number of “involuntary part-time workers” has nearly doubled over the last 12 months:

Workers forced to settle for fewer hours, Economic Policy Institute.

From "Downtime: Workers forced to settle for fewer hours." Economic Policy Institute, 2009.

An “involuntary part time” worker is someone who wants a full-time job but is forced to take a part-time position, either because their hours were reduced below 35 hours/week or because a worker desiring full-time work had to settle for part-time.

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Families USA has a report (PDF) out detailing the inadequacy of COBRA. As you may know, COBRA allows displaced workers who lose their health insurance to purchase their previous employers’  policy for a certain period of time. In Oklahoma, the average worker who loses her job will pay 31.1% of her unemployment insurance on COBRA coverage. Even worse, if that worker must purchase insurance for her family, that premium will eat up nearly 83% of unemployment compensation. That family will have just $207 left for other necessities for an entire month. The result? Just 18 to 26% of eligible individuals elect to purchase COBRA benefits.

cobrachart

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