We give Thee our most humble and hearty thanks, O God, for blessings without number which we have received from Thee, for all Thy goodness and loving kindness, for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life. And, we beseech Thee, give us that due sense of all Thy mercies, that our hearts may be truly thankful for all things, and that we show forth Thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to Thy service and by walking before Thee in holiness and righteousness all our days. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. — A General Thanksgiving – from A Book of Devotions and Prayers According to the Use of the Polish National Catholic Church, Published by the Mission Fund of the PNCC, 7th edition, May 1, 1984.
John Guzlowski posted a poem for Thanksgiving at Lightning and Ashes. It begins:
My people were all poor people,
the ones who survived to look
in my eyes and touch my fingers
and those who didn’t, dying instead
of fever or hunger or a bullet
in the face, dying maybe thinking
of how their deaths were balanced
by my birth or one of the other
stories the poor tell themselves
to give themselves the strength
to crawl out of their own graves.
It is stark, and fitted to our times.
From CNN: More Americans filing for unemployment
The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits rose by 2,000 in the latest week, pointing to continued weakness in the job market, the government reported Thursday.
The number of initial filings rose to 439,000 in the week ended Nov. 13, the Labor Department said. The number was slightly better than the 442,000 economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected, but higher than the revised 437,000 initial claims filed the week before.
Overall, the weekly number has been treading water since last November, hovering in the mid to upper 400,000s and even ticking slightly above 500,000 in mid-August.
Economists often say the number needs to fall below 400,000, before the stubbornly high unemployment rate can start dropping significantly…
While Congress (various sources): Fails To Extend UI Benefits – Program Faces Lapse By November 30
On November 18th, the House of Representative failed to pass a three month extension of emergency unemployment benefits (EUC08) setting up the possibility the program will lapse once again on November 30.
Plunging over 2 million people into hopeless economic uncertainty. No lifeline, no paycheck, no jobs — nothing by which they might feed their families, pay for housing, or sustain themselves till the one job for every five people becomes theirs.
The hope for that happening is slim, at least for 6 years at the best estimate. From Money Morning via NuWire: Pre-Recession Unemployment Rates Won’t Be Seen Until At Least 2016
Stocks are up nearly 70% from their bear market lows. Corporate profits are rising. And the economy is expanding. Yet the unemployment rate continues to hover around 10%.
Neither President Barack Obama’s $787 billion stimulus program, nor the U.S. Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing has generated enough good news to convince companies to hire meaningful numbers of new workers.
Of the 8.7 million people who lost their jobs during the recession, more than 7.3 million are still without work. There are still nearly five job seekers for every job opening. In fact, adding in workers who are working part time but looking for full-time work and those who have given up looking all together brings the “real” unemployment rate to a staggering 17% compared to 16.5% last year, the latest government report shows.
And even though private sector payrolls increased by 151,000 in October – bringing the number of jobs created since the economy bottomed in December 2009 to 1.1 million -the share of the population working or looking for work declined to 64.5%, its lowest level since 1984.
The Great Recession has spawned some truly unique – and ugly – economic offspring. But one trend has emerged that sets it apart from most economic downturns: the swelling ranks of the long-term unemployed.
The number of people who’ve been collecting unemployment benefits for at least six months increased by more than 100% in 40 states over the last two years, according to an analysis of unemployment insurance data compiled by National Employment Law Project (NELP).
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) stood at 6.2 million in October. Those folks now account for 41.8% of the 14.8 million unemployed workers in the country.
“Long term unemployment is more than ever the norm of a layoff , and it’s across the country and across the economy that this is happening,” Andrew Stettner of NELP told the Huffington Post.
The reality of long-term unemployment is even worse than the numbers suggest.
“This is certainly a crisis of huge proportion and it is reflected in an extraordinary number of people unemployed for a very long time,” wrote Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, in an email to the HuffPost. “It’s even worse than that because we’re seeing a large withdrawal from the job market and one can assume that this is among those who have been unemployed a long time — giving up.”
This trend is important because long-term unemployment feeds on itself.
There are a series of consequences that follow long-term unemployed workers far into the future. Job skills deteriorate, job networks disappear, and workers lose hope. The longer a worker is unemployed the less likely he or she is to find a new job and the more likely it is they will find only a lower-paying job.
“People lose job skills, they become unemployable,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “It becomes a real long-term problem. People in their late 40s and 50s who end up out of work for long periods of time may drop out of the work force and never get another regular job.”
There are also other – less obvious – consequences of long-term unemployment. According to recent research, job displacement can lead to significant reductions in life expectancy . Other research shows that the children of these workers earn less when they become adults and enter the labor force.
The specter of long-term unemployment will sustain the unemployment rate as the skills of idled workers deteriorate and segments of the labor force are compelled to retrain or move out of the areas of the country that were propped up by the housing bubble. The likely result is that the unemployment rate will fall at only a gradual pace.
To determine how long the recovery will take this time, the Brookings Institution recently examined the “job gap,” or the number of months it would take to get back to pre-recession employment levels while absorbing the 125,000 people who enter the labor force each month.
The results show that even under the most optimistic scenarios, it will take years to eliminate the job gap.
If the economy adds about 208,000 jobs per month, the average monthly rate for the best year of job creation in the 2000s, it will take 142 months, or about 12 years to close the job gap.
At a more optimistic rate of 321,000 jobs per month, the average monthly rate for the best year of the 1990s, the economy will reach pre-recession employment levels in 60 months, or about 5 years.
Here’s the takeaway: Based on the history, pre-recession unemployment rates won’t be seen again until at least 2016, and in all probability much later, as idled workers find it harder and harder to land jobs.
Also, if you are unemployed, certain elitist, undereducated, and reactionary segments of society cast the blame squarely on your shoulders. They think you’re banking the money for a lavish vacation and a grope from your local TSA agent. Of course reality is different, one job for every five workers, and that UI benefit money gets spent on the basic needs of life, preventing a horrific dip into poverty. Per the Congressional Budget Office in Unemployment Insurance Benefits and Family Income of the Unemployed [PDF]
- Almost half of families in which at least one person was unemployed received income from UI in 2009. In 2009, the median contribution of UI benefits to the income of families that received those benefits was $6,000, accounting for 11 percent of their family income that year.
- Without the financial support provided to families by UI benefits and under an assumption of no change in employment or other sources of income associated with the absence of that support, the poverty rate and related indicators of financial hardship would have been higher in 2009 than they actually were. For instance, in 2009 the poverty rate was 14.3 percent, whereas without UI benefits and with no behavioral responses taken into account, it would have been 15.4 percent.
But who cares about studies and research when we are simply angered because our neighbor is in need. Not too long ago we would have invited that family in. We would have fed and clothed them (Matthew 25:40). Now, who cares! Not businesses like Giant Food, the Thanksgiving Grinch, because someone may be slowed on the way to the cash register.
For many of us, it’s a Thanksgiving tradition to drop a few coins in the Salvation Army’s red kettle outside our local grocery.
It’s quick, easy, and has real impact – last year, more than $139 million was raised by red kettles to provide services ranging from hot meals to warm beds for homeless and impoverished Americans.
This year the need is greater than ever, with more than 44 million Americans on food stamps. But because of the objection of a large grocery store chain, the residents of poverty-stricken Washington, D.C. are at risk of going without essential holiday services.
Giant Food, a major supermarket chain in Washington D.C. and several surrounding states, just issued new regulations severely limiting red kettle fundraisers. Why? “In order to best serve our customers, and not hinder their shopping experience,” a Giant Food representative said in a statement.
Donating to the needy might not be at the top of everyone’s shopping list, but that’s why physical reminders of the importance of giving are needed. Caught up in the commotion of our own lives, we can all use help overcoming the distractions and indifference that prevents us from helping to alleviate suffering in our communities.
Tell Giant to offer more than a bargain, but hope as well. Tell Congress to actually do something for the long term unemployed, that is, other than posturing.
Oh, and if you are working; watch over your shoulder because employers are stealing their worker wages at an alarming rate. From the Albany Times Union: Wages belong to the workers
In New York City alone, a study by the National Employment Law Project earlier this year found that 21 percent of low-wage workers are paid less than the minimum wage, 77 percent weren’t paid time-and-a-half when they worked overtime, and 69 percent didn’t receive any pay at all when they came in early or stayed late after their shift.
We’re talking about the jobs that literally make our economy run — home care and child care workers, dishwashers, food prep workers, construction workers, cashiers, laundry workers, garment workers, security guards and janitors. Hundreds of thousands of them aren’t getting even the most basic protections that the rest of us take for granted.
And make no mistake, the problem isn’t going away: These types of jobs account for eight out of the top 10 occupations projected to grow the most by 2018.
Wage theft in New York is not incidental, aberrant or rare, committed by a few rogue employers. Over the last two years, the state Department of Labor has brought cases against restaurants in Ithaca, a printer in Albany, horse trainers at the Saratoga Race Course, hotels in Lake George and car washes across the state. Altogether, the agency recovered $28.8 million in stolen wages for nearly 18,000 New Yorkers in 2009 — the largest amount ever. That’s a valiant effort to be sure, but still not nearly enough to match the scale of the problem…when workers made a complaint to their employer or government agency, 42 percent experienced illegal retaliation — such as being fired or having their wages or hours cut. That is enough to discourage even the most committed worker from filing a wage theft claim.
[And r]ight now, it’s all too common that a worker successfully brings a wage theft claim, only to see the employer declare bankruptcy, leave town, close shop or otherwise evade paying up… In New York City alone, more than 300,000 workers are robbed of $18.4 million every week, totaling close to $1 billion a year. Extrapolate that to the state level, and you get a staggering amount of potential stimulus that’s being taken out of the pockets of working families and local businesses, and state coffers.
Even in good times, fighting wage theft is smart policy. In a recession, it’s such a no-brainer…
Our call as people of faith is to bring hope, to give hope, to recall in the minds of our brothers and sisters that all we have, even our poverty, is from the Lord, and to take action. We must remind all that God is about freedom and justice, not subservience and pain, and show our solidarity with those thrust into poverty, hopelessness, joblessness, or who have their daily bread stolen out of their hands.
Today, the struggles are growing closer to those of 125 years ago. Our people no longer look to bright hope in tomorrow, but the hunger pains to come tomorrow. They are falling into a grave out of which they might not crawl.
As opposed to purveyors of the success gospel, or the gospel of monarchies of every type, we are aware our hard scrabble, blue collar background. Our Holy Church, the PNCC, gave hope to working men and women when all that was offered them were days of back breaking labor for little in wages and the company store. When their Churches were joined at the hip with the ruling classes and the government bureaucracy, we stood by their side on the picket line. What we offered then was education, literature, a better future, lived ideals based on God’s closeness to man, an expression of the freedom these men and women had as Americans. We showed them that they could join together in Unions, that they could worship God in truth and freedom. We taught them about our God who desires deeply to be joined to men and women in their lives, who communes with them in their work and struggle. Our God wants more than a fractional share of our pennies for others to administer, but true thanks from a free people joined to Him.
The hope of Jesus Christ, His peace, His presence, His justice, His tomorrow are more necessary than ever. Let us as a Church stand up and show the hope that is more than social services, more than mere charity and political posturing; the Church that is the hope of eternity, the hope of freedom and justice for a free people joined to Jesus Christ our brother. God stands with us. Let us give Him thanks and more — our action.