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Tweeters ask Obama about jobs, taxes, economy

President Barack Obama answered questions about jobs, the economy, taxes, welfare and space programs in the first Twitter Town Hall meeting.

But nothing about marijuana, which was among the most “retweeted” topics before the session started.

The session allowed people around the country to send questions to Obama at the White House with a Twitter moderator. He acknowledged that he underestimated the recession and talked about the debt ceiling talks taking place this week.

For a complete transcript of the 90 minute session, courtesy of the White House Press Office, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Are the good times really over for good?

Good morning, Netizens…

 

Scared of the current economy? This morning's David Horsey cartoon speaks volumes about one of the key components of the current employment situation in our country.

 

There is hardly a day that goes by but what I remember the number of former manufacturing plants that once were the mainstay of our economy back in the days when our national economy was more robust. Those plants simply put are not there any more; most either closed their doors, victims of poor management or the economy, while the majority simply moved their manufacturing plants to some foreign country where they didn't have our fixed costs, including our middle-class wages. Why pay $10 an hour when $3.00 will do in Mexico?

 

Everyone acts as if those jobs are coming back really soon now, but I don't think so. The voters of this country have not spoken up yet, demanding that this policy be deemed unacceptable. If the mega-corporations want our tax breaks, they need to be responsive to our population rather than those of other countries.

 

The grim reality is a select few at the top will make more money than ever, a big majority will be working harder for less pay, and a significant minority will be underemployed or permanently out of luck. That grim economic outlook, as stated by this cartoon, appears to be straight-up and truthful. It does give everyone cause to be scared, and be damned what the opportunistic politicians are saying about our “recovery”.

 

Of course, your results may differ.

 

Dave

Joblessness creeps up in December

Washington added an estimated 2,100 jobs in December, with the manufacturing and retail sectors leading hiring. Still, the estimated unemployment rate increased slightly from 9.2 percent to 9.3 percent, the state reported this morning.

Job numbers and the unemployment rate are derived from separate surveys. Due to margins of error, the surveys sometimes generate conflicting results.

In Spokane County, the unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in December. That's up from a rate of 8.6 percent in November, and down slightly from 9.3 percent a year ago. Unemployed workers in the county totaled 21,990 last month, up from 21,030 a month earlier, the state said.
  

Idaho unemployment rises to 9.5 percent

The Idaho Department of Labor says the state’s December unemployment rate was higher than the national average for the first time in nearly a decade.

Idaho’s projected seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for December rose for the fifth straight month to 9.5 percent, leaving 71,900 workers without jobs.

Nationally, the unemployment rate dropped 0.4 points to 9.4 percent for December.

Based on current data, Idaho’s average unemployment rate for 2010 was a record 9.2 percent, breaking the previous record of 9 percent set in 1982.

Spokane sees no change in jobless rate

Washington’s private sector picked up 3,100 jobs in July, and the unemployment rate fell for the fourth consecutive month, to 8.9 percent, state officials said this morning.

But payrolls overall were down 2,300 in July due to the elimination of an estimated 5,400 government jobs, mostly for the federal census.

In Spokane County, unemployment last month remained unchanged at 8.6 percent, the Employment Security Department reported. That’s also where it stood a year ago.

The state estimated the county’s unemployment stood at 19,840 people in July, about 600 fewer than in June. But the labor force locally also shrunk between June and July, so the jobless rate remained the same.

Employment picture brightens

The unemployment rate in Spokane County dropped more than half a point in June, and statewide joblessness is back down to where it stood a year ago, state officials said today.

Unemployment last month fell to 8.5 percent locally, down from 9.1 percent in May and below the rate of 8.9 percent in June 2009.

Private-sector payrolls continued to grow in June, reducing Washington’s unemployment rate to 8.9 percent – the lowest rate since April 2009.

Statewide the economy picked up 4,500 private-sector jobs but registered a net loss of 3,500 jobs for the month. That’s due to 8,000 government jobs being eliminated, about half of which were federal census jobs.

Job openings rise to highest level in 16 months

Job openings jumped in April to the highest level in 16 months, a sign that private employers may boost hiring in coming months, according to the Associated Press.

The number of jobs advertised at the end of April rose to 3.1 million from 2.8 million in March, the Labor Department said today. That’s the most openings since December 2008.

Private employers accounted for the entire net gain. The government’s advertising for jobs decreased, despite the hiring of hundreds of thousands of census workers in May.

Job openings have risen by about 740,000 since bottoming out at 2.3 million in July. But they remain far below pre-recession levels of about 4.5 million openings per month.

Survey: 3 in 10 Washington workers worry about losing their jobs

Nearly a third of Washington residents are concerned about job security amid signs of a slow recovery, according to a new survey for Everest College.

When asked about the high unemployment rate, 29 percent of workers in the state said they were concerned about losing their job. Meanwhile, 36 percent of survey respondents say they are considering returning to school. Of those, 24 percent are employed and would like to enhance their careers, and 22 percent want to train for a new career, according to the second annual Washington State Workplace Confidence Survey conducted by Harris/Decima.

The survey indicated that 26 percent of Washingtonians indicated they would be very likely to change careers if nothing stood in their way, up from 19 percent in 2009.

“The lack of workplace confidence is understandable considering Washington was hit hard last year by the failing economy and went through one of its roughest years ever from a jobs standpoint,” said Wendy Cullen, vice president of employer development for Everest College.

The survey also found that workplace anxiety levels continue to be high, with nearly two-thirds of survey respondents claiming they suffer some form of work-related stress. The top stress factor was pay (26 percent), followed by fear of losing their job (17 percent).

The survey was conducted March 4-10 with 504 employed residents surveyed by telephone.

Spokane’s jobs scene improves

More people found work in the Spokane area last month, bringing the unemployment rate down to 10.5 percent. It was 11.3 percent in February, and stood at 9.7 percent one year ago.

Spokane County had an estimated 214,500 employed people in March, or about 2,400 more than in February, the state Employment Security Department reported this morning. The number of unemployed was about 25,000, down from nearly 27,000 the month before.

In a sign the local economy is turning the corner on job losses, employment gains occurred across most industries, said Regional Labor Economist Doug Tweedy in Spokane.

A significant part of the employment gain last month was in seasonal hires by employers who delayed hiring because of the lingering effects of the recession, Tweedy said.

Construction and retail trades, two of the hardest hit industries during this recession, posted 400 job gains in March. Professional and technical trades added another 300 jobs.

Green jobs in the Evergreen state

OLYMPIA – Washington counted twice as many people working in “green” jobs last year as in 2008.

Although changes in the way jobs were counted are responsible for much of that growth, the state still saw an increase in people building wind turbines, constructing new energy-efficient buildings or retrofitting old ones, and manufacturing or shipping the supplies needed cut energy use or clean up ecologic messes.

Gov. Chris Gregoire hailed the new figures as rare economic good news in the midst of the recession.

Lege Rs: Democrats plans will cost jobs

OLYMPIA — House and Senate Republican leaders denounced budgets proposals from the other party for raising taxes that will touch everyone and hurt small businesses.

Sen. Joe Zarelli, of Ridgefield, the GOP’s top numbers guy in the Legislature, said the wide array of potential tax increases would hit car buyers and home buyers, both of which are needed to fuel the recovery.

They would create imbalances for communities that border another state, encouraging people to drive across state lines to buy gasoline, candy, soda or bottled water, and discourage out of state residents from shopping in Washington, he said during a sit-down session GOP leaders had with the  news media.

That’s a conglomeration of tax proposals from Gov. Chris Gregoire and Senate Democrats. The two proposals differ significantly in which taxes they’d raise or institute in an attempt to balance some program cuts with new sources of money. As of noon, the House had yet to announce a tax package to explain how it would raise an extra $857 million.

Rep. Gary Alexander, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee wondered how the panel will hold hearings on a budget that doesn’t spell out taxes. “We don’t even know what the “Means” are.”

Campaign has some familiar names

One of the campaign organizations set up to oppose the “Community Bill of Rights” mentioned in this morning’s newspaper report has some familiar names.

Jobs & Opportunities Benefiting Spokane has hired Polis Political Services of Olympia and Brian Murray as political consultants.

Murray may be more familiar to Spokane residents. He was a senior aide to Jim West when West was in the state Senate, and was appointed to the seat when West was elected mayor of Spokane in 2003, finishing slightly ahead in the voting by precinct committee officers and getting the nod from Spokane County commisioners. Murray ran for the seat in 2004, but lost in the primary to Brad Benson, the state Representative who finished second in the precinct committee officer voting. Murray and another former West aide, Cody George, started Vintage Hill winery two years ago. 

Although based in Olympia, Stan Shore of Polis has been involved in Spokane area politics for many years. He, too, had ties to West and several of the Spokane Republican’s legislative campaigns. He was involved  in 2000 in a last-minute attack against John Powers, part of an effort from a web of third party committees set up by Metropolitan Mortgage that led to a $10,000 PDC fine. A master of last-minute campaign mailers, he’s drawn praise from allies and screams from opponents in several other city and legislative races. Because of his long-time ties to West, he helped with West’s unsuccessful fight against recall in 2005, although he worked on that one for free.

Also receiving money from JOBS is Moore Information out of Portland, which has a long history of polling in Washington state, mostly but not exclusively for Republican clients. 

GOP hopeful bashes Minnick’s ‘blitz’

GOP congressional hopeful Vaughn Ward issued a sharply critical statement today in response to Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick’s announcement of an “economic blitz” across the 1st Congressional District during the Congress’ summer break, in which Minnick will host four events to connect Idaho companies and communities to federal funds in an effort to create jobs; more here at Eye on Boise.

Question: What do you think should be done to create more jobs in Idaho?

Where the jobs are: go to Yakima, the Tri-Cities…

So says a quarterly survey by the staffing company Manpower, reported recently in Forbes. From the article:

Cities in the Pacific Northwest and Texas have the best employment outlook for April through June, while cities in the the Southeast have the weakest, according to the study.

Yakima’s 21 percent projected increase in employment — apparently due to a strong apple crop and processing — gave it “the strongest employment outlook in the country” for Q2 of 2009.

Kennewick was No. 2, with 19 percent growth expected. No. 3 was Anchorage, Alaska.

And the worst job prospects? Hello, Florida, hit hard by the construction bubble and then hit again by the tourism slump.

State Rep. John Driscoll — whose predecessor, John Ahern, frequently talked about “a great sucking sound” as employers took their jobs to nearby Idaho — said he was pleased by the news.

“Well, he indeed heard a sucking noise, but he had the direction wrong,” said Driscoll, D-Spokane. “The good jobs are coming here.”

‘Mass Layoffs’ Soared In January

Item: Gov’t says ‘mass layoffs’ soared in January/AP

More Info:  Employers took a large ax to their payrolls in January, the government said Wednesday, and the cuts are likely to get worse over the next few months. The Labor Department reported that mass layoffs, or job cuts of 50 or more by a single employer, increased to 2,227 in January, up almost 50 percent from the same month last year. More than 235,000 workers were fired as a result of last month’s cuts.

Question: If you lost your job, where would you begin looking?

Charging stations on the freeway, car insurance by-the-mile, and lots and lots of weatherstripping and insulation: Senate D’s propose energy/jobs plan…

Echoing similar plans in the other Washington, Senate Democrats in Olympia Tuesday detailed their plans to combine “green jobs” with a renewed push for conservation and alternative sources of power.

“We now have a partner in the federal government in a way that we haven’t had a partner in the past,” said Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane. The Obama administration wants to spend $150 billion and create 5 million new jobs over the next decade with clean-energy efforts.

In Olympia, some of the proposals touted Tuesday were low-tech, like boosting efforts to weatherize drafty homes.

Others look further into the future. With some help from tax breaks, for example, Sen. Fred Jarrett said, he envisions electrical charging stations dotting Interstate 5 “from Vancouver to Tijuana.” When the parking lots full of charged cars aren’t driving, he said, they can be tapped as a massive battery to feed electricity back into the power grid at peak times.

Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, wants to reduce driving by encouraging auto insurers to offer some insurance plans linked to miles driven.

Among the skeptics: Todd Myers, who works for a conservative think tank called the Washington Policy Center. Lawmakers are gambling millions of dollar clutching at the latest “eco-fads,” he said, when they should be encouraging the private sector for better fixes.

“They were wrong on electric cars, biofuels and green buildings,” he said. “Now they want to create charging stations. But a few years back they were talking about the hydrogen highway.”
Myers thinks a better solution would be to charge people for their carbon emissions – encouraging them to limit the pollution – and spend the money on tax breaks to encourage innovation.

“These decisions are not best made in Olympia, Myers said. “They’re best made in Redmond, Seattle and the rest of the state.”

Senate Democrats plan…

From the print paper:

OLYMPIA – Trying to spark job growth, Democrats in Washington’s state Senate on Tuesday proposed a “middle-class jobs package” focused on retraining, environmental jobs and building infrastructure such as statewide high-speed Internet access.

“We believe our first job is about jobs,” said Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane.

She said the proposal could spawn 25,000 new jobs in Washington over the next two years. It’s designed to work in conjunction with a similar federal stimulus package proposed by President-elect Barack Obama.

Republicans are skeptical of the plan, saying it doesn’t offer Main Street employers much help.

“It’s a lot easier to preserve jobs than to create them,” said Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, “and Senate Republicans would have emphasized that point had we been invited to help develop this package.”

The Senate plan is the first of at least three economic stimulus proposals from Olympia in the next month. Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to unveil her plan Thursday. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives say they’ll offer their own plan within a few weeks.

Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, said the goal of the Senate plan is to foster a climate in which workers are well-trained and businesses can thrive. Innovation and job-creating breakthroughs typically comes from small, entrepreneurial companies, he said.

The plan includes:

•A new state entity to help high-speed Internet service reach rural areas. Broadband access will prove as important to rural areas’ growth as the interstate highway system has been for the state as a whole, Kastama predicts.

•Offering help to homeowners and businesses in increasing their buildings’ energy efficiency and boosting weatherization work to cover 20,000 more homes per year.

•A Business and Occupation tax credit for small companies with 10 to 15 employees that hire new workers.

“This is a time when we think a targeted small business tax credit would really be worth the money,” Brown said. The amount of the tax break has yet to be determined.

•Expanding tax-increment financing programs that use future tax dollars to pay for public works projects such as the roads, sewers, and water lines needed for growth.

•A sales tax exemption for the purchase of high-efficiency green construction materials used to retrofit buildings and homes.

•Streamlining the permit and regulatory process so that ready-to-go construction projects can get under way.

•Using the state’s unemployment insurance fund to revamp job training to focus on preparing workers for high-demand fields such as health care. Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, said the state has 12,000 vacancies in nursing and other jobs now.

Proponents had few specifics on cost, although Brown said most of the changes would cost relatively little. Lawmakers said they are waiting to see how much federal stimulus money the state will get before providing more specifics.

Zarelli said the plan falls short. He and other Republicans, he said, would rather see more tax credits “to give employers hope that Washington’s business climate will change for the better.”

Press: Older Really Can Be Better

Employment experts across diverse industries are extolling the virtues of older workers, once considered unwanted drag on the speeding vehicles of modern business. Rather than invest countless hours in seeking, screening, interviewing, hiring and training younger workers — many of whom are gone within a few months — increasing numbers of employers are finding great value in those with gray hair, hard-earned wrinkles and home addresses nearby/CDA Press Editorial Board.

Question: Do you consider older workers valuable?