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JANUARY 9, 2004
5:59 PM
Suzanne Ffolkes 202-637-5018
Statement by AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney on December Employment Report

WASHINGTON - January 9 - Today’s economic news underscores America’s persistent jobs crisis: nearly 15 million workers remained unemployed or were able to find only part-time work in December; paltry job growth lagged much below expectations; and a stunning 300,000 people dropped out of the labor force in December, rendering the slight drop in the nation’s unemployment rate virtually meaningless. This coupled with yesterday’s report that new unemployment insurance claims rose last week are clear signs of national economic distress.

It’s time for the Washington elite to take off the rose-colored glasses when it comes to the economy and take a long, hard look at what’s really happening to working men and women. Although corporate profits have increased steadily, even during the recession, and worker productivity is at record highs, workers and their families continue to suffer. Unemployed workers are having much too hard a time finding new jobs, and when they do, the pay is less and too often there are no benefits. Workers’ wages are flat. And the Bush administration is moving full-speed ahead with its plan to strip overtime pay protections from millions.

The modest job growth of the last few months pales in comparison to the number of jobs lost under Bush’s watch—2.3 million—and falls far short of the president’s promise last year that his tax cuts and economic program would generate more than 300,000 jobs a month. In fact, he hasn’t created that many jobs in the entire six-month period since the last round of break-the-bank tax cuts took effect. So far, he’s more than 1.6 million jobs short of this promise. Moreover, in December alone, we lost another 26,000 manufacturing jobs.

There is an unparalled crisis in long-term joblessness. Nearly two million unemployed workers--almost one-fourth of the unemployed--have been without jobs for longer than six months. Further reflecting the severity of this crisis, more than four million unemployed workers have run out of their limited federal unemployment insurance benefits without finding work since the emergency federal program began.

Nevertheless, Republican leaders in Congress and President Bush turned their backs on these unemployed workers and allowed the emergency program to expire during Christmas week. Unless President Bush and Congress right this wrong and renew the program, at least two million unemployed workers will run out of state UI benefits by the middle of this year with neither jobs nor federal emergency benefits to fall back on. It is simply unconscionable and callous that President Bush and Republican congressional leaders are deliberately denying basic support to the working families hurt most by the economic downturn.

Workers who still have jobs are now faced with the possibility of losing crucial overtime pay as a result of flawed economic policies. Despite a huge outcry from workers, the Bush Administration is trying to eliminate overtime protection for millions of workers. Adding insult to injury, the Administration has even given companies a road map on how to avoid paying overtime to low-wage workers under its proposed new rules. It is deeply disconcerting that the Administration is looking for ways to help big business boost profits at the expense of hardworking Americans.

President Bush’s economic policies are still failing to produce the one economic indicator that matters most—good jobs that support workers and their families.



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