Want to create jobs? Then create jobs.

December 17, 2009 | John Burbank

An emergency job creation program for the Washington State

We’ve got an official unemployment rate of 9.3% here in Washington, and the likelihood of increased unemployment in the coming months.  This understates the actual unemployment and underemployment of workers in our state, and the decrease in the employment to population ratio.  The national underemployment rate (the unemployed, those who have quit looking, and those working part-time who want full-time work) is 17.5%.  The private sector is sloughing off jobs.  As unemployment increases, consumption falls, generating further cutbacks in economic activity and employment.

What can we do?  Create jobs.  The federal government should enable the states to immediately create public sector/service jobs.  In Washington state, an immediate jobs program with 12,000 jobs would make up ten percent of the 121,000 jobs lost since the beginning of the recession in December 2007.

Here’s how we could create jobs  – jobs that enhance public services, build public infrastructure, and stimulate economic growth. The precedents are the Works Progress Administration, the Public Works Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, CETA, VISTA, and Americorps. Today, here in Washington State, the Employment Security Department (ESD) would be the central collector/distributor for public job creation. ESD knows who is unemployed, where, and what occupations.

The Governor’s office requests each state department to identify unfilled needs and attach a job estimate to each need.   The focus should be on labor-intensive work.  The Governor can send a similar request to cities, counties, and other localities. Each department reports these needs and job estimates back to ESD within five working days.  After another five days, each department must report how they would create the supervisory and management team to allocate and administrate these jobs.

DES then supplies the workers to the agencies, as requested.  This will be a voluntary request on the part of the worker.  Each worker will receive the equivalent of her/his unemployment compensation, or 133% of the minimum wage ($11.40/hour), as a paycheck, plus health coverage through the Basic Health Plan.  The total cost per worker for one full year of employment, including health coverage, FICA taxes (employee and employer), and 15% for administrative overhead and capital costs would be about $35,500.  12,000 jobs would cost $426 million dollars.

What kind of jobs are possible?

  • Teacher aides, tutors, and coaches in the public schools
  • Teacher aides in public early learning centers (to be combined with the ongoing career and wage ladder
  • Trail development and maintenance (Sound to Mountains Greenway, etc.)
  • Housing energy retrofitting (to be combined with an ongoing apprenticeship program
  • Expansion of Community Jobs to the unemployed workforce.  (Community Jobs are jobs with community-based non-profits for “hard-to-employ” welfare recipients)
  • Community theater projects through the community college network
  • Parks maintenance and stewardship, resulting in re-opening of parks
  • Library workers, enabling longer hours for public libraries
  • Americorps expansion
  • Legal aid work
  • Jobs identified by DNR, Transportation, Department of Ecology, Parks, Community  Development

This is just to sketch out the possibilities.  State and local agencies should be able to identify immediate needs and practical development of jobs. The need is to:

  1. Get commitment of federal funding ($425 million, for 2011)
  2. Get agencies to act promptly (jobs identified within two weeks)
  3. Disallow supplantation of current jobs; negotiate with unions
  4. Get DES to match unemployed workers with jobs
  5. Insure that appropriate supervisory team is in place.
  6. Get people to work by January 2nd.
  7. Label the projects, so that the general public begins to equate job creation with our government.
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Posted in A Fair Deal at Work, An Inclusive Economy, Minimum Wage

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