BRUNELL: At this time, be thankful for a job

It is a classic case of “good news, bad news.”

  • Saturday, November 21, 2009 3:35pm
  • Opinion

By Don Brunell

It is a classic case of “good news, bad news.”

The good news is that, as Thanksgiving approaches, there are hopeful signs that our economy, investments and 401k retirement funds are starting to rebound. Heading into a day when we traditionally give thanks for our blessings, people do not appear in as much of a panic over job losses as they did a year ago. However, many still worry about running out of money, losing their homes or simply finding a job.

The country’s mood is more subdued this year. Last year, employers were shedding jobs, financial markets were collapsing, credit dried up, consumers zipped shut their wallets, and even General Motors and Chrysler were on the verge of bankruptcy.

The bad news is our nation continues to shed jobs.

Washington, although somewhat slow heading into the recession, saw state revenues plummet and our unemployment rate has doubled in two years, standing at 9.3 percent.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor reported national unemployment hit 10.2 percent in October. However, in Clark County across the Columbia River from Portland, unemployment hit 13.7 percent. In neighboring Oregon, unemployment stabilized at 11.7 percent, a drop from a high of 12.2 percent.

In addition to layoffs in the private sector, state and local governments are reducing employment because tax collections are down. A local government maintenance supervisor summarized it best. “When the private sector is losing money, businesses can’t pay their taxes so by Thanksgiving I have to hand out 10 pink slips. I’ve agonized over it and prayed I wouldn’t have to lay people off. Unfortunately that is reality today.”

While economists see unemployment stabilizing, there is some disturbing news. Increasingly, evidence points to an increase in the number of people who have quit searching for work.

“What appears to be happening is that many job hunters – retirees and nonworking spouses who dusted off resumes as the financial sector imploded and stocks plunged – are leaving the hunt. Their disappearance from the ranks of the officially unemployed lowers the jobless rate,” said David Cooke, an Oregon labor economist.

David Gergen, former editor of U.S. News and World Report, told business leaders at the Association of Washington Business Policy Summit in September that economists in our nation’s capital are starting to believe the number of jobs won’t return to their pre-recession levels.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is so concerned about jobs that it launched a $100 million Campaign for Free Enterprise. The chamber’s chief economist, Marty Regalia, points out that America has lost seven million jobs since the recession began, more than half of those this year.

“America needs to create one million jobs or more each year just to keep pace with our growing population,” Regalia stated.

Regalia’s figures show another troubling sign. “We also have a number of people who are underemployed, working part-time jobs that should be full time. So when you add it all up, we have to create 20 million jobs in the next 10 years.”

As we sit around the dinner table counting our blessings this year, we need to say a prayer for our family members, friends and neighbors who are out of work. We ought to go the extra step and invite them to dinner or put a food basket together for them.

Then, after we polish off the pumpkin pie and put the plates in the dishwasher, we need to sit down and write a letter to the president and our elected officials to tell them it’s the economy – work full time to fix it.

Don Brunell is the president of the Association of Washington Business.

More in Opinion

Thank you Murray for increasing Alzheimer’s research funding

As someone who helped care for a mother with Alzheimer’s and who now misses her every day, I understand firsthand the impact this disease has on families across America.

Tribalism led to the loss of Vietnam, Iraq wars

Knowing and understanding tribalism can offer a solution to the divisions at home and abroad.

The Fennel Creek Trail will benefit nearby communities

Contrary to the beliefs of some, the increased number of people using trails discourages criminal activities by increasing the number of eyes watching what is going on.

The sweetest revenge? Sometimes it’s just being nice

Being kind to others, especially those who have harmed or hurt us, comes as a result of seeing others as our equals.

Mental health competency delays cost state millions

Soon, some of those languishing lengthy periods behind bars might need to be released and charges against them dismissed.

Thank you, Enumclaw, for all of your support

I’ve seen these types of things happening throughout my life in Enumclaw, but recently I have been overwhelmed with the outstanding amount of support the community has shown me personally as I prepare for an internship in Washington, D.C., this summer.

The four cornerstones of arguing irrationally

Don’t get caught up in the techniques people use to ignore rational arguments.

State Dems may abandon caucus chaos in time for 2020

Washington also is considering becoming more significant by moving its primary to early March.

A taste of Krain history, from its dive-bar days

I first went in the place one winter’s evening when I was 8 or 9 years old.

Supreme Court resets the playing field

The ruling on the Masterpiece Bakery v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case wasn’t a win for the right or a loss for the left; it’s a chance to do things right the second time around.

Supreme Court ruling shows sanity, moderation

The 14th Amendment equal protection clause does not negate the First Amendment religious freedom clause.

Initiative signatures are the new greenbacks

As of Wednesday, June 6, petitions for four statewide initiatives were getting circulated.