11-29-2021  8:57 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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NORTHWEST NEWS

City’s Budget Windfall Means More for Police, Despite NAACP Demands

Group calls out lack of engagement from City Hall.

Oregon Resists Dropping Controversial Investments

Oregon residents are increasingly pushing for the state to divest from fossil fuel companies and other controversial investments, but the state treasury is resisting and putting the onus on the Legislature.

COVID-19: Oregon Drops Outdoor Mask Requirement

Oregon still has in place, a statewide indoor mask mandate for all public settings

Oregon Supreme Court Dismisses Challenge to Legislative Maps

The Oregon Supreme Court on Monday dismissed two challenges filed by Republicans to new state legislative districts approved by the Legislature in September.

NEWS BRIEFS

Vsp Global Partners With Black EyeCare Perspective to Eliminate Inequities and Increase Representation of People of Color in the Eye Care Industry

Partnership includes scholarships, leadership development, and outreach to prospective optometrists ...

Shop Local and Earn Free Parking With Parking Kitty

Find the purrfect gift for your loved ones by supporting small businesses and shopping local this holiday season, thanks to the...

Oregon Records More Than 5,000 COVID-19 Related Deaths

Today, Oregon health officials reported 103 new COVID-19 related deaths, bringing the state’s death toll to more than 5,000 ...

Northwest Library Site Acquired as Part of Multnomah County Library Capital Bond Projects

Location will help library move towards permanent spaces, expedite other bond projects ...

Four LGBTQ Leaders to Be Inducted Into Hall of Fame

Governor Kate Brown included in 2021 class of inductees to be honored at Victory Fund’s 30th Anniversary Gala ...

Northwest residents urged to stay alert as storms roll in

Weather officials urged Northwest residents to remain alert Sunday as more rain was predicted to fall in an area with lingering water from extreme weather earlier this month. “There's some good news and some pending news,” said Steve Reedy, a meteorologist with the National...

Community systems offer alternative paths for solar growth

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Strolling his church's rooftop among 630 solar panels, Bishop Richard Howell Jr. acknowledged climate change isn't the most pressing concern for his predominantly Black congregation — even though it disproportionately harms people of color and the poor. ...

No. 25 Arkansas beats Missouri, caps best season since 2011

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Sam Pittman grinned for almost the entirety of his postgame press conference Friday night. The Arkansas coach and his team had done something no others ever had. The No. 25 Razorbacks capped their regular season with a 34-17 victory over Missouri,...

Mizzou's Drinkwitz returning to Arkansas for rivalry game

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Just 45 miles of interstate highway separate Eli Drinkwitz from where he started and where he is now as Missouri's head football coach. Raised in the small Arkansas town of Alma, Drinkwitz will come full circle Friday when his Tigers visit No. 25...

OPINION

State is Painting Lipstick on Its One-of-a-kind, Long-term-care Law

Starting in January, the unpopular law imposes a stiff new tax of 58 cents per 0 earned for every worker in the state ...

Giving Thanks

Just by being alive we can be sure of having moments of sadness as well as happiness. When you’re active in politics, you experience both wins and losses. Sometimes it can be hard to feel grateful. ...

Acting on Climate will Require an Emphasis on Environmental Justice

Climate change affects us all, but its effects aren’t distributed equally. ...

Small Businesses Cannot Survive With Current Level of Postal Service

At The Skanner News office we received an important piece of correspondence that was postmarked June 12, 2021, and delivered to us on November 4, 2021. ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

PGA Tour says golf pioneer Lee Elder, the first Black golfer to play in the Masters, has died at the age of 87

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla., (AP) — PGA Tour says golf pioneer Lee Elder, the first Black golfer to play in the Masters, has died at the age of 87....

Lee Elder, 1st Black golfer to play Masters, dies at age 87

Lee Elder, who broke down racial barriers as the first Black golfer to play in the Masters and paved the way for Tiger Woods and others to follow, has died at the age of 87. The PGA Tour announced Elder’s death, which was first reported by Debert Cook of...

At Jussie Smollett trial, Osundairo brothers at center stage

CHICAGO (AP) — Two brothers stand at the center of the case that prosecutors will lay before jurors when the trial of Jussie Smollett begins this week. The former “Empire” actor contends he was the victim of a racist and homophobic assault in downtown Chicago on a frigid...

ENTERTAINMENT

Chris Diamantopoulos builds a hot career, on screen and off

NEW YORK (AP) — When you see Chris Diamantopoulos on screen, you may get a sense of déjà vu. The actor regularly pops up in movies and TV shows as a variety of characters, and he's fine if you find yourself trying to place where you've seen him before. “I want people...

Pistol Annies craft holiday album for the not-so-sentimental

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country star Miranda Lambert readily admits that she doesn't really like Christmas music at all. The only thing that would get her in the spirit to do a holiday record was singing with her two best gal pals from the Pistol Annies, Ashley Monroe and...

Barbra Streisand, Lea Salonga, more mourn Stephen Sondheim

Tributes quickly flooded social media following the death of Stephen Sondheim as performers and writers alike saluted a giant of the theater: “Rest In Peace, Stephen Sondheim, and thank you for your vast contributions to musical theater. We shall be singing your songs...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Merriam-Webster chooses vaccine as the 2021 word of the year

NEW YORK (AP) — With an expanded definition to reflect the times, Merriam-Webster has declared an omnipresent...

EXPLAINER: Can world powers curb Iran in new nuclear talks?

JERUSALEM (AP) — Can the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers be restored? As Iran and six...

EXPLAINER: What we know and don't know about omicron variant

GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization says it could still take some time to get a full picture of the...

Russian navy test-fires hypersonic missile in the White Sea

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's navy has successfully test-fired a prospective hypersonic missile, the military said...

Sputnik V maker: Vaccine could be adapted to fight omicron

MOSCOW (AP) — The developer of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine said Monday that it will immediately start working on...

Israeli PM urges world powers to resist Iran's 'blackmail'

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s prime minister on Monday called on world powers not to “give in to Iran’s...

By Tom Foreman CNN












Graph shows hiring over the last year (Department of Labor)


The Mississippi River rolls muddy and wide beneath a gray, spitting sky. The St. Louis Arch, symbol of the once unimaginable promise of the nation's westward expansion, looms above the barges pushing past and the summer traffic below. Across the water, at 35 years old, Lolanda Ohene is staring at the skyline and wondering what has happened to her future.

"I thought I'd be more successful right now," she says, "have better health insurance, better (working) conditions, just better everything, because I'm in America." She laughs softly. "We're supposed to have better quality everything here, but we don't."

Ohene is a forklift operator at a warehouse and one of the countless working Americans struggling with the long, slow economic recovery, characterized by the latest jobs report, which once again shows unemployment above 7 percent. The rate has not dipped below that number since November 2008, two months before Barack Obama became president. His defenders point out that the nose dive in jobs began under President Bush; his detractors counter that Obama has not exactly proven a wizard at reversing the trend.

Forget the politics: The bottom line is that sustained unemployment of more than 7 percent is wreaking havoc in ways that many economists fear are being overlooked as the nation grows numb to the dreadful monthly numbers.

"It's a total employers' market," says John Schmitt, a senior economist at the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research. He argues that the first and foremost effect is an erosion of the bargaining positions for workers everywhere. "If you are looking for a job, you take whatever is offered. If you have a job, you don't complain. If wages are going to be frozen, if benefits are going to be cut, you suck it up. There's not much you can do."

Other profound changes emerging from the 7 percent landscape: The Labor Department reports four times as many workers are now being offered temporary or part-time positions than full-time jobs; reports have abounded for many months about how even the full-time positions now don't pay as well as those lost in the Great Recession.

Certainly, President Obama is sensitive to all that. He has been barnstorming the country in recent weeks leading sing-along choruses of "The Let's Save the Middle Class Rag," the song that got him re-elected. But aside from the politics, there are practical reasons he, his Democrats, and Republicans, too, need to see the 7 percent floor broken, and soon. As Schmitt puts it, "Seven out of a hundred workers that would like to have a job don't have one. That's an enormous amount of lost resources in the economy. That means people aren't producing goods and services, aren't consuming goods and services. ..."

And they aren't paying taxes. At least not at the rate that governments require to keep up with benefits for a population trying to claw out of an economic hole. That's why, back in St. Louis, Mayor Francis Slay gets agitated over people growing accustomed to such a high unemployment rate.

"For people to accept that as the norm would be very, very dangerous," he tells me as we sit in the office of St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, who chimes in. "I think it is not the American way of life. We can do better than that. We've got to continue to invest in our infrastructure. You've got to have amenities." And both men know, you can't do any of that with a crippling unemployment rate hanging around year after year. Missouri, by the way, has a current unemployment rate just under 7 percent, but across the river in Illinois, it's over 9 percent.

To be sure, some progress is being made. Look at the charts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and you'll see creeping improvements in the jobs numbers over the past few years. But the National Conference of State Legislatures in its spring report said while most states are no longer teetering on the edge of economic calamity, there is still "a dose of uncertainty, as states continue to plod their way through an extended economic recovery."

What everyone wants, of course, is "full employment." That's a term economists don't like much because while it describes a simple idea (everyone who wants a job has one), the details are squishy. For starters, "full employment" does not and will never mean 0 percent unemployment. People are always changing jobs, looking for new positions, or taking breaks, so some percentage of the population is expected to be out of work at any given time.

Furthermore, some economists -- not many, but some -- believe that whenever an unemployment rate stabilizes for a period of years at any number, like say 7 percent or above, that is by definition "full employment" because the economy is essentially "full" of workers or it would hire more.

William Dickens, however, is not one of them. "I have a lot of problems with that."

Dickens is a distinguished professor of economics at Northeastern University in Boston, who has written and researched extensively into the causes and effects of unemployment. "Before the recession, (full employment) was typically estimated to be in the range of 4 to 6 percent. Since the recession, there are indications that number may have gone up. My own estimates suggest it is somewhere between 5 and perhaps a little bit over 6 percent now, although nowhere near 7 or 7½ percent."

The ways in which those numbers can change are complicated. Imagine a chalkboard filled with elaborate, baffling equations and you'll get the gist even if you don't get the picture.

But it all comes down to the idea that 7 percent is not even close to "full employment" in the eyes of most economists, and some parts of the population are disastrously far from even that mark. Last year, for example, African-American males faced an unemployment rate of 15 percent.

And here is the thing: Young workers -- all those bright-eyed, optimistic kids with their iPhones -- who are being pounded by the employment situation now, will likely never recover from the beating. Read that again: They will never recover. "There is evidence that entering a troubled labor market has a permanent scarring effect," Dickens says. "Somebody who enters a labor market during a downturn, they're going to see lower wages throughout their career."

All that is the damning legacy of that stubborn 7 percent-plus that keeps coming out each month. Blame whomever you wish politically, but even if the number has started looking benign after all these months, there is no denying the economic tidal wave rumbling beneath it.

Even now, it is washing around Lolanda Ohene, as she stands on the riverbank while her friend Vernon Glenn roams up. He is 27, works in a factory and has a strategy for economic survival: "Just got to try to keep your head up high and save all you can, if you can."

She smiles and turns back to the river. Until that number changes, it is as good a plan as any.

 

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