Friday, April 1, 2011

Jobs, what's the truth?

The US Department of Labor's Employment Situation Report for last month is big news today. The "good news" is that "Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 216,000 in March." The not-so-good news is that hourly wages are essentially flat over the last year. Furthermore, 2.4 million "marginally attached" persons exist. These are workers who are not presently working who desire jobs and have looked for work. However, they seemingly gave up looking last month.

Susan Adams describes the labor situation this way. She writes: Wall Street may like the Labor Department’s announcement today that the unemployment rate dipped slightly, to 8.8%, and the economy added 216,000 new jobs in March. But for the legions of still-unemployed and underemployed workers, the news is less promising." Kelly Evans writes: "The trouble is, the more sluggish the pace of hiring, the more likely it is that the temporary surge in unemployment becomes something more structural. Indeed, Barclays Capital reckons an unemployment rate of about 7%, not 5%, is close to full employment in the U.S. today." (K. Evans, Ahead of the Tape, April 1, 2011, para. 9)

Robert Reich says that the US government, business periodicals, and national newspapers aren't telling the entire truth. He forecasts a "double-dip" due to poor consumer confidence, slow job growth, and a flat housing market.
(Cartoon Credit - Steven Roddy)

I have two quick theological thoughts. First, the Church has historically been a safe and hopeful sanctuary for economically poor and hungry people. Jesus first sermon in Luke is to proclaim good news to the poor and freedom for oppressed persons. His neighbors became angry when he declared that they were too presumptuous about their own well-being. Jesus' parable of "The Great Banquet" suggests that Jesus' disciples are to go into the streets and welcome the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame into the bounty of God's reign.

Most Christian communities "get it." There are churches everywhere that participate in feeding programs and food banks. That's not the "bottom line" though, is it? Church communities need to be entrepreneurial. The Church is not only a place of worship, it is a place of healthy and healing social networking. Congregational members need to not only share their food; they need to help their neighbors find living wage jobs.

Communities of faith and their members should not be silent when legislators, such as those in Florida and Michigan reduce already diminished unemployment benefits. Christians need to be more than just sympathetic when unemployed people like Richard Dudenhoeffer (photo) says: "When the benefits run out,” I’ll just give up.” Practical and productive benchmarks include LDSJobs on the denominational level and Grace Church's "Crossroads Career Network Ministry" on the local level. Check out Darren Cushman Wood's blog to see how we can get directly involved with the Interfaith Worker Justice.

Lastly, as Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush sing "Don't Give Up" Help others not to give up either.

Blessings Along The Way

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