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   WASHINGTON (AP) — More than a million Americans lost their unemployment benefits late last month, when a temporary federal program expired. Congress is debating whether to restore the aid for three more months.
 
   A bill to do so cleared a key procedural hurdle in the Senate on Tuesday. But final passage remains unclear. Democrats say extending the aid would boost hiring and economic growth. But many Republicans say the benefits discourage the unemployed from seeking work and would widen the federal budget gap.
 
Some questions and answers about what's at stake for the U.S. economy:
 
Q. Who's affected?
 
A. Nearly 1.4 million Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months. No longer can people continue to receive checks longer than that. Hundreds of thousands of others will lose their benefits in coming weeks, when they, too, will max out on the six months of unemployment benefits that most states provide.
 
Q. What did the expired program provide?
 
A. Starting at the end of 2008, it gave unemployment payments to people who had exhausted their state benefits. In some cases, people were able to collect aid for nearly two years.
 
Q. Why have some Americans needed benefits for so long?
 
A. Mainly because the job market has remained weak even though the Great Recession officially ended more than 4½ years ago. Many Americans have been unemployed for well beyond six months. More than 5 million jobs were shed in 2009 alone. The national unemployment rate has dropped from a peak of 10 percent to 7 percent. But of the 10.3 million people who are still unemployed, nearly half have been without a job for more than six months, according to the Labor Department.
 
Q. Do extended benefits help the economy?
 
A. Many economists say they do. Unemployment checks help cover the rent, groceries and gasoline for millions of financially squeezed Americans, according to congressional Democrats. It boosts consumer spending and reduces dependence on other government welfare programs. All that lifts the economy slightly. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in December that continuing the benefits for a full year would add 200,000 jobs and 0.2 percentage points to economic growth in 2014. To put that in context: The economy added an average of fewer than 200,000 jobs a month during 2013. That said, the economic benefit of a three-month extension would be much less.
 
Q. What about critics who argue that these benefits, in effect, pay people not to work?
 
A. Not quite. To receive benefits, an unemployed person is supposed to actively look for work. And supporters note that the checks average $256 a week, which still keeps things pretty close to the poverty line. Congress has renewed the extended benefits each year. But unlike previous yearlong extensions of the emergency benefits, this continuation would be for just three months.
 
Q. What's the cost to taxpayers?
 
A. Extending the benefits for three months would cost $6.4 billion. Most congressional Republicans don't want that sum tacked onto the budget deficit. So they plan to negotiate for additional spending cuts.
 
Q. What happens to people when they lose their unemployment benefits?
 
A. Many basically drop out of the economy. Some apply for Social Security disability benefits to get by, according to academic research. Because of changes to its system, North Carolina began cutting unemployment aid in July. The state's unemployment rate dropped from 8.8 percent in June to 7.4 percent in November. But that's not because lots of people suddenly found jobs. Since they were no longer receiving benefits, many discouraged workers gave up their search and were no longer counted as unemployed. So the state's unemployment rate fell for the wrong reason.
 
Q. But critics say extended unemployment benefits can actually hurt the economy. Why?
 
A. The argument is that extended benefits keep the unemployed on the sidelines, waiting for that perfect job that almost never materializes. Research shows that many employers ignore jobseekers with gaps of more than six months in their resume. When people are out of work that long, their skills start to erode, as does their earning potential, said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former CBO director who has advised Republicans. He calls the program "a mixed blessing." Holtz-Eakin notes that unemployment benefits were created during the Great Depression to address temporary layoffs. It was never intended to be a job re-training or anti-poverty program, he says.
Published in National News
Thursday, 19 September 2013 01:40

St. Louis incomes down since Great Recession

   If it feels like you are making less money now than you were before the Great Recession, you just might be.  

   Census data released Wednesday indicates that inflation in St. Louis has increased faster than income since 2007.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that when adjusted for inflation, median household income for the region was just over $52,000 last year, compared with more than $58,000 in 2007.  

   And the poverty rate has jumped to 14.3 percent this year from 11 percent six years ago.  

   Its a national problem.  Inflation has outpaced income in 95 of the largest 100 metro areas.

Published in Local News
Thursday, 18 July 2013 02:20

Poll: US still seen as top economic power

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is still viewed as the world's leading economic power in many countries, according to polls in 39 nations by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. But as the Great Recession has buffeted the U.S. economy, China has gained rapidly in the eyes of the rest of the world, and many say it ultimately will replace America as the world's top global economic force.

 

In 22 of the 39 nations polled, the U.S. is seen as the top global economy, while China is viewed as having the upper hand in eight countries, including U.S. allies Canada, Britain, Germany and France. Surprisingly, Americans are about evenly divided over which country has the stronger economy, with 44 percent saying China and 39 percent the United States.

 

Since 2008, the population share that calls China the world's top economy has just about doubled in Spain, Germany and Britain, nearly tripled in Russia, and gained 22 points in France. Of the 20 countries Pew surveyed in both 2008 and 2013, all but two are now significantly more likely to say China is the world's leading economic power.

 

In 18 of the countries polled, half or more believe China has or will replace the U.S. as the world's top economic force, while majorities in only three believe the U.S. will maintain its top economic position.

 

The surveys, conducted before news about the NSA's surveillance programs broke, also found that 37 of the 39 countries saw the U.S. as a good steward of individual liberty than a poor one.

 

Before leaks of classified documents revealed widespread U.S. tracking of Internet communications among people in other countries, many said they were confident President Barack Obama would do the right thing in world affairs, including 88 percent in Germany and 83 percent in France, two allies whose official reactions to the spying program have been broadly negative. Few in those nations think the U.S. gives their countries' concerns much weight when setting foreign policy; just 35 percent in France and half in Germany say America considers their interests at least "a fair amount."

 

Other findings from the surveys:

 

— The U.S. is viewed favorably by a majority in 28 of the 38 other nations tracked in the poll, with favorability ratings above 80 percent in Ghana, Senegal and Kenya in Africa, Israel in the Middle East and the Philippines in Asia. America fares worst in the Middle East, where most have an unfavorable opinion in five of seven nations surveyed, including 81 percent with a negative view in Egypt and 70 percent unfavorable in Turkey.

 

— Among those in nations that receive U.S. economic aid, Egyptians and Pakistanis are more apt to say the assistance is having a negative impact on their country, while other African nations surveyed view such assistance as a positive influence.

 

— Majorities in just three of the 39 countries say they approve of the U.S. use of drones to target extremists: Israel (64 percent approve), the United States (61 percent approve) and Kenya (56 percent approve).

 

— More than 9 in 10 in Japan (96 percent) and South Korea (91 percent) say that China's growing military power is a bad thing.

 

The Pew Research Center interviewed 37,653 respondents in 39 countries from March 2 through May 1, 2013. Interviews were conducted face-to-face or by telephone, depending on the country, and are representative of at least 95 percent of the adult population of each nation except for China and Pakistan, where the samples were disproportionately urban, Argentina, Bolivia, Greece, Indonesia and Malaysia, where some difficult to reach or rural populations were excluded, and the Czech Republic and Japan, where interviews were conducted either by cellular or landline telephone only.

Published in National News

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