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Questioning the Media’s Coverage of the Jobs Crisis

As the Senate moves this week to pass a very short-term extension of unemployment benefits, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert notes what few voices on Capitol Hill are willing to: That the string of temporary fixes to the nation’s safety net programs are doing nothing to address the highest long-term unemployment rate since the Second World War.

Blue-collar workers are suffering through a crisis characterized as a “depression” by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. Blue-collar job losses during the so-called Great Recession surpassed 5.5 million, and many of those jobs will never be seen again. This disastrous situation will not be corrected, as analysts at the center have noted, “by a modest recovery of the U.S. economy over the next few years.”

On top of that, the politics of an election year have prevented lawmakers from even proposing another stimulus plan large enough to tackle the problem.

More than eight million jobs vanished during the recession, a period during which three million new jobs would have been needed to keep up with the growth of the population. …

Right now there is no plan that can even remotely be expected to result in job creation strong enough to rescue the hard-core groups being left behind. These include: long-term unemployed workers who are older; blue-collar workers of all ages; and younger people in the big cities, in the rust belt and in rural areas who are jobless and not well educated.

The media’s infatuation with the trivial, Herbert adds, hasn’t helped.

We need to pay less attention to the Tea Party yahoos and more attention to the very real suffering of individuals and families trapped in an employment crisis that is unprecedented in the post-Depression era.

If only.

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