Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today after Republicans blocked consideration of a bill that would have extended benefits for unemployed Americans struggling to find work in the Bush economy. Employers have cut jobs every month of 2008, and May saw the largest single-month spike in unemployment in nearly two decades. This year alone, nearly 1.5 million workers will exhaust their unemployment insurance benefits:
“Even as the rising costs of living and rising unemployment make middle-class life less affordable, Republicans today said no to extending benefits that would help the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs in the Bush economy. Long-term unemployment is already higher than it was during previous economic downturns in which Congress extended benefits; Democrats believe our current crisis requires the same remedy. Extending unemployment benefits will not only help struggling families, but will also inject a needed stimulus into our weakening economy.”
As Families Struggle to Make Ends Meet, Bush Republicans Block Unemployment Benefits
BUSH REPUBLICANS BLOCK CONSIDERATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS EXTENSION
Bush Republicans Said No to Extending Unemployment Benefits.
Senator Reid: But right now, Mr. President, I ask consent — I’m doing that now — the senate proceed to consideration of calendar no. 780, H.R. 5749, a bill we received from the House, the Emergency Extended Unemployment Compensation Act and I ask the bill be read a third time and passed the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table and there be no intervening action or debate.
The Presiding Officer: Is there objection?
Senator Kyl: Mr. President, I do object and I wonder if I might make one brief comment.
The Presiding Officer: The objection is heard.
Senator Kyl: thank you very much. When we do extend unemployment benefits, if we do, I think the senate needs to weigh in on its ideas about how it ought to be done. The House-passed bill, which I don’t think we want to consider, eliminates the 20-week work requirement which has been the law, now, for – since 1981. So someone could work a very short period of time and be entitled to this additional 13-week extension something I don’t think we want to change. So as a result, we would like to have the Senate weigh in and make sure that if this is done it is done in the right way. If that reason we do have to object to bringing the House bill up at this time.
Senator Reid: Mr. President, we would be willing now to accept that change in the legislation and pass it.
Senator Kyl: Mr. President, if I might just further address the Majority Leader. I had several concerns here. I highlighted one. [Congressional Record, 6/17/08]
UNEMPLOYMENT IS ON THE RISE, WITH LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYMENT HIGHER THAN IN PREVIOUS DOWNTURNS
Unemployment Rate Increased to 5.5 Percent in May, U.S. Economy Lost Jobs for Fifth Straight Month – 324,000 Jobs Lost in 2008 So Far. The economy lost jobs for the fifth straight month in May. Job losses so far in 2008 have totaled 324,000. The economy shed 49,000 jobs in May, up from 28,000 in April. [Reuters, 6/6/08]
- The Current Increase in the Unemployment Rate Was the Highest Month Increase Since 1986. “The unemployment rate shot up from 5 percent in April, reflecting more workers losing their jobs as well as an influx of young people looking for work. It was the biggest over-the-month swing in the rate since February 1986. The increase left the jobless rate at its highest since October 2004.” [Associated Press, 06/06/08]
1.6 Million Individuals Have Been Unemployed for 27 Weeks or More. The number of persons unemployed for 27 weeks or more increased by 197,000 to 1.6 million. This group accounted for 18.3 percent of the unemployed in May. Of note, the number of newly unemployed, those jobless fewer than 5 weeks, rose by 760,000 to 3.2 million in May. [Department of Labor: Employment Situation May 2008]
- The Rate of ‘Long-Term’ Unemployment Was Higher in January 2008, than 1990 or 2001. “As of January 2008, 18.3% of the unemployed had been unemployed for more than a half year. This is substantially higher than in 1990 (at 12.9%) or 2001 (at 11.1%). This suggests that a substantial fraction of those who lost jobs in 2007 are having serious difficulties finding reemployment.” [Testimony of Rebecca Blank, Professor of Economics, University of Michigan, Before the Senate Joint Economic Committee, 03/07/08]
Almost Half a Million Construction Jobs Have Been Lost Since the Fall of 2006. Since an employment peak in September 2006, the construction industry has lost 475,000 jobs. [Department of Labor: Employment Situation May 2008]
The Manufacturing Sector Lost 26,000 in May. Thus far in 2008, monthly job losses in manufacturing have averaged 41,000 compared with 22,000 a month in 2007 and 14,000 a month in 2006. Over the past year, the number of unemployed persons in the manufacturing sector rose from 651,000 in May 2007 to 879,000 last month. [Department of Labor: Employment Situation May 2008]
MORE AND MORE FAMILIES ARE STRUGGLING TO MAKE ENDS MEET
Basic Food Prices Have Soared in Last Year. “Food prices have been soaring in the last year. The price of milk alone has shot up by about 25%. Pasta products are up 30% and the price of eggs jumped 60%.” [CBS News, 6/16/08]
Food and Gas Prices Have Increased Substantially from Previous Year. “In May, gasoline prices rose 5.2 percent, and were up 21 percent compared with a year ago, according to the report. They may rise again in June: the nationwide average for gasoline topped $4 a gallon last weekend as the price of oil leaped to a new high. Americans paid 5 percent more for foods and beverages in May than a year ago.” [New York Times 6/14/08]
- Oil Prices Continue to Hit Record Highs, Reaching Nearly $140 a Barrel. “Oil surged to a new record high on Monday of nearly $140 a barrel, propelled by weakness in the U.S. dollar which offset the bearish impact of plans by Saudi Arabia to boost output.” [Reuters, 6/16/08]
- Gas at the Pump Hit a New Record $4.08. “Average gasoline pump prices hit a nationwide record of $4.08 a gallon, up 4.3 cents from last week as red-hot crude oil futures neared $140 a barrel, the U.S. government’s top energy forecaster said Monday. The national price for regular, self-service gasoline in the latest week jumped $1.07 from a year ago to a record $4.08 a gallon, the federal Energy Information Administration said in its weekly survey of service stations.” [USA Today, 6/16/08]
Electricity Companies Across America are Raising Bills Up to 29%. “Here’s a shocker: Electricity bills are heading up. Way up. Utilities across the USA are raising power prices up to 29%, mostly to pay for soaring fuel costs, but also to build new plants and refurbish an aging power grid. Even more dramatic rate increases are ahead. The mounting electric bills will further squeeze households struggling with spiraling gasoline prices. "Consumers now face a tough reality on electricity," says Mark Cooper of Consumer Federation of America. The increases come after rising fuel prices already have driven up utility bills nearly 30% in the past five years, the sharpest jump since the 1970s energy crisis. Fuel costs are again the main culprit. In Virginia, Potomac Edison, citing high coal and natural gas prices, plans to raise rates 29% on July 1, pushing an average monthly residential bill from about $70 to $90.” [USA Today, 6/15/0]