More than two years after the start of one of the deepest recessions in history, the State of Working Florida 2010 (released by the Research Institue on Social and Economic Policy at Florida International University) report shows that the economy still faces major problems, particularly with underemployment, and is not likely to improve any time soon. Even with recent small jobs gains, the large numbers of workers who are underemployed or have been unemployed for longer than six months point to an extremely slow recovery for one of the hardest hit states in the nation.

The annual State of Working Florida report looks at how the Florida economy is performing for its workers by providing an analysis of employment and wage data. Some findings from this years report are: 

  • From December 2007 when the recession officially started to March 2010 Florida lost an average of 28,000 jobs per month, or almost 1,000 jobs per day.
  • Through the first 6 months of 2010, employment in Florida has grown at an annualized rate of 2.3%. At this rate, it will take over 4 years for employment in Florida to return to pre-recession levels.
  • Over a third of the unemployed (37.2%) have been out of work longer than 6 months in Florida.
  • Men have higher unemployment levels than women for the first time, due to heavy losses in industries such as construction which are heavily male, and less impact on sectors where women tend to be employed such as education and health care.
  • In addition to jobs, hours have also been cut in the recession. Almost one if five workers are underemployed, either out of work or working fewer hours than they need.Wages are starting to fall for certain groups, including women, African Americans, and very low wage workers.
  • 1 in 8 people in the state live in poverty, and 1 in 3 live below twice the poverty line, meaning they do not have enough for basic needs.

Even though we are seeing some economic growth and a slight decrease in unemployment since March, that growth is not being seen in the hardest hit communities which are starting to see a drop in wages as well, specifically African American workers and very low wage workers. In addition, the huge budget gaps that states and local areas are facing are putting public sector jobs at risk. The economic stimulus package did an important job of saving jobs particularly in education, but much more needs to be done if we are really serious about a full recovery that includes everyone. That means creating jobs and supporting famlies through the hard times.

Read the full report http://www.risep-fiu.org/2010/09/state-of-working-florida-2010/.

RISEP publishes research and data on issues of concern to low and middle income workers and their families in Florida and is housed at the Center for Labor Research and Studies at Florida International University.

Category: Florida

Miami, September 7th, 2010 – The doors of the One Stop Career Center in Miami’s North Side Shopping Center are the hopeful path to relief for thousands of unemployed Floridians who show up every day to apply for unemployment compensation, today a coalition of unemployment workers, formerly unemployed, and community/labor organizations used the One Stop Center as a backdrop in asking Governor Crist for expansion of unemployment compensation.

The Miami Workers Center, Florida New Majority, South Florida Jobs with Justice, Power U Center for Social Change, and SEIU 1199 gathered outside the store-front-help-center and asked Governor Crist to continue supporting Florida’s unemployed by signing an executive order to modernize the unemployment system.

“Our Unemployment Compensation system is outdated and is currently unfairly denying deserved benefits to a large number of unemployed Floridians. It needs to be reformed”, said Badili Jones, from Florida New Majority. “We call on Governor’s to sign an Executive Order and implement the Alternative Base Period, which will allow more than 64,000 people to claim unemployment compensation.”

“We are facing one of the worst crisis in our history. Florida’s unemployment rates reached 12,3% this year, a record level. African-Americans and Latinos are the most affected groups”, said Kit Rafferty of South Florida Jobs with Justice. “We cannot let working families struggle without support through this recession. That will just deepen poverty and inequality in our state.”

Lori Danley was unemployed for over seven months and received unemployment compensation for six months. As a single-mom of two teenagers, she was able to provide the basics for her children thanks to unemployment compensation benefits. “I thought I was going to be in this situation just for one month, but it was more than what I expected. If it wasn’t for the unemployment compensation, I would have not been able to pay my rent or feed my children”, Danley explained.

“By reforming our antiquated Unemployment Compensation System, Florida is eligible to receive more than $440 million from federal stimulus funds. But the funds are held back because the State Legislature hasn’t passed these reforms measures into law”, Jones insists. “More than 30 states of the country have already modernized their unemployment insurance systems. Governor Crist can get the ball running and take the first steps to modernize or unemployment system and introduce it in the 21st century”.

Fraizer, a currently unemployed ex-felon, touched on the common debate about the role of unemployment in society, “These legislators say that unemployment makes people lazy, and then they don’t get jobs. We don’t have jobs because there are none. It’s the legislators who are lazyt, they are dragging their feet when it comes to looking out for Floridians.”

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Category: Florida
Sep, 09 2010

No Option

I had a job. Talk of  “economic downturn," a possible “recession," this was background noise on the nightly news, until I lost my job. 

Loosing my only means of support was shocking at first. There was no severance.  My only recourse in the interim was unemployment. My heart sank when I found out that I would receive $1100 a month. A flood of thoughts and emotions swirled around me. But I never thought, “What if I don’t find a job?”  As the weeks became months, I continued to look for work to no avail and my situation became critical.

A different set of survival skills kicks in as you start to realize that the money coming in is a fraction of what needs to go out.  Lunch with a friend, the movie money your teenager asks for, even a simple cup of coffee, they all have become luxury items you can no longer afford. The choice becomes paying rent or buying groceries. No matter what, I was gambling with vital parts of my life and I have no choice in the matter.   My only out was a job or finding resources that might help me. 

Unemployment was a life line but the harsher reality was that these benefits were running out.

Even as I relied on unemployment I had to explore all of my options. I went to the department of housing.  I couldn’t get in, “You have to call to speak with someone or make an appointment.”  Turns out that in my county the waiting list for section 8 or public housing has been closed for more that four years. “I don’t know when we will be taking applications again”, that’s what the clerk dryly told me as another door closed in my face. 

But even unemployment was a save all in this terrible economy, my benefits were running out.  I couldn’t believe it. 

I worked, I paid my taxes, now what? I had been independent and self-supporting for more than 20 years. Where are the systems that are meant to provide for me when there is no other means for survival? Six months and 200 resumes later I questioned my value as a person. Where was my place in society?  If no one was calling had I lost my usefulness.  That background noise “economic recession” was now blaring in my ears and I was finally getting it. I had intimate knowledge of these once obscure terms. The economic crisis was living and breathing and it was in my home, holding me hostage.

The original need for unemployment compensation was established in 1933.  The needs of people in crisis have not changed. Stanley King stated the following during an American labor legislation review back then and it still rings true today, “The fundamental case for un-employment protection lies in the fact that under a democratic form of society we are forced to prevent any large scale starvation. Funds must be provided somehow . . . .”

This is still true today. I am one of the lucky ones, I eventually found a job. But there are millions of people across the country, still hustling, and still hoping, that they can find work. But until then it is our responsibility, as a community, as a country, to make sure they are protected, that they have a fighting chance.

Category: Florida

Throughout this Election cycle, it wasn't uncommon for many non-profits to rely on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets to "get out the vote." But some groups still went about it the old-fashioned way. WLRN-Miami-Herald reporter Christine DiMattei takes a closer look.

Category: FNM in the News

The Sun Sentinel reported last week that the Florida court system is facing a shortfall of $108 million. Why? Well, as the foreclosure crisis rolled through our state and foreclosure rates spiked courts were flush with foreclosure cases and foreclosure court fees. But, those fees dropped off significantly when it was discovered that there was more "robo-signing" by mortgage processing firms (robo-signing seems to be on both ends of this crisis for homeowners) and you know, straight up fraud in foreclosure process, and the courts slowed down the whole process. Now Gov. Scott is making a $45 million transfer from general revenue to keep the courts open until next March...

Hold on a second. Are you saying that our court budget, part of our state budget, was balanced on the back of the foreclosure crisis? So let me get this straight. We get robbed by banks on the mortgage side, on the foreclosure side and on the bailout side. Then, when the go to take our property away they pay a fee to the court for filing, which seems fair.

But what does not seem fair, or right, is that the court balanced their budgets on the assumption of high foreclosure. The court, a part of the government, a part of OUR government, was counting on us losing our property so they could pay the bills. All the while Gov. Scott is gutting the public safety net, and making sure the wealthy and corporations don't have to pay taxes in our state. Here is an idea, let's tax the rich and corporations, and create programs that supports homeowners who are facing homelessness because of foreclosure, and the terrible unemployment rate. Let's make the banks pay a fee to the homeowners they are foreclosing on as reparations for the scam they ran on our country.

Beyond the role of government, or at least the roll it should be playing there is the fraud. There is fraud on the front end of the foreclosure crisis, at the point of originating bad loans, and swindling people who either dreamed of their own home, or who wanted to refinance. And there is fraud on the back end of the foreclosure crisis, when people are getting kicked out of their homes because of the bad mortgage they were tricked into in the first.

So there is just some straight up fraud. According to the Associated Press that fraud (I consider "robo-signing" - which in my opinion is the same as forgery = fraud) is coming from all angles, banks, mortgage brokers, etc. We are steeped in fraud (which really is theft when you think about it) exercised by fairly rich institutions, like banks (rich with our tax payer money), against relatively poor people (lets get real, I know you think you too will one day be rich, but most likely, if you are not now, you wont be).

I am inspired by the kids on Wall Street. They are standing up and saying enough is enough. We are the other 99% of the world, and it is time for us to take the world back from those who would hoard it for themselves (I'm looking at you Rick Scott and all your buddies).

Category: Florida