Employment figures mask real truth
Kingsport Times-News August 17, 2004
"Tri-Cities Employment Numbers Up" (Aug 11) is more nonsense to allow our politicians to ignore the real issues. The unemployment is calculated by methods if used in a corporate setting that would lead to arrests for fraud. Only those actively collecting unemployment benefits are counted. When the benefits run out, they disappear from the rolls. Wait long enough, 100 percent employment. The numerous "early retirements" are just layoffs the figures ignore.
They also treat a part-time job held by children or retirees the same as real jobs, ignoring the massive amount of underemployment and underpay in this area. When a good job paying $15 an hour becomes two part-time jobs paying $6 an hour, to quote Steb Hipple, "the overall payroll is shrinking despite the number of jobs."
Also according to Dr. Hipple, a good job creates an additional 1-2 jobs in services. The loss of another 450 jobs at Quebecor will cost an additional 500 other jobs. Most of these 2,700 new jobs are mainly low-wage services and temp agencies. Temp agencies create scores of new jobs. Hire 50 people for 89 days, lay them off and hire 50 more. Thus we created 100 new jobs.
The real employment rate is directly reflected in the poverty rate (between 20-30 percent in the Tri-Cities). Other indicators are free lunch (46 percent in Bristol), and world records at Rural Area Medical (RAM) in Wise. Seventy-five percent of those on food stamps are employed. Quoting Diane Wise of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, "We've had so many plants and industries closing down, and people have moved to lower-wage jobs. We do not have the high-paying jobs that we need in this area."
That's the reality we must deal with and phony accounting on employment won't change that.
Lewis Loflin Bristol, Va.
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