CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Given the political gridlock in Washington these days, the odds of getting decent legislation passed are pretty small. But it can happen.
One example is the Middle Class Relief and Job Creation Act, which was signed into law in February. Somehow, a sharply divided Congress and a besieged administration managed to come up with a piece of legislation that could benefit employers, workers and taxpayers while saving states millions of dollars.
Work sharing provisions of the law could help to lower unemployment rates and the costs of unemployment insurance. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, work-sharing programs, or short-time compensation, benefit both employees and employers. Employers reduce workers' hours rather than lay them off. Workers receive prorated unemployment insurance benefits to make up for hours not worked, and remain employed.
Employers win by being able to keep trained employees on the payroll during cyclical downturns. Rather than hiring and training new workers when the economy picks up, they can just increase the hours of workers already on the payroll. This could save money as well as enhance productivity that would have been lost.
Workers who are able to stay in the labor force also win. Few things are as damaging to individuals, families or communities as long term unemployment, which has grown dramatically in recent years.
Prior to the Great Recession, few working people were jobless for more than six months. That number increased from 0.8 percent of the U.S. labor force in 2007 to 4.2 percent by 2010. This doesn't include those who have given up looking for work.
According to a recent New York Times column by unlikely allies Dean Baker, a progressive economist, and Kevin Hassett, of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, "Long-term unemployment is experienced disproportionately by the young, the old, the less educated, and African-American and Latino workers. "
In a state like West Virginia, with its aging population, this is big deal. Baker and Hassett note that jobless workers between 50 and 65 have more than doubled. While older workers are less likely to be laid off than younger workers, they are only half as likely to be rehired. Their prospects for being rehired decline the longer they are unemployed.
Workers between 50 and 61 who have been jobless for 17 months have only a 9 percent chance of finding a job in the next three months. For workers 62 and older, the odds are only 6 percent.