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Timesizing News, June 2-30, 2010 +Jul.1
[Commentary] ©2010 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 117, Harvard Sq PO, Cambridge MA 02238 USA 617-623-8080

6/30-7/01/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. MAN [Nutzfahrzeuge] reduces short-time working at German sites, 6/30 TheEngineer.co.uk
    MUNICH, Germany - Commercial-vehicle provider MAN Nutzfahrzeuge is set to significantly reduce short-time working arrangements at its German sites in the second half of 2010.
    The growing demand for trucks, buses and engines will bring short-time working at the engine plant in Nuremberg to an end on 30 June.
    The number of short-time working days at MAN’s truck sites in Munich and Salzgitter will also be cut in the second half of the year.
    The number of short-time working days in production is to decrease from around 50 in the first six months of the year to an average of 20 in the second half, while administration will see short-time working days diminish from 40 to 19.

  2. The four-day work week, by James Adonis, 7/01 Sydney Morning Herald (blog) via smh.com.au
    SYDNEY, N.S.W., Australia - You’re probably reading this article on a Friday, so you might be sympathetic today to a policy the Greens are taking to the NSW state election: the enforcement of a four-day work week. The idea of a long weekend every weekend may be tempting. The reality, however, has warring groups united in concern.
    A spokesperson for the NSW Business Chamber told me the chamber doesn’t have a problem with people working four days a week since it’s a form of flexibility that maximises workforce participation, but they don’t see a need for legislative change. “The current system works well with employers and employees working out what works for them,” he said. “I think we ought to be suspicious of any Soviet style command and control approach to workplace hours that dictates people cannot work the hours that suit them.”
    An unlikely ally is the union movement. A spokesperson from Unions NSW said yesterday that in their quest to restore work/life balance, they prefer to reduce the amount of unpaid overtime. “We should first be looking to cut the length of days and not the number,” he said.
    [Agreed. First convert your current overtime into jobs as we do in Timesizing Phase Two and Phase Three, and ending slavery (unpaid overtime) has an obvious priority over converting paid overtime into jobs.]
    The problem we foresee is where a four-day work week means a cut in the number of hours people work because that will lead to a cut in pay.
    [No, it will lead to more jobs, fewer unemployed, more competition among employers for good employees, and a raise in pay. If long hours went with high pay, the Chinese would be the highest paid workers in the world instead of the lowest.]
    We don’t believe there’s a large demand for this model.”
    [Yet - but it will be standard in any non-Third World model within 50 years because with downsizing instead of timesizing, cutting the workforce and consumer base instead of just cutting the arbitrary-anyway workweek, the other models won't have any domestic markets to speak of.]
    Garry Brack, the chief executive of the Australian Federation of Employers & Industry was especially scathing. He was adamant that such a move would immediately increase labour shortages by 20 per cent. “The whole economy would grind to a halt,” he said.
    [Yeah, just like it did between 1840 and 1940 when the workweek was cut in half, from over 80 to 40 hours a week.]
    “People working only four days a week would be okay if the economy is absolutely in the dumps, but not when it’s in recovery mode and it needs more people.”
    Three of the most common reasons offered by advocates of the four-day work week are benefits to the environment, better roads, and employees’ health.
    The environment: With fewer employees commuting to work each day, there’ll be a corresponding decline in the nation’s dependence on oil. Plus, with the inevitable slowdown of operational output, the reduction in greenhouse gases would make even the Coalition’s climate change targets slightly more believable.
    Better roads: Theoretically, the number of cars on the road – particularly during peak hour – should noticeably drop. Traffic congestion will ease, streets will require less maintenance, there will be fewer accidents, and drivers may once again experience what it’s like to reach the speed limit on a weekday.
    Healthier employees: Three full days to recover from the stresses and pressures of work will result in reduced absenteeism. Employees will return to work rejuvenated and with their productivity enhanced. Families and friendships will also become closer as loved ones spend more time together.
    Fuelling the enthusiasm in the supporters’ camp is success in the American state of Utah in recent years. Out of a desire to rein in an energy budget stained with red ink, 17,000 government employees were forced to condense their work week into four days. Their total hours and pay remained the same. They just worked longer days. Since that time, there’s been a 13 per cent reduction in energy use; employees have saved $6 million in petrol costs; greenhouse gas emissions have been cut by 12,000 metric tons; operational costs have fallen; employees have taken fewer sick days; and 82 per cent want to stick with the new schedule.
    Those in favour of a four-day work week consider themselves to be progressive in their thinking, but one organisation that’s made a much more radical change is an American company called Best Buy. Thousands of their corporate employees are on 100 per cent flextime. They work as little or as much as they want and from wherever they like. They have full autonomy to decide their start and finish times. The result is a results-only work environment where productivity has increased by 35 per cent and staff attrition has plummeted.
    But that’s a big move. In the meantime, it seems most workers will find it hard enough convincing their bosses to make the transition from TGIF (Thank God it’s Friday) to TGIT (Thank God it’s Thursday).
    James Adonis is author of 'Corporate Punishment: Smashing the management cliches for leaders in a new world'.

  3. Midwest economy: A state-by-state glance for June, 7/01 AP via BusinessWeek.com
    OMAHA, Neb. - The Institute for Supply Management, formerly the Purchasing Management Association, began formally surveying its membership in 1931 to gauge business conditions.
    The Creighton Economic Forecasting Group uses the same methodology as the national survey to consult supply managers and business leaders. Creighton University economics professor Ernie Goss oversees the report.
    The overall index ranges between 0 and 100. Growth neutral is 50, and a figure greater than 50 indicates an expanding economy over the next three to six months.
    Here are the state-by-state results of the May survey in the Mid-America region:
    Arkansas: The state's leading economic indicator continues to point to growth in the months ahead. Arkansas' overall index for June slipped to 55.9 from 56.8 for May. Components of the overall index for June were new orders at 60.2, production or sales at 56.7, delivery lead time at 63.4, inventories at 50.1, and employment at 49.2. "We are tracking a definite improvement in the Arkansas economy. Durable goods manufacturing, particularly firms tied to international markets, have experienced very positive results of late. I expect recent rapid increases in hours worked by current workers to translate into new hiring in the months ahead," Goss said.
    Iowa: For the sixth straight month, Iowa's overall index was above growth neutral. The index, a leading economic indicator from a survey of supply managers, dipped to a regional high 70.1 from May's 70.3.Components of the overall index for June were new orders at 87.0, production or sales at 83.3, delivery lead time at 59.2, employment at 62.3, and inventories at 58.9. "Durable goods manufacturers are experiencing very strong growth while nondurable goods producers are reporting somewhat slower activity. Firms in the state have delayed hiring by increasing the hourly work week significantly over the past several months," Goss said.
    Kansas: The leading economic indicator for Kansas declined for the first time since October 2009. The June overall index declined to 51.1 from May's 62.3 and April's 62.1. Components of the overall index for June were new orders at 50.5, production, or sales, at 48.2, delivery lead time at 68.0, employment at 43.8, and inventories at 45.2. "Both nondurable and durable goods producers continue to report healthy growth in activity. However, the stronger U.S. dollar will have some negative impacts on firms selling abroad, especially in Europe in the months ahead," Goss said.
    Minnesota: Minnesota's leading economic indicator, based on a survey of supply managers, continues to point to advancing economic conditions ahead. The overall index climbed to 65.5 from May's 64.1 and April's healthy 62.4. This was the 11th straight month that Minnesota's index has risen above growth neutral. Components of the overall index for June were new orders at 68.1, production, or sales, at 70.6, delivery lead time at 66.1, inventories at 55.1, and employment at 67.5. "While both durable and nondurable goods manufacturers are reporting very healthy economic activity, nondurable producers, especially those tied to international markets, are experiencing upturns in overall business gains. Average weekly hours worked by workers in manufacturing has been growing over the past several months," Goss said.
    Missouri: For the 12th straight month, Missouri's overall index climbed above growth neutral. The index from a survey of supply managers slipped to a still vigorous 58.5 from May's 59.9.Components of the overall index from the June survey were new orders at 61.8, production, or sales, at 65.1, delivery lead time at 57.5, inventories at 56.9, and employment at 51.3. "Although hiring among manufacturers in the state has not been as strong as expected, we continue to track growth in overall business activity in both durable and nondurable producers in the Missouri," Goss said.
    Nebraska: For a 10th consecutive month Nebraska's overall index, expanded above growth neutral. The June reading from a survey of supply managers expanded to 65.3 from 64.1 in May. Components of the overall index for June were new orders at 77.3, production, or sales, at 78.1, delivery lead time at 58.1, inventories at 51.6, and employment at 61.2. "While manufacturing employment growth has leveled off for now, durable and nondurable producers in Nebraska report solid increases in business activity. Most of the recent job growth has been in value added services. However, I do expect recent upturns in hours worked to translate into increases in manufacturing hiring," Goss said.
    North Dakota: North Dakota's leading economic indicator once again moved above growth neutral. The index, based on a survey of supply managers in the state, slid to 54.6 from May's 59.2. Components of the overall index for June were new orders at 45.6, production, or sales, at 56.9, delivery lead time at 62.7, employment at 59.3, and inventories at 48.6. "Growth tied to the state's energy sector has been an important component of North Dakota's overall economic expansion. Durable goods producers reported healthy business expansions over the past several months. Based on our survey results, this expansion should continue at a solid pace," Goss said.
    Oklahoma: For a sixth straight month, Oklahoma's leading economic indicator from a monthly survey of supply managers climbed above growth neutral. The overall index climbed to 67.4 from May's 59.8 and April's strong 59.7. Components of June's overall reading were new orders at 70.9, production, or sales, at 77.9, delivery lead time at 80.9, inventories at 60.4, and employment at 46.9. "Manufacturers in the state have upped the hours worked to accommodate expansions in business activity. I expect this to translate into both durable and nondurable goods producers in Oklahoma to add to their work forces in the months ahead," Goss said.
    South Dakota: South Dakota's leading economic indicator continues to point to economic expansion. The index, based on a survey of supply mangers in the state, rose to 66.8 from May's 67.1. Components of the overall index for June were new orders at 71.7, production, or sales, at 69.7, delivery lead time at 62.9, inventories at 64.7, and employment at 65.0. "Manufacturers have added jobs and increased the hourly work week significantly in the state to accommodate business expansion. Supply managers in South Dakota remain optimistic regarding the economic expansion," Goss said.

6/27-28-29/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Cash-strapped city to cut hours at public counters, 6/29 Modesto Bee via modbee.com
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sacramento residents who visit the city Revenue Division's public counter at 915 "I" Street will soon find they have fewer hours to take care of business.
    The city, as part of its moves to save costs and help balance the budget, is limiting operation of the public counter to between 12:30 and 5:30 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, starting Aug. 2.
    Currently, the division's public counters on the first floor are open for business – such as paying utility bills or city parking citations – from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.
    To compensate for the reduced hours, the Revenue Division will open additional customer windows starting in August.
    Customers also can pay their utility bills and parking citations online at www.cityofsacramento.org/ e-commerce. The division's telephone hours will be from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., weekdays.

  2. Skills training, good jobs and growth, by Carol Goar, 6/28 Toronto Star via thestar.com
    [Being slightly inebriated, we LOVE the Toronto Star. It is the Manchester Guardian of Canada. (Unfortunately, with the "centrist" {LOL} slide of the New York Times, the once-great USA no longer has a Manchester Guardian. It's all the "2-guy media" and their policy of Suicide, Everyone Else First.)]
    TORONTO, Ont., Canada - Recognizing they faced the prospect of a jobless recovery, world leaders pledged nine months ago in Pittsburgh to “support robust training efforts in our growth strategies and investments.”
    They asked the International Labour Organization (ILO), a Geneva-based United Nations agency, to develop a training strategy for consideration at their June 27 G20 summit in Toronto.
    The 34-page document, entitled A Skilled Workforce for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth, was presented at yesterday’s meeting. It was far-sighted, intelligent and practical. It gave G20 leaders a way to put decent jobs at the heart of the post-recession economy.

    It would be profoundly disappointing if they ignored the ILO report. It offers the hope of a better future to the 4.5 billion people they represent.
    But there appears to be little political will — at least in Canada — to look beyond the stabilization of financial markets, the shift from stimulus to restraint and the provision of targeted assistance to poor countries.
    For those seeking an agenda that includes them, here is what the ILO told G20 leaders. The only way to achieve lasting growth in today’s world is to “put employment at the centre of economic policies.” Unless countries improve their education and training systems, their productivity will plateau and their standard of living will decline.
    It urged governments to tackle seven problems:
    1. Spend education dollars where they do the most good. Most G20 countries devote a substantial share of public spending to schools, colleges and universities, but don’t use taxpayers’ money effectively. They underinvest in the weakest parts of the system — basic literacy, early learning and adult education — despite evidence that they offer the biggest payback.
    2. Ensure that graduates of the education system are job-ready. Too many young people emerge from post-secondary institutions with few marketable skills, no relevant job experience and no bridge to the world of work.
    3. Combat the stigma attached to non-academic training. In their quest to raise education levels, many governments have turned young people away from vocational training. That’s one of the reasons for the mismatch between the supply and demand for skills.
    4. Do a better job of forecasting future skills needs. There is “a persistent gap between the kind of knowledge and skills most in demand and those that education and training systems continue to provide.”
    5. Make skill upgrading a normal part of working life. Employees need ongoing opportunities to keep pace with changes in technology and the marketplace.
    6. Don’t skimp on workforce development. Many governments made job training available to people laid off during the recession, but they underestimated the take-up and overlooked individuals with inadequate language skills, limited schooling and other disadvantages.
    7. Resist pressure to cut education and training expenditures to balance government budgets. That sort of retrenchment, the ILO warns, will jeopardize long-term growth and deepen a country’s fiscal problems.
    The report did not include country-specific prescriptions. Instead, it offered G20 leaders a set of tools they could adapt to their own circumstances.
    It also highlighted approaches that have worked and policies that have shown promise in various countries. *Canada’s worksharing program was cited as an effective way of minimizing layoffs. Brazil’s national training institute, SENAI, run by an association of industries and funded by a payroll levy, was held out as a successful model. Australia’s National Quality Council was praised as an effective link between business, government and educators, ensuring that training programs are in sync with the needs of industry.
    These ideas and possibilities are being discussed by thoughtful bureaucrats, forward-looking employers, progressive labour leaders and citizens who feel themselves falling behind as the economy picks up.
    The challenge is to convince political decision-makers to move from a financial recovery to a real recovery.

  3. "A state of institutional denialism" - Musings on the intersection of science, medicine, and culture, by PalMD, 6/29 ScienceBlogs.com
    GREAT LAKES REGION, U.S.A. - Over a quarter century ago, a young woman was admitted to a New York hospital with fever and agitation. She never walked out. Libby Zion died while under the care of he primary care doctor and two medical residents. The exact cause of death was never identified, but the case led to a forced examination of medical residents' work hours. This was driven largely by Zion's father who felt that his daughter had been killed by inexperienced, poorly supervised, and overworked resident physicians.
    "You don't need kindergarten," he wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece, "to know that a resident working a 36-hour shift is in no condition to make any kind of judgment call -- forget about life-and-death."
    It was largely thanks to Zion's tireless work that in 1989 a bill was passed in New York State limiting resident work hours and requiring senior physicians to be physically present in the hospital. But though you might not need kindergarten to recognize this problem, you do need data. That came later.
    Medical residents have traditionally worked long hours, especially in their first ("intern") year. In fact, they used to "reside" in the hospital, and were universally young, male, and single. Now, graduating medical students are about 48% female, compared to just over 26% in 1982 (although age hasn't changed much, which sort of surprised me). The Libby Zion law limited resident work hours to 80 hours per week and 24 hour shifts. During my internship in Chicago, we would typically work about 32 hours in a row on call and post-call, and call took place every fourth night, which has long been typical for internal medicine residencies.
    In 2003, the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) instituted the first national work hour limitations for residents. These limitations looked very similar to those imposed by NY state. These work hour limitations required significant changes to how hospitals and residencies were run. Hospitals can only support a certain number of residents, and they count on these residents and the care they provide. Hospitals have had to reduce the number of patients cared for by residents, and has led to an increase in so-called mid-level providers (physician assistants and nurse practitioners). And residencies had to find ways to accomplish the same or similar amount of work with the same personnel but with significant time constraints.
    Many of these changes involved a more toward "shift work" and night float systems, where residents worked shifts of limited hours throughout a 24 hour day, handing off patients to the next shift. This creates its own problems for both patients and residents. There are concerns that shift work may lead to a disruption in continuity of care, since patients are being "handed off" potentially several times a day. Also, residents are not supposed to be performing functions that are primarily "service" rather than educational. During the day, residents can break away from clinical duties for educational conferences, but a 11pm-7am shift is all service.
    These, and the urgent questions about the safety of both patients and residents were addressed in a comprehensive report released in 2009 by the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academies. While it makes sense that long sleep-free work hours might be dangerous to both patients and residents, knowing the data allows us to make proper, evidence-based decisions about these potential problems.
    Resident Safety
    As medical educators, we have a duty to our residents to ensure not only their education, but their well-being, at least as it relates to work. It is conceivable that long, sleepless work hours may have adverse health effects. The 2009 IOM report summarizes some of the evidence for fatigue-related injury. Much of this evidence is readily available through PubMed. Needle stick injuries, for example, are a relatively common problem and there is evidence that these are related to fatigue. There is also good evidence that medical residents have an elevated risk for falling asleep at traffic lights and being involved in motor vehicle accidents. And these data are not new.
    Patient Safety
    [And he does not even mention reducing the frequency of medical malpractice suits.]
    Data on patient safety isn't new either. A name that pops up again and again in this research is Charles A. Czeisler. He published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2004 showing fairly convincingly that first-year residents in the ICU are at risk of committing significantly more medical errors when working extended shift vs. less onerous ones. That's just one good study of many.
    Individual errors are inevitable, but as a phenomenon, errors can be reduced significantly, often through simple systems fixes. One of these fixes is the implementation of reasonable resident work hours.
    Responses in the literature and in doctors' lounges have been tangential and almost intentionally obtuse. A colleague of mine at another institution has opined that the medical profession is in a state of "institutional denialism" about the effect of long hours on safety and performance. I don't think that is unfair. The evidence on this has existed for years, yet we've made only cosmetic adjustments to our training programs. Even the latest ACGME rules (which take effect in July 2011) fail to address the most significant implications of the problem. The work hour limitations they mandate will very likely help, but there is a larger systemic problem. Medical training is lengthy and expensive. If we're going to cut back on hours, we need to re-evaluate whether the new hours are sufficient to meet educational needs. If not, we are going to have to find a way to fund longer training programs and to fund the debt-ridden trainees who will spend extra years not paying their educational debt. Quick fixes, even smart ones, aren't going to do the trick.
    The Libby Zion case that eventually led to the new work rules was over a quarter century ago. How long will it take us to create real, comprehensive solutions?
    Fisman, D., Harris, A., Rubin, M., Sorock, G., & Mittleman, M. (2007). Fatigue Increases the Risk of Injury From Sharp Devices in Medical Trainees: Results From a Case-Crossover Study• Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, 28 (1), 10-17 DOI: 10.1086/510569
    Trinkoff, A., Le, R., Geiger-Brown, J., & Lipscomb, J. (2007). Work Schedule, Needle Use, and Needlestick Injuries Among Registered Nurses • Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, 28 (2), 156-164 DOI: 10.1086/510785
    Steele, M., Ma, O., Watson, W., Thomas, H., & Muelleman, R. (1999). The Occupational Risk of Motor Vehicle Collisions for Emergency Medicine Residents Academic Emergency Medicine, 6 (10), 1050-1053 DOI: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.1999.tb01191.x
    Barger LK, Cade BE, Ayas NT, Cronin JW, Rosner B, Speizer FE, Czeisler CA, & Harvard Work Hours, Health, and Safety Group (2005). Extended work shifts and the risk of motor vehicle crashes among interns. The New England journal of medicine, 352 (2), 125-34 PMID: 15647575
    Landrigan CP, Rothschild JM, Cronin JW, Kaushal R, Burdick E, Katz JT, Lilly CM, Stone PH, Lockley SW, Bates DW, & Czeisler CA (2004). Effect of reducing interns' work hours on serious medical errors in intensive care units. The New England journal of medicine, 351 (18), 1838-48 PMID: 15509817
    Gaba DM, & Howard SK (2002). Patient safety: fatigue among clinicians and the safety of patients. The New England journal of medicine, 347 (16), 1249-55 PMID: 12393823
    Nuckols TK, Bhattacharya J, Wolman DM, Ulmer C, & Escarce JJ (2009). Cost implications of reduced work hours and workloads for resident physicians. The New England journal of medicine, 360 (21), 2202-15 PMID: 19458365
    PalMD is a practicing internist in the Great Lakes region of the U.S.. Aside from the great joy he finds in his family and his work, he likes communicating some of that joy to others. He has a special interest in the ways patients---and we are all patients at one time or another---are deceived by charlatans. He aims to change the world, one reader at a time...

  4. New pact shortens work hours of seamen, by VG Cabuag, 6/27 BusinessMirror.com
    MANILA, The Philippines - The amended Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) Convention has imposed stricter rules on the hours of work for the shipping lines’ crew members when at sea but little has been made to address piracy.
    At the closing of the STCW Manila Amendment on Friday, International Maritime Organization (IMO) secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulous said that there was consensus among the delegates from about 85 countries for the said amendment, which for the first time in history gives a direction on how many hours of work that a seaman should render when at sea.
    Delegates agreed to set a 10-hour rest period for a seaman in any of 24-hour period or 77 hours in a week.
    The new standards provide that the hours of rest of a seaman may be divided into no more than two periods, one of which shall be at least six hours, and the intervals between consecutive periods of rest shall not exceed 14 hours.

    “I am very pleased that the conference agreed, by consensus, an important new text on fitness for duty, which will create better conditions for seamen to be adequately rested before they undertake their onboard duties. Fatigue has been found to be a contributory factor to accidents at sea and to ensure seafarers’ rest will play an important role in preventing casualties,” Metropoulous said.
    Since the convention reached a consensus for the amendment with no objections, the new standards will come into force to all 160 IMO member countries by January 1, 2012. Some countries such as the Philippines may require ratification of the treaty before implementation of the said standards.
    The said provision has been on the discussion table for months and has divided the shipping industry.
    In some sectors such as the tankers and other chemical carriers, seamen need to man the ship for long hours, some for more than 18 hours at a time, since it has to get to the destination on time and unload the cargo.
    Metropoulous said the convention has given exemptions from the required hours of rest to these industries provided that the rest period is not less than 70 hours in any seven day period and some other certain conditions, among other conditions.
    “I am particularly pleased that the new STCW requirements on this delicate issue are consistent with the corresponding provisions of ILO’s (International Labor Organization’s) Maritime Labor Convention, 2006, which I hope will come into force soon,” he said.
    On piracy, however, little has been made to address the said issue as the problem is more than just chasing off the Somali pirates that roam around the Gulf of Aden.
    At the moment, there are at least 65 Filipinos from four ships that are still being held hostage by Somali pirates.
    “We need to bring back Somalia to political stability,” he said, but added that IMO’s main goals on the issue at the moment are safety of life at sea and cargo ships of the World Food Program that give aid to Somalia should reach its destination.
    On the other hand, the delegates also approved new training and certification requirements for seamen. These include new training for marine environment awareness training; leadership and teamwork; for electro-technical officers; for security training, as well as provisions to ensure that seafarers are properly trained to cope if their ship comes under attack by pirates.
    It also updated the competence requirements for personnel serving onboard all types of tankers, including new requirements for personnel serving on liquefied gas tankers.

6/25-26/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Union sues city over four-day work week, by Brian Chambers, 6/25 Huntington Herald Dispatch via herald-dispatch.com
    HUNTINGTON, Cabell County, W.V. - American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 598 has filed a lawsuit against the city of Huntington, claiming that Mayor Kim Wolfe’s plan to close City Hall on Fridays as part of a plan to cut costs violates the union’s collective bargaining agreement.
    Wolfe announced June 4 that he was reducing by 10 percent the pay of about 125 employees who work in City Hall-based offices as well as several public works departments. The reductions will result in a savings of $425,000.
    Employees in the police, fire, sanitation and trash departments as well as the Municipal Parking Board are not affected by the pay cuts, meaning their operations and office hours will not change.
    Rather than cutting employees' rate of pay and salaries by 10 percent, Wolfe’s administration chose to reduce their work weeks from 40 to 36 hours. Beginning the week of July 5, the affected employees will work four nine-hour shifts Monday through Thursday and get a three-day weekend.
    City Hall, meanwhile, will be closed on Fridays. It will be open to the public from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, although some office hours will vary within that time frame.
    According to the lawsuit filed in Cabell Circuit Court, Wolfe’s plan is a breach of AFSCME Local 598’s collective bargaining agreement, which defines a work week for employees as eight hours per day, 40 hours per week. The union represents approximately 100 of the city’s 360 employees.
    The lawsuit requests that a judge enter a temporary injunction and writ of prohibition preventing Wolfe from implementing the reduced and compressed work week policy. The new policy is set to take effect on July 3.
    The case has been assigned to Cabell Circuit Judge Jane Hustead.
    “While the union understands the city is facing difficult financial times, requiring city employees to take a 10 percent reduction in gross salary is in violation of the collective bargaining agreement and not financially feasible for city employees, who are also feeling the pinch of a poor economy,” according to a prepared release from the law firm of Vital & Vital, which is representing the union.
    [Just as the right is suicidal in its worship of free trade and the left in its worship of free migration, so half of wealthy investors have never realized their investment sustainability lies in high-wage-based spending on the productivity they're invested in - and half the labor movement has never realized its long-term power lies in labor-scarcity-creating shorter workweeks.]

  2. Let's retire later, but all work shorter hours - Rather than simply move a fixed pension age back, we should look at easing the path into retirement, by Anna Coote of the New Economics Foundation, 6/25 The Guardian via guardian.co.uk
    LONDON, England - The government says it wants to "reinvigorate the pensions landscape", starting with a new retirement age for men at 66 by 2016. There are two big problems with a fixed pension age. One is that people have infinitely different needs and desires. It's a universal measure that takes no account of the huge discrepancies in working conditions and life expectancy between the rich and poor. The other is that it's a sudden drop for everyone.
    Whatever happened to the idea of a "flexible decade of retirement"? Introducing a right to retire or work part-time between, say 60 and 70 would be a good start. But the real opportunity is to make this part of a much wider redistribution of paid and unpaid time.
    At the New Economics Foundation we are urging a slow, but steady move towards a much shorter paid working week, with 21 hours as the goal. With rising unemployment, this would help to spread opportunities for paid employment, while people who currently have jobs that demand long hours would get more time for unpaid activities as parents, carers, friends, neighbours and citizens (or, put another way, for contributing to the "Big Society".) An obvious objection is that shorter hours in paid work would reduce earnings, but we propose a gradual transition, over at least a decade, that would allow time to shift expectations and put compensating measures in place.
    [How strange that an "economics foundation" doesn't realize that when hours are cut, labor surplus is cut and market forces maintain or raise earnings in response. The reduced earnings objection is a false fear on a system-wide level. If earnings went with hours, the Chinese would be the highest-paid employees on the planet, but instead, they and other third-world workers are working megahours for peanuts because they're such a surplus commodity relative to demand.]
    These are outlined in our report, 21 Hours.
    The transition from work to retirement would be very different if all age groups spent fewer hours in paid employment. People could go on earning for much longer if they were only required to work for the equivalent of 21 hours a week. Gradually reducing hours from that base would be easier, too, because an even shorter working week for the over-60s would still be near the norm, with everyone's lives more evenly balanced between paid and unpaid activities.
    Many people want to retire as soon as they can because their jobs are stressful, physically exhausting and make high demands on their time. Yet their sense of purpose and identity, social networks, daily routines and preoccupations are often closely bound up with paid employment, so that sudden retirement can be experienced as shock and bereavement, leading to illness and premature death.
    According to one study, complete retirement can lead to a 5–16% increase in difficulties associated with mobility and daily activities, a 5–6% increase in illness and 6–9% decline in mental health over an average post-retirement period of six years. Involuntary retirement can exacerbate these problems. And, unsurprisingly, the same study found that people who are better off are more likely to benefit from retirement.
    By staying in paid work longer, but putting in fewer hours, people can retain work-place friendships, remain active and engaged and go on enjoying whatever satisfactions their employment offers. All these factors help to avoid illness, to maintain health and wellbeing, and to prevent frailty and dependence in later years. So a truly progressive approach to "reinvigorating the pensions landscape" should start with a shorter working week for everyone.

6/23-24/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. New Hampshire amends its law on worksharing, worksharing, fund charges and administrative contribution, 6/24 CCH via hr.cch.com
    CONCORD, N.H. - New Hampshire has amended its Unemployment Compensation Law as follows:
    Definitions. New language has been added addressing worksharing. The term "affected unit" is defined as a specified plant, department, or unit with at least two employees who are working under an approved worksharing plan. The term "employee" means a full or part-time individual employed by an employer subject to this chapter. The term "fringe benefits" includes, but is not limited to, health insurance, retirement benefits, paid vacation, holidays and sick leave. The term "normal weekly hours of work" means the normal, full-time, scheduled number of hours of work each week, not to exceed 40 hours and not including overtime. The terms "unemployment benefits" or "regular benefits" mean benefits payable under RSA 282-A:3 other than worksharing benefits and include amounts payable under an agreement under any federal law providing for unemployment compensation or assistance. The term "worksharing benefits" means benefits payable to employees under an approved worksharing plan. The term "worksharing employer" means an employer with an approved worksharing plan in effect. The term "worksharing plan" means a plan where there is a reduction in the number of hours worked by the employees, and the affected employees share the work hours remaining.
    Worksharing plan. The law now requires employers who wish to participate in a worksharing program to submit a worksharing plan to the commissioner for approval. The plan should: identify the affected units and employees; reduce normal weekly work hours between 10 and 50 percent; spread the reduction in hours equally among employees; continue health benefits as though a reduction had not occurred; continue contributions to defined benefit plans, individual account plans and defined contribution plans for each hour worked; specify the beginning and ending date of the reduction in hours (note, the reduction may be not more than 26 weeks), the effect of the reduction in the hours on other fringe benefits, and the reason for the work reduction; certify that the reduction in hours is an alternative to layoffs; include written approval by the relevant collective bargaining representatives; allow access by the commissioner to all records necessary to verify and evaluate the plan; apply to only full-time or permanent part-time employees (note: seasonal employees may not participate in a worksharing plan); and certify that the employer has timely paid all contributions.
    The commissioner shall approve or reject a worksharing plan in writing within 15 business days. A rejection of a plan is not appealable, but employers may submit other plans for approval. Plans may be revoked for good cause at any time by the commissioner on his or her own motion, at the request of the affected unit's employees, at the request of the appropriate collective bargaining agent, or when modifications to a plan do not meet the requirements for approval. Revocation orders must be in writing and specify the reasons for the revocation and its effective date. Good cause includes, but is not limited to: failure to comply with the assurances given in the plan; unreasonable revision of the productivity standards for the affected unit; conduct or occurrences tending to defeat the intent and effective operation of the plan; and violation of the criteria on which approval of the plan was based. Revocation orders are final and not appealable.
    The provisions of RSA 282-A:161, RSA 282-A:163, RSA 282-A:164, RSA 282-A:165, RSA 282-A:166, and RSA 282-A:166-a apply to information submitted in an application or modification of a worksharing plan, the implementation of an approved plan, and the payment of worksharing benefits. A claimant is liable for repayment of any worksharing benefits improperly paid due to the fault of the claimant.
    Eligibility. An individual is eligible for worksharing benefits after he or she: serves a waiting period as prescribed by the commissioner, meets the other conditions of eligibility for regular benefits, shows that he or she is employed as a member of an affected unit, and is able to work and available for the normal weekly hours of work. No otherwise eligible affected individual will be denied worksharing benefits because of provisions relating to availability for work, active search for work, or applying for or accepting suitable work with other than the worksharing employer.
    An employee in an affected unit is eligible for worksharing benefits in any week for which remuneration is payable to him or her for less than his or her normal weekly work hours as specified under the approved worksharing plan in effect for that week. Individuals who are not eligible for unemployment benefits under RSA 282-A:28, I are not eligible for worksharing benefits.
    Benefits payable. The weekly worksharing benefit amount is the product of the regular weekly benefit amount, multiplied by the percentage reduction in the individual's normal weekly hours of work, rounded to the next lower full dollar amount. In any week where an individual performs services for a worksharing employer and an employer other than the worksharing employer, the weekly worksharing benefit amount will be reduced by the amount by which the remuneration received from the non-worksharing employer exceeds 30 percent of the maximum benefit rate in effect.
    An individual may not receive worksharing benefits that exceed the amount of total benefits calculated under RSA 282-A:25 less the amount of regular and worksharing benefits received by the individual during a benefit year. An individual is an "exhaustee" if he or she has received all the worksharing benefits or the combined regular benefits and worksharing benefits available in a benefit year for purposes of extended benefits. If he or she is otherwise eligible, the individual can receive extended benefits.
    If an otherwise eligible individual does not perform services during a week for the worksharing employer, he or she will be paid benefits in accordance with the other provisions of this chapter. The worksharing employer is to file claims for worksharing benefits and all worksharing benefits will be charged to his or her account.
    Suspension or termination of program. The Commissioner, with the consent of the Advisory Council on Unemployment Compensation, may suspend or terminate the worksharing program if he or she determines that such action would be in the best interests of the state.
    Fund charges. No benefits will be charged to the account of an employer, but will instead be charged to the Unemployment Compensation Fund, where an individual is separated from employment because he or she is unable to perform all job duties due to pregnancy or to an illness or injury that is not work-related, provided certain conditions are met; the individual's quit was necessary to allow him or her to accompany a spouse to a place from which it is impractical to commute due to a change in location of the spouse's employment; or the individual's quit was due to the illness or disability of a member of the individual's immediate family.
    Administrative contribution. The law now requires that after the costs incurred in the collection of the administrative contribution are deducted, 1/3 of the quarterly administrative contribution collected, not to exceed $2,000,000 annually, is to be deposited in the fund established by RSA 282-A. Prior law provided for a cap of $1,000,000.

  2. German manufacturing industry bounces back, 6/24 CNN via Today's THV via todaysthv.com
    BERLIN, Germany - Managing to avoid laying off employees during the global down-turn was a real achievement for some sections of industry. One such story is a German company who strived to keep their staff and are now reaping the rewards.
    [Geez, a German could have written this sentence with fewer grammatical errors... "a German company that strove to keep its staff and is now reaping the rewards"...]
    CEO Olaf Jelken [of Vielmetter Metallverarbeitungs GmbH (Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung = company with limited liability) = Muchmeader Metalworking Co. Ltd. (Berlin)] had to put his staff on part-time work to compensate for a sharp drop in demand for the truck parts he produces just a year ago. Now things couldn't be more different. He says, "We got such a swing in demand at the end of January that we started working every Saturday and then had to put on three shifts a day because we just couldn't satisfy all the orders."
    That was a bit of a shock for workers like Benjamin Schmidt who'd got used to the four day week the so-called 'kurzarbeit' scheme. He says, "Working all this extra time's quite a burden because you're just physically not used to it anymore."
    He's glad of the extra work though, kurzarbeit meant more free time but you weren't paid your full salary. It was a government-funded incentive to encourage firms to hold onto their staff till export markets picked up and in Vielmetter's case, it's paid off. Jelken says, "There are big growth markets. Not so much here in Germany where things are pretty stagnant but we're getting new customers from all over South East Asia."
    [This is the first article we've seen that lowercases Kurzarbeit. All nouns are spelled with a capital in German, even when they consist of a leading adjective like "short" (kurz) rammed into a noun head like "work" (Arbeit), yielding Kurzarbeit, "short work."]
    Some economists say Germany is too export dependent and chancellor Merkel's government should do more to stimulate domestic growth. Others argue that's missing the point, Jan Hagen with ESMT Berlin says, "Germany is criticized for being too austere but I think the whole issue about being able to spend depends on market financing the deficits and so far Germany has had the confidence of the markets that it could re-pay its debts."
    That's partly because the markets have confidence in the resilience of German industry.
    Just a year after production lines ground almost to a halt, small and medium sized companies like Vielmetter which form the backbone of the German economy are bouncing back.

  3. The productivity paradox: When less is more, by Ray B. Williams, 6/24 Psychology Today (blog)
    Conventional wisdom is that hard work pays off, and the harder and more you work, the more productive you are. Or is that a myth? There is abundant evidence to prove the reverse. Studies have shown that the most successful and wealthy people work substantially fewer hours and the poorest, lowest-paid workers work the most hours.
    In my article in the National Post, entitled Willing Slaves Fast Becoming Business Norm, I said, "overachieving professionals today are seen as road warriors. They work harder, take on endless additional responsibilities and earn a lot more than their counterparts in earlier times, and their numbers are growing."
    According to the OECD, between 1977 and 1997, full time employees in the U.S. increased their average working hours by .5 hours to a 47.1-hour workweek, and the numbers have been rising since. In contrast in most European countries, the workweek is 35 hours, with Canada at 40. In contrast, the average workweek in South Korea and Japan is 30% longer.
    In their Hidden Brain Drain Task Force study published in the Harvard Business Review, authors Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Carolyn Buck Luce state that professionals are working harder than ever and that the 40-hour work week is a thing of the past. Catherine Ornstein, author of No Longer Is The American Dream Ozzie Nelson of Father Knows Best, It's Donald Trump and Survivor in the Office Tower, workaholism is a reflection of our culture's embrace of an extreme ethos. For many professionals, work is the center of their social life and friendships. Personal connections, once made exclusively through family, friends and civic organizations, are now made in the workplace.
    There are other social issues related to how much people are working. European attitudes toward work, where the social fabric including the welfare of children and quality of life are more important, are very different than North American attitudes toward work. Unlike Scandinavian countries--which have pursued a humanization of work agenda with the emphasis on equal opportunity, childcare, gender equity and the central role of the family--the U.S., the U.K. have turned away from a consensual approach toward political polarities. Canada is somewhere in the middle of these two positions.
    The way most of us work isn't working. Study after study has shown that companies are experiencing a crisis in employee engagement. A 2007 Towers Perrin survey of nearly 90,000 employees worldwide, for instance, found that only 21% felt fully engaged at work and nearly 40% were disenchanted or disengaged. That negativity has a direct impact on the bottom line. Towers Perrin found that companies with low levels of employee engagement had a 33% annual decline in operating income and an 11% annual decline in earnings growth. Those with high engagement, on the other hand, reported a 19% increase in operating income and 28% growth in earnings per share.
    In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Project and the author of The Way We're Working Isn't Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance, describes how a decade ago his company, the Energy Project, examined work performance and the problem of employee disengagement. Schwartz says, "we believed that burnout was one of its leading causes, and we focused almost exclusively on helping individuals avoid it by managing their energy, as opposed to their time. Time, after all, is finite. By contrast, you can expand your personal energy and also regularly renew it."
    In his previous book, written with Jim Loehr, The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, he argues that productivity means "managing energy in all facets of our lives. Emotional depth and resilience depend on active engagement with others and with our own feelings."
    Schwartz says that the issue is not just the number of hours worked, but what happens to employees' energy, and their use of time off work. Schwartz recently conducted a poll on the Huffington Post about people's experience in the workplace. Sixty per cent of 1200 respondents told us they took less than 20 minutes a day for lunch. Twenty per cent took less than 10 minutes. One quarter said they never left their desks at all. That's consistent with a study by the American Dietetic Association, which found that 75 per cent of office workers eat lunch at their desk at least two to three days a week.
    Schwartz argues that once people understand how their supply of available energy is influenced by the choices they make, they can learn new strategies that increase the fuel in their tanks and boost their productivity. If people define precise times at which to do highly specific activities, these new behaviors eventually become automatic and no longer require conscious will and discipline. They include practices such as shutting down your e-mail for a couple of hours during the day, so you can tackle important or complex tasks without distracting interruptions, or taking a daily 3 PM walk to get an emotional and mental breather.
    Describing his work with Sony Corporation, which initiated an energy-building program with employees, Schwartz says that between 88-90% of employees report the energy based activities helped them be more productive. The program elements were: Physical health (achieved through nutrition, sleep, daytime renewal, and exercise), emotional well-being (which grows out of feeling appreciated and valued), mental clarity (the ability to focus intensely, prioritize, and think creatively), and spiritual significance (which comes from the feeling of serving a mission beyond generating a profit).
    There is little evidence to link by cause and effect that working harder and longer improves productivity, but there is considerable evidence to show the reverse, and that it's not the management of time that may be the key to employee productivity, but the management of energy.
    Ray Williams is Co-Founder of Success IQ University and President of Ray Williams Associates, Inc., providing leadership development, personal growth, and executive coaching services.

6/20-21-22/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. On the job: John F. McCarthy, Business service representative, Workforce Central, 6/21 Worcester Telegram via telegram.com
    John F. McCarthy of Workforce Central has no problem identifying the best part of his job — helping others find work. “Without seeming corny, it's seeing the smile on somebody's face.” (ED COLLIER) Photo caption
    [Or rather, putting the smile on somebody's face!]
    ..Family: Married, two children
    Born: Norwood MA
    Resides: West Brookfield MA
    Time in current job: 3 years

    WORCESTER, Mass. - What do you do at Workforce Central?
    “I match local Central Massachusetts businesses with appropriate services to their needs. A big part of my job is to see what the staffing needs are for these companies. In this economy, it's been tough, because not all employers are hiring. I always feel it's important to build a relationship, let them know about the services that their business's taxes have paid for, and what we can offer to keep them healthy and happy.”
    Can you give me some examples of the way you reach out to businesses?
    “We have a steady pool of business customers who contact us. When I'm prospecting for new businesses, I go onto company web sites, see what new companies are opening up in the Worcester area, I'll check incorporations in the Worcester area, as well as various news sites. I look for who's new and who the contact people are. I'll call, I'll email, I'll visit them. I always want to let the businesses know that there's a human being who cares about the health of their business, and who wants to make sure that their employees can pay their bills and keep a roof over their head. Some of the work I do is layoff avoidance as well.”
    How did you get into this job?
    “I was a human resource generalist myself for some local high tech manufacturers in the Worcester area, so I bring knowledge of the vernacular, I know how to have a conversation with an HR (human resources) professional or CEO (chief executive officer).”
    What's the most challenging part of your job?
    “The most challenging part of my job is juggling all of its different responsibilities. My job also requires support to my co-workers, I organize workshops and take unemployment claims, even man the front reception desk sometimes.”
    Can you give me an example of a success story at Workforce Central?
    “There was a company in the Worcester area, a national company, that was thinking of pulling out of Central Mass completely. By talking to them about work sharing, I found out later that it stabilized them enough to allow them to stay in Massachusetts. I knew what their problem was, I knew what our work sharing program could do for them, and I just laid out for them logically. Basically, you can go from full-time work to part-time work with the same company, and apply for unemployment. You get a certain proportion of your wages. The employer gets a higher proportion of their wages. With work sharing, the employer's taxes go up a little bit less. It also allows an employee to hold onto their benefits, it allows the employers to hold onto that employee that you've nurtured along the way. It's a win for both sides. It's got a time limit, and the idea is for the company to wean off worksharing and bring the employee back full-time.”
    What's the most satisfying part of your job?
    “Without seeming corny, it's seeing the smile on somebody's face. I worked in the private sector before, and you were always chasing the profit margin, always trying to be as efficient as possible to maximize profits and minimize losses, but in this job, the satisfaction that I helped one of my co-workers or help a job seeker or help a Worcester company. We work well as a team here. Through collaboration, we end up winning at the end of the day.”
    You must get a feel for how the economy is reacting from day to day. What are you hearing from job seekers and businesses?
    “There's still a level of frustration with job seekers, because it is a very competitive job market. However, in Central Mass, we seem to have faired better than Western Mass and Eastern Mass. We have a job fair every Friday, and we have never had to cancel a job fair because of lack of employers. There have been other career centers that have had to do that. We've always had employers who are hiring. WalMart and Savers and a couple of manufacturers here and there have been hiring. What we're finding is that employers, particularly in the higher skilled jobs, are being very particular in the people they hire. The other thing we've seen is that the most prepared job seekers have been the most successful.”
    What expectations do job seekers have when they come to your office?
    “The initial expectation is that we are the old-fashioned unemployment office, that we're here to assist with unemployment claims and let them know where job openings are. The truth though, something we let people know right up front, is that we're not the unemployment office. Unemployment is kind of a side service, an extra service, that we offer. What we're primarily here to do is make job seekers the best prepared job seekers that they can be. We've got certified professional résumé writers. ... We make sure they know how to navigate the job hiring process. We make sure they get the training they need, the extra certification or credential that they need to make them competitive in the job market.”
    Compiled by reporter Aaron Nicodemus
    To be featured in or to suggest a job profile, send information to Dave Greenslit, Telegram & Gazette, Box 15012, Worcester, MA 01615-0012, or send an e-mail to dgreenslit@telegram.com.

  2. Begg wants State intervention on jobs, by MICHAEL O'REGAN, 6/20 IrishTimes.com
    DUBLIN, Ireland - Government policy on jobs will be sharply criticised by Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) general secretary David Begg today.
    Mr Begg will accuse the Government of “sleepwalking into what will be an economic and social disaster for this country’’.
    Addressing a Dublin conference, Mr Begg will warn the Government that the State is in a similar space to the situation that it faced on the night of September 29th, 2008, when the banking crisis had to be confronted.
    “The situation is that serious and I cannot stress or emphasise this too strongly.
    “Unless there is immediate, urgent and significant Government intervention on jobs, it is my assessment that our situation could be close to hopeless.’’
    Mr Begg will refer to the 439,100 people on the Live Register in May, and that Ireland’s jobless rate is 3.1 per cent above the EU average.
    He will argue that the State’s true employment rate, including those forced to emigrate and those staying in or returning to education, could be has high as 20 per cent.
    Mr Begg is also expected to point out that there has been a 50 per cent collapse in construction employment since the peak of 286,000, or 400,000 if ancillary industries like builders’ providers are added.
    “The scale of this collapse is epitomised by a former self-employed building worker who admitted on the Joe Duffy show last week that he was reduced to stealing milk.’’
    Mr Begg will note that in February of last year, Ictu had made employment a cornerstone of a 10-point plan as a response to the economic crisis.
    The two principal initiatives were: preserving existing jobs through worksharing and active labour market interventions and increased spending on infrastructure to mitigate the impact of the collapse of the construction industry.
    “Since then we have put forward a series of proposals on job protection and creation, with the objective of making jobs the number one official priority.
    “The Government has ignored or rebuffed every single measure.’’
    Mr Begg is expected to argue that the case for investment in infrastructure was compelling in its own right.
    There was still a major infrastructural deficit in the State, and the quality of infrastructure was a core component of competitiveness, Mr Begg will tell the conference.
    “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to achieve real value for money.’’

  3. German business confidence bucks European crisis trend, by Ralph Atkins and Daniel Schäfer in Frankfurt and,Quentin Peel in Berlin, 6/22 Financial Times
    FRANKFURT, Germany - German businesses have shrugged off Europe's debt crisis with corporate optimism in the continent's largest economy rising to its highest level for more than two years.
    The Munich-based Ifo institute reported yesterday that its business climate index had risen from 101.5 in May to 101.8 this month - the highest since May 2008.
    The unexpected rise, boosted by a weaker euro, highlighted the robustness of the export-led upswing under way in Germany.
    But while businesses were more optimistic about current conditions than last month, they were markedly gloomier about prospects for the next six months. That pointed to weaker future growth - as a result of fiscal austerity measures and weaknesses in the banking system across the continent. Last month's ZEW German investor confidence index showed the largest fall since Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008.
    Adding to the evidence of a still-intact recovery, the finance ministry in Berlin confirmed it had reduced its forecast of the government's net borrowing requirement in 2010 by €15bn ($18.4bn, £12.4bn). That would take its borrowings to about €65bn.
    The budget has benefited from a surge in tax revenues, with a 6.5 per cent upturn in value added tax receipts in May compared with the same month last year, according to media reports. Unemployment benefits have also fallen, with a steady decline in jobless figures this year, partly owing to the success of the government's subsidy programme for short-time working. Economists expect the German economy to grow by 2 per cent or more this year, following a contraction of close to 5 per cent in 2009.
    Optimism among German industrialists has brightened recently on the back of a surge in orders .
    German carmakers Daimler, BMW and Audi have returned to full production and ended short-time working, driven by fast-rising demand from the US and China. In May, Daimler recorded a 41 per cent rise in sales of its Mercedes S-Class luxury saloon compared with a year before.
    Separately, the VDMA industrial association reported German engineering sector orders were 36 per cent higher in April than a year earlier. "While the absolute level is still low, the dynamic [rise in orders] clearly points to an economic recovery," said Hannes Hesse, VDMA managing director.

6/18-19/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. No tax hike in approved Chowan budget, 6/19 DailyAdvance.com
    CHOWAN COUNTY, N.C. - The Chowan County Board of Commissioners recently approved a county budget for next year that holds the line on taxes and fees.
    The budget, which commissioners adopted June 7, keeps Chowan’s property tax rate at 68.5 cents per $100 valuation. It also restores a 40-hour workweek for full-time county employees. The current year’s budget, which expires June 30, included furloughs for all county workers as a cost-saving measure.
    The budget also calls for replenishing the county’s reserve fund. By next year, commissioners said they hope to restore the reserve fund to $1.3 million, an amount equal to 8 percent of the county’s general fund.
    Chowan County should be halfway toward that goal by the summer’s end, according to Lisa Jones, county finance director.
    Commissioners used Sheriff Dwayne Goodwin’s $20,000 negotiated savings from a jail medical contract to offset an $18,000 annual increase in county employee insurance benefits.
    County leaders also loaned Emergency Medical Services $40,000 to offset a budget shortfall. Under the agreement, the loan is to be repaid by June 30, 2011.

  2. [Out of the mouths of babes and peripheral economies comes another chance at glimpsing the blinding obvious that the sophisticated economies and economies will never get...]
    Avoiding the collapse: the Dow Jones Industrial and leading indicators – unpleasant surprises; Who will support the Dow Jones?, by Igor Tringlers, 6/18 Ukrainian Globalist via globalist.org.ua
    In brief: Dow Jones Industrial is on a high level of support, but the end of the week can bring unpleasant surprises.
    * Dow Jones Industrial Average overcame the threat of collapse today
    * Oil prices and U.S. cheap real estate affect the Dow Jones Industrial today
    * The stock market today: Why the Dow is going down?

    KIEV, Ukraine - Dow Jones Industrial will begin trades with the level of 10,434.17 points. Dow Jones managed to gain +24.71 points (0.24%) yesterday. Today’s bid for Dow Jones Industrial Average will be under increased pressure from the local statistics from the U.S.. One of the main factors that affect the Dow Jones and the entire U.S. stock market is a composite index of leading indicators. The composite index of leading indicators, monitoring and support which carries a non-governmental organization The Conference Board, returned to the positive dynamics in May, an increase of 0,4%.
    In April, index of leading indicators (on the revised data) has not changed compared with the March data, and before that fixed the statistics of the continuous improvement of the indicator over the past 12 months. Conference Board index indicates the expected development of the country’s economy over the next three to six months.
    Components of the index [include] the following indicators:
    1. The average number of new requests for the extradition of unemployment benefit (initial unemployment claims)
    2. Number of new orders received by manufacturers for the production of materials and consumer goods (plant and equipment orders)
    3. The speed with which new products are moved from suppliers to retailers (vendor performance)
    4. Number of new orders for capital expenditures not related to defense (change in unfilled durable orders)
    5. Number of newly issued permits for residential construction (residential building permits)
    6. The index of the stock market Standard and Poor 500 (S & P 500)
    7. Indexed to inflation the amount of money in circulation (real M2 money supply) 8. The difference between interest on short and long loans (the yield curve)
    9. Index of consumer sentiment (consumer sentiment or consumer expectations index)
    10. Number of hours per week worked in the sector of real production (Average manufacturing workweek).
    These indicators of a [health of the economy] historically starts to fall before the economy entered into recession and grow in the run-up phase of expansion. Constructed of them, a number (actually, he’s "leading index of indicators"), in general, was able to predict all 7 official recessions in the U.S. economy over the past 50 years.
    However, in 5 cases, this indicator had predicted a recession, which is not embodied in practice.
    Another weakness is that he is unable to predict a recession-for-certain period. The period between the signal received by this indicator, and the beginning of recession can vary from 1-2 months to a year.
    The advantages include low volatility and a better predictive ability compared with other statistical data. In this May, five of the ten components of the index showed faster growth, which in the end [inflated] and raised the volume of the composite indicator.
    The largest contribution to the expansion a composite index made [was] a growing spread between interest on short and long loans. Daily analytical review of growth in money supply in circulation, the lengthening of the workweek and improved sentiment in the consumer market [also contributed].
    [Today in the advanced economies, simple-minded economists assume that longer workweeks are good and shorter workweeks are bad, end of story. Completely eluding them are the insights that worktime per person is a manipulable variable, that it is a control variable, and that it is in fact THE control variable of the last 200 years and the foreseeable future - until we get it right and move on to the next key control variable.]
    Actually consumer optimism is the driving force of the economy in developed countries [but this was] among the brake components in May.
    The overall index is [a] particularly true barometer of broad stock market [as in] S & P500, [and] is actively adjusted in the past month [as for example] the index of the number of permits for new construction declined sharply after the completion of the program of tax incentives for purchasers of housing. Nevertheless, [this is] the factor [that needs] to continue lifting.
    The overall index of leading indicators showed positive trends in the American economy and [there] will not be a storm, at least in the coming months.

6/16-17/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Industry leader predicts job boom this year, 6/17 TheLocal.de
    Germany's labour market will improve this year, with employers offering up to 100,000 new positions, the German Chambers of Commerce (DIHK) predicted on Thursday.
    BERLIN, Germany - The new jobs will accompany a drastic reduction in the Kurzarbeit, or “short-time work” scheme, in which firms put their workers on shorter hours rather than laying them off, DIHK head Martin Wansleben told daily Passauer Neue Presse.
    “We’re experiencing what is almost a job wonder,” he told the paper, referencing the Wirtschaftswunder, or “economic miracle” of the West German economy following the Second World War.
    Wansleben said his organisation expected the IT service branch, health, aviation and chemical industries to provide the most new jobs as Germany emerges from a recession.
    But he also told the paper that the DIHK was concerned about how demographic developments are affecting the professional training market. According to his figures some 50,000 apprenticeship positions went unfilled in 2009, and even more are expected to remain open in 2010.
    With that in mind Wansleben said he welcomed new government plans to provide “educational pilots” in schools across the country.
    Some 3,200 guidance counsellors will be employed beginning in the seventh grade, Education Minister Annette Schavan announced in April. They will analyse pupils’ interests and abilities, help them stay in school, and support them in the search for a career or higher education.
    DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

  2. Germany DIHK: Pickup Prompts Firms To End Short-Time Work, 6/16 Market News International
    BERLIN, Germany - Due to rising orders and the economic pickup, businesses in Germany will markedly reduce short-time work schemes and let their employees work "full time" again [our quotes], Volker Treier, the chief economist of the German Chamber of Industry and Trade (DIHK), predicted in a newspaper interview published Wednesday.
    "Towards the end of the year at best around 100,000 people will be still in short-time work schemes," Treier told German daily Bild. At the end of March, some 830,000 people worked short-time, the paper noted.
    Businesses in Germany's important metalworking and engineering sector will likely end almost all short-time work schemes until the end of the year, Bild cited a spokesman of the Gesamtmetall employers association as saying.

6/13-14-15/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Work-Sharing May Help Companies Avoid Layoffs, by Stephen Greenhouse, 6/15 NYTimes.com
    BERLIN, Conn. — As companies struggle to make it from recession to recovery, many are turning to a novel but unheralded program that cuts their costs while sparing their workers’ jobs.
    Under the program, known as work-sharing, employers reduce their workers’ weekly hours and pay, often by 20 or 40 percent, and then states make up some of the lost wages, usually half, from their unemployment funds.

    Even though 17 states have adopted the program, and many executives and economists hail it as a way to keep workers employed and companies staffed with skilled labor, only a fraction of the businesses and workers that are actually eligible are benefiting.
    That is largely because of inertia and ignorance, government officials say. Many companies are unaware of the program’s existence, and few states advertise it — even though the program is credited with saving hundreds of thousands of jobs in Germany, whose work-sharing program has inspired other nations.
    With unemployment in the United States above 9 percent and climbing, pressure is growing on the states that have work-sharing to increase the number of companies and workers that participate, and on the 33 states that don’t have work-sharing to embrace the program.
    At his metal-working plant here in Connecticut, Andrew Nowakowski, president of Tri-Star Industries, says the program is good for employers, workers and the economy.
    “It’s a lot better than layoffs,” said Mr. Nowakowski, whose skilled machinery operators make metal parts for products as diverse as cellphones and car engines.
    His 29 nonmanagerial employees now work three- or four-day weeks. “The alternative would have been to lay off three to seven workers,” he said, “but that would mean that when things become busier, I’d run the risk of not having the trained people I need.”
    Tri-Star’s employees like the program even though it means lower take-home pay. “Without this, it would have been four or five guys out the door, and one of them could have been me,” said John Drzata, who runs an elaborate, five-spindle precision lathe that etches threading into metal parts.
    Jim Cassidy, who works Monday through Wednesday, uses the extra days off to go camping in the Berkshires, although some workers use them to look for spare jobs, like painting.
    “We get to keep our jobs and keep our benefits,” Mr. Cassidy said. “You lose your job, you lose everything.”
    The State of Connecticut makes up more than half the wages the workers lose because of shorter workweeks. New York participates in the program, too.
    States have different unemployment insurance formulas, but generally, a worker being paid $600 a week, if laid off, might receive $300 in jobless benefits. With work-sharing, if that worker’s hours drop 20 percent, wages would fall to $480 and work-sharing would make up at least half of the lost wages ($60), for a total of $540 a week.
    With savings from reduced income taxes and from commuting fewer days, some workers nearly break even.
    The state and federal governments have hardly publicized work-sharing, in contrast to the European Union, whose leaders have urged the Continent’s employers to embrace work-sharing to combat rising unemployment.
    But since the downturn began, some states have beaten the drum to make sure more employers are aware of the program. Mr. Nowakowski first learned of Connecticut’s program last October when a state official phoned his office manager to publicize it.
    As a result of such outreach efforts, 5,000 Connecticut workers are participating in work-sharing, up from 250 a year ago.
    In Washington State, 39,119 are participating, up from 6,039 a year ago. And in Massachusetts, 10,127 workers are, compared to 621 a year ago — and 458 employers, up from 31 last year.
    “I frankly don’t understand why there aren’t more states that participate in this program,” said Suzanne Bump, the Massachusetts secretary of labor and workforce development.
    Many states are not participating because they did not focus on the program during good times and because it could create new burdens and paperwork for already overloaded unemployment agencies. “But that pales compared to the program’s benefits,” said M. Patricia Smith, the New York State labor commissioner.
    Typically, participating employers file a weekly report of each employee’s reduced hours, and a week or two later, workers receive partial unemployment benefits, often called short-time compensation.
    Some states limit work-sharing benefits to employees who had been working 35 or more hours a week before the cutbacks. Other states allow part-timers to participate. Some states give employers just two options: having employees work 24- or 32-hour weeks; others let companies cut employees’ hours anywhere from 10 to 60 percent.
    Most states require employers to continue providing full-time benefits, like health coverage, to employees on reduced hours.
    At Columbia Steel Casting, a 350-employee foundry in Portland, Ore., management likes work-sharing because when it lays off skilled machinists, they are hard to lure back. They often take jobs at Boeing.
    “People don’t quit other jobs to come to work in foundries where it’s extremely hot,” said John Birkhofer, a human resources manager. “It’s different from when you’re hiring counterpeople for McDonald’s.”
    Mr. Nowakowski said it took 18 months to train apprentices to use Tri-Star’s complicated lathes. “I would do whatever I could to maintain this core group of employees long term,” he said.
    Work-sharing will not prevent layoffs in industries in a profound tailspin, like automobiles.
    [Yes it will, and that's where it's most important - to reverse the tailspin! Cut hours deeper - share the vanishing work - maintain or restore full employment and mobilize ALL your consumers, however short a workweek it may take. The length of the workweek is immaterial, a mere challenge to management skill. The deactivation of consumers via loss of frozen 40-hr/wk jobs is a death sentence for the economy. Let's quit coddling management at the expense of the economic survival. If the economy dies, managers are irrelevant.]
    Economists say it is for companies confident of a rebound when the economy improves.
    [Mainstream economists are trapped in self-contradictory and bankrupt theory. The only reason worksharing reqires a rebound is its temporary funding source, the unemployment insurance fund. Switch its funding to a permanent source like a tax on chronic overtime (OT) with an exemption for OT-targeted hiring (and training if needed), and worksharing changes from a bandaid to a rebound driver and guarantee = timesizing.]
    “The great thing about this program is you’re not decimating your company,” said Linda Saloom, business operations manager at Saloom Furniture, in Winchendon, Mass., whose employees are working 32-hour weeks. “Our company is not broken. The economy is broken.”
    Several executives that use work-sharing explained companies’ choices. Needing to cut payroll by 10 percent for six months, recession-plagued managers could lay off 10 percent of their workers, perhaps incurring anger and heavy severance payments. Or they could use work-sharing, avoiding severance payments and the expense of rehiring and retraining later.
    “Just the ability to hang on to people in tough times and not force them out the door is good for morale,” said David Edgar, vice president for human resources at Reflexite, a manufacturer based in Avon, Conn., that makes reflective material for highway signs, motorcycle helmets and roadwork vests.
    Mr. Edgar acknowledged there were limits. “I don’t think people would want to be on a 32- or 24-hour weeks for seven, eight months,” he said. “There might be a tipping point when people ask, ‘When do we get some layoffs so we can get back to 40 hours?’ ”
    Reflexite cut most employees’ hours from February through April, but with orders increasing as highway construction picks up under the stimulus plan, all workers are now back at 40 hours.
    “A lot of my friends got laid off at other companies,” said Dave Korncavage, a logistics supervisor and 19-year employee at Reflexite. “They’re hoping to get called back, but maybe that won’t happen. Their employers don’t have anything creative like this. Maybe if they did, my friends would still have a job.”

  2. Workshop to outline alternatives to layoffs, 6/15 Boston Globe via boston.com
    WORCESTER, Mass. - The Massachusetts WorkSharing Program, a state initiative, has scheduled a Worcester workshop this week for employers that will outline alternatives to layoffs.
    "WorkSharing allows workers in an entire company, a company department, or even a small unit within the company to share reduced work hours while also collecting unemployment insurance benefits to supplement their reduced wages," the state's Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development said in a press release.
    According to the executive office, layoffs can be nearly as "disruptive" to an employer as they are to the workforce so worksharing can be better option for the boss than pink-slipping a percentage of employees.
    The free, employers-only workshop is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday [June 18] at Workforce Central One Stop Career Center, which is located on the sixth floor of 44 Front St. in Worcester.
    Seating is limited and must be reserved, the executive office said. For reservations, please call John McCarthy at 508-373-7604 or e-mail him at jmccarthy@detma.org.

  3. Will the United States Experience a 'Jobless Recovery'? 6/14 NewsHour via pbs.org
    Name: Larry Reid
    City & State: Gadsden, Ala.
    Question: Paul, I have read some of your letters on a "jobless" recovery. To the point, do you think our nation will experience a jobless recovery? Right now I can't even buy one!
    Paul Solman: Can't buy a recovery or can't buy a JOB, Larry? Assuming you mean the former, yes, I worry a lot about this.
    Now ultimately, there should be enough jobs to go around. Human beings should be able to figure out enough things to do for one another to keep all of us gainfully employed.
    [Once and for all, figuring out things to do is not the problem. The problem is figuring out who's going to PAY FOR THEM!!! - This is the supreme and ultimate rebuttal for the inane mainstream sneer at worksharers, the braindead "Lump of Labor Fallacy" that accuses those who want to share the vanishing yet-unautomated human employment of true belief in a fallacy since "everyone knows the amount of work to be done is infinite" - well, the amount of money to pay for IS NOT INFINITE, and btw, neither is the willingness to pay for it. Wake up, Paul Solman.]
    Take massage, for instance, as just one of many potential thought experiments.
    Massage school owner Juliet Mee was being conservative, I thought, when she told us recently that every American over the age of 16 would seriously benefit from getting a one-hour massage once a week. She also said a massage therapist should do no more than five sessions a day. There are some 240 million Americans over the age of 16. There are some 15 to 20 million unemployed, depending on how liberally you count. You do the math....
    [AND WHO'S GOING TO PAY FOR IT?! or should we not bother you with "details"?]
    Okay, I'll do it for you. 240 million Americans getting a one-hour massage a week: that's almost 10 million full-time, 40-hour-a-week massage jobs right there, which would HALVE the unemployment rate, actually get us down near what's considered "full" employment, because so many people are only temporarily out of a job at any point in time.
    [again, WHO'S GOING TO PAY FOR IT?]
    So what's the problem?
    [gee, let us guess - how about WHO'S GOING TO PAY FOR IT?]
    Obviously, that it would take a very long while to get from here in 2010 -- 100,000 or so licensed massage therapists -- to the fanciful there: a workforce with 10 million muscle kneaders who no longer need a job.
    Generalize to ANY new jobs, and you see the problem: getting from here -- the current unemployment situation -- to there -- a world of new jobs.
    [Paul Solman must be having a senior moment - he's straining for some transition-delay argument instead of the glaringly obvious WHO'S GOING TO PAY FOR IT?]
    There is another approach, being promoted by such unlikely economics bedfellows as Dean Baker, of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research, and the American Enterprise Institute's Kevin Hassett, an advisor to John McCain's campaign.
    Here's Hassett in November of last year:
    The policy in question is called 'Kurzarbeit,' which translates approximately as 'short work.' Firms that face a temporary decrease in demand avoid shedding employees by cutting hours instead. If hours and wages are reduced by 10 percent or more, the government pays workers 60 percent of their lost salary. This encourages firms to use across-the-board reductions of hours instead of layoffs....The economic argument in favor of such a policy is powerful.
    Also, the eminent sociologist and author Juliet Schor has a book just out, "Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth," which makes the case for cutting back in general and says it's already happening:
    In pockets around the country and the world, people are busy creating lifestyles that offer a way out of the work and spend cycle.
    One policy that would obviously contribute to those lifestyles: a shorter work week.

  4. Learning how to cut budgets - Cities, county, schools expecting less tax dollars, by Gary Pinnell, 6/12 Tampa Tribune via www2.highlandstoday.com
    SEBRING, Fla. - There will be budget cuts next fiscal year in almost every department in every city, in Highlands County, and at the school board.
    The 9-17 percent ad valorem revenue drop will certainly hurt next year, but the most drastic cuts took place this year, government officials are suggesting.
    "We are not planning on cutting employees at this point," Sebring City Manager Scott Noethlich said. "But we're not done with the budgeting processes."
    In fact, top managers are consulting with department heads, so municipalities and counties are just beginning to decide how much revenue they'll have, and how much to spend.
    Noethlich expects the FY 2011-12 budget to be smaller: "It has to be, because we're going to have less revenues."
    According to preliminary figures from the Highlands County Appraiser's Office, property inside the Sebring city limits will be worth $93 million when tax bills are issued in November.
    Combined, the schools, county and municipalities will lose more than $10 million tax dollars in FY 10-11.
    On the other hand, there are uncontrollable increases in line items like pensions and health costs. Somehow, Noethlich and the council have to offset those increases, even though they'll have about $500,000 in decreased property tax revenues. The city manager doesn't think the five city councilors would vote for a tax increase.
    But department heads aren't being told to arbitrarily cut their budgets by, for instance, 10 percent.
    At Sebring, each city councilor pairs up with each department head, and they go through current and previous budgets together. Then, they get together with Noethlich and make preliminary decisions.
    "We'll have a workshop for the general fund on the week of July 12," Noethlich said.
    Avon Park Avon Park city councilors were told by auditors they would lose $274,000 in property tax revenues over the past two years. There was a decline in new development, decreased property values, and increases in homestead exemptions.
    In response, the city is decreasing the hours of some city workers to 32 hours a week and eliminating contracted work. The city has reduced spending by $925,000 over those two years, leaving it with $500,000 more in the general fund.
    Lake Placid [Fla.]
    "We're just getting started," said Mayor John Holbrook.
    At this point, the Lake Placid department heads have been given no goals, Holbrook said. "We just asked them to submit their budgets, and then we'll go over them and see if we need to make any adjustments."
    The big deal this year: if a July 21 referendum passes, the Lake Placid charter will change and a town manager will be hired. He will seek guidance from the Florida League of Cities, but at this point, Holbrook has no idea at this point how much to budget for the office or how much to pay a town manager.
    When public works director Jim Fulton retires in December, he probably won't be replaced. Instead, people in his department will probably assume his duties.
    "We'll probably get along fine that way," Holbrook said.
    Next year's budget probably won't be smaller because the town is buying Highlands Utilities, a wastewater plant south of the town limits. If that sale concludes, the town will have more revenues and more expenses.
    Whatever happens though, the new mayor won't ask for a tax increase: "No, I don't think so, that's one thing I'm against. We'll make cuts as necessary, but I don't see the need to raise taxes." The town has $300,000 in reserves.
    Highlands County
    Highlands County administrators are having preliminary meetings with department head, said Community Services Division Director June Fisher.
    Department heads aren't being told to shave an arbitrary percentage off their budgets, Fisher said. "We did that last year, but because we cut so much, we're not asking that this year. We're looking at each budget individually."
    The county initially sought to cut 30 workers. Fisher isn't certain that will happen again.
    County Administrator Mike Wright said department heads are answering three questions: "What we have to do, what we should do, and what's nice to do."
    Budgets are prioritized based on the answers.
    The commissioners haven't scheduled a first budget meeting yet, but the administration is required to submit its recommended budget by July 15.
    Wright will provide several options for budget cutting. Last year, Wright pointed out but did not recommend how much a millage increase could raise. The commissioners never seriously considered raising taxes though. Avon Park budget director Renee Green, Lake Placid Town Clerk Arlene Tuck and Superintendent Wally Cox did not respond to requests for interviews.
    Highlands Today reporter Gary Pinnell can be reached at 863-386-5828 or gpinnell@highlandstoday.com

6/11-12/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Labour's Growth Strategy: '35 Hour Week, High Taxes, Free Money', by Iain Martin, 6/11 Wall Street Journal via blogs.wsj.com
    LONDON, England - John Harris is a splendid writer, a thought-provoking columnist for the Guardian, an interesting thinker on the challenges facing the British left and a serious commentator in the field of pop culture. His 2003 book, The Last Party: Britpop, Blair and the Demise of English Rock is as good a book as any written on music and politics in the last decade.
    But, there’s a Labour leadership contest on. So Harris must focus his efforts on the various contenders and gathering thoughts about the party’s future. In his latest piece for the Guardian (“Where does the Labour party go from here?”), he has had a go at collecting policy suggestions from “leading thinkers” on the left. The highlights of the resulting list are illuminating.
    Fiona Miller, the education campaigner, suggests: A year of parental leave taken by mothers and fathers after the birth of a child to improve work-life balance (remember the work-life balance concept from before the end of boom’n'bust?).
    Neil Lawson, Compass: Amongst other things he suggests “modern” capital controls, a European wide minimum wage and more taxes on bonuses and high pay. And a 35 hour week (always generates growth that). [Actually, workweek reduction from 80 to 40 hrs/wk from 1840 to 1940 generated huge growth, as did the French cut to 35 between 1997 and 2001. Capitalism always runs better on a wage&spending-raising labor shortage than on a wage&spending-depressing labor surplus, as demonstrated during World Wars I and II ("wartime prosperity"), and workweek reduction is a lot smarter way to engineer the magic labor shortage than war.]
    Andrew Simms, policy director of the New Economics Foundation: Wants a universal banking obligation to guarantee that all citizens have a right to a full range of banking services - “one of the great fights with the banks has been the way they’ve chosen customers to maximize profitability”. (Banks, maximizing profitability? Well, I never… “breadheads”.) Start a green investment bank, he suggests, and turn RBS into the “Royal Bank of Sustainability. Also wants the big banks broken up (fair enough).
    Sunder Katwala, General Secretary of the Fabian Society: “The big overall question is how we can afford fairness and equality.” Well, perhaps. But first isn’t it worth asking how wealth is to be created, before one gets round to apportioning the limited results of low or almost non-existent growth? No, don’t be silly: Katwala wants a universal tax credit system, “going to everybody”. In essence the government would give everyone money - with extra hand-outs for those engaging in “voluntary or citizenship activity”. Welfare only works if it includes the well-off as well as the poor, he says.
    Will Straw: In general taxes need to go up. Labour spent a lot but didn’t argue for taxes to go up to pay for it. Honest, but I don’t see how this creates wealth and growth. Oh, and he says introduce a wealth tax on top of it all.
    One could debate the merits or otherwise of these various proposals for minutes. But some of them do seem to have been constructed on a planet other than the one on which the central and urgent imperatives are growth and wealth creation - the only honest way out of crippling national debt.
    And I do keep coming back to where, geographically, Labour needs to win seats and what kind of voters it needs to convince if it wants to form a government again. It needs to win in places such as Swindon , Watford and Reading West. These are seats that Tony Blair won, but then went Conservative in 2010. They are populated by aspirational voters. Public services are valued there, of course, but they aren’t fetishized as they are at a Fabian conference. These places are the home turf of voters who work hard and want a fair crack at getting on.
    And when they ask, at the next election, “how is Labour going to increase growth so that my family’s prosperity rises” are they really going to rush back to the party because of the policies advocated above? Really? Is the suggestion that Labour wasn’t left-wing enough so on May 6th those disappointed people voted for… er, the Conservatives?

  2. Libraries plan to cut hours, by Joel Landau, 6/12 Vineland Daily Journal via thedailyjournal.com
    VINELAND, N.J. - The public libraries in Vineland and Millville are trimming their hours and cutting off interlibrary loans as they look for ways to balance their budgets in the face of state funding cuts.
    And Cumberland County Library will shut down one day a month through November for state furloughs.
    Gov. Chris Christie proposed a 74 percent cut in state library funding in the 2011 Fiscal Year budget, which will eliminate all statewide library programs and services, including Internet access beginning in 2012, and the ability to share academic databases and borrow materials at all the locations. The $10.4 million cut also includes a 50 percent cut in direct allocations for all libraries.
    Starting July 1, Vineland Public Library will open an hour later -- at 10 a.m. -- Monday through Friday. The library will open two hours later and close an hour earlier -- 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- on Saturdays.
    Library Director Gloria Urban announced the changes earlier this week.
    In Millville, the library's opening times will be cut by nine hours a week, starting Sept. 1. Opening and closing will be trimmed by one hour Monday through Thursday. Friday openings will be pushed to 10 a.m. Saturday hours will remain the same.
    "It's pretty much obvious why we are doing this," said Bill Gant, president of the library's board of trustees. "We need to cut back in any shape or way we can."
    Director Irene Percelli said the board hopes to eventually be able to restore the hours.
    State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-1, said he is working to recover some of the state funding, adding the libraries are receiving more than their fair share of the cuts.
    "We need an adequate library system," he said. "Hopefully we will be able to figure out something here."
    Calls to Christie's office were not returned this week.
    Vineland and Millville are also ending their interlibrary loan program -- the practice of shipping books between libraries on customer request -- as a way to save even more money.
    Urban said people can still borrow materials from other libraries in the county, but they'll have to go to those libraries to pick them up and must return them there.
    "You can borrow materials in my library, but you must bring it back to my library," she said.
    The loan program will be cut off on Tuesday so that the libraries have enough time to recover all of their books.
    Jean Edwards, director of the Cumberland County Library in Bridgeton, said she's not reducing hours, but the library will be closed six days between July and November due to furloughs.
    The library staff will all take their furlough days at the same time and close the library, she said.
    Millville resident Faith Hall said she visits the Millville library regularly and does not have transportation to go to other libraries.
    "This is my only source for borrowed literature," she said.

6/09-10/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Policy Responses to Long-Term Unemployment - Testimony Before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, by Heather Boushey, 6/10 American Progress Action Fund via americanprogressaction.org
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Thank you, Chairman McDermott and Ranking Member Linder for inviting me here today to testify on possible policy responses to long-term unemployment. My name is Heather Boushey and I’m a senior economist with the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
    Today’s record-high long-term unemployment is a function of the reality that there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around due to a lack of demand. While the economy has been growing for three quarters now, businesses have not yet begun to ramp up hiring. While long-term unemployment creates significant hardships for individual families, it also threatens the nascent economic recovery: The long-term unemployed can’t spend what they don’t earn and most are limited in what they can borrow due to falling home prices and the credit squeeze, and spending is what keeps our economy humming. Thus, there is a direct link between lack of hiring and future economic growth.
    In thinking about a policy agenda to address long-term unemployment, there are some key principles to keep in mind. First, there is a new face of the long-term unemployed, who have new and potentially different problems from prior recessions. Second, at this point in the economic recovery, the costs of inaction far outweigh the cost of action. While we need to keep our eye on a growing federal debt, addressing the scourge of long-term unemployment now will do more to cut future deficits than not.
    Congress should focus on three policy goals:
    1. Stop adding to the problem of unemployment. In this recession, once someone has lost their job, they are facing historically low odds of finding a new job. Policy efforts here include expanding work-sharing programs and having the temerity to keep recovery dollars flowing until the recovery actually takes hold. Recovery dollars will be especially useful for the long-term unemployed, as well as budget-constrained states and localities that are, as we speak, adding to our unemployment woes by laying off teachers and police officers.
    2. Help the long-term unemployed beat the odds and find work. We know from decades of research that the displaced and long-term unemployed are more often at the bottom of the hiring queue and often suffer years of lowered earnings. Policymakers should recognize the unique challenges of today’s long-term unemployed and improve the basket of services available, including improving employment services, addressing the challenges of the collapse of the housing bubble for those who need to move for work, and supporting workers who need to take lower paying jobs.
    3. Fund national jobs programs. The data are clear here as well: We have a growing problem that is threatening to leave millions of workers out of the labor market, especially younger workers, older workers, and those in declining industries. Congress should consider the need to create and expand jobs programs, including those outlined in the Jobs for America Act, increase funds for our national service programs, and continue the TANF Emergency Funds that are putting people to work.
    I want to stress that helping the long-term unemployed is not just about doing right by America’s families, although that is certainly important. Getting the long-term unemployed back to work is critical for our economy and the general welfare of our nation. But, we also know that recessions that follow from a financial crisis are deeper and more protracted than typical recessions, and right now, there continues to be little wiggle room in terms of monetary policy. Unlike any point in the decades since before World War II, the challenge of laying the foundation for a strong economy lies with you and this body of government. These are unusual times because fiscal policy continues to be the primary lever that the federal government has at its disposal to spur economic growth. I urge you to consider that these extraordinary times call for extraordinary action—continued spending to aid to the long-term unemployed. The sense of imminent collapse of our financial sector, thankfully, now appears behind us, but the fallout for our economy remains and it is just as dramatic and continues to require bold steps.
    Poll data continues to confirm that the public prefers Congress to address unemployment over deficit reduction in the short-term. Over the long-term, the public is concerned about deficit spending, but the priority is to get people back to work. In a new poll released earlier this week, the Hart Research Associates found that the majority of Americans believe Congress should continue the health care subsidy and jobless benefits. An overwhelming 74 percent of Americans agreed with the statement “With unemployment close to ten percent and millions still out of work, it is too early to start cutting back benefits and health coverage for workers who lost their jobs.”
    One fundamental problem: A lack of job creation
    The unemployed face a fundamental problem: a lack of [40-hour a week] jobs due to a lack of demand. There are nearly five workers seeking a job for every [40-hour a week] opening available.
    [Heather doesn't quite understand the historic and potential variability of our definition of (full time) job.]
    In typical economic times [over the past 40 years only] —before this Great Recession—there was about one and a half job seekers for every job opening. Our economy has seen a monthly march of record-high numbers of long-term unemployed—unemployed workers who have been searching for a new job for at least six months—for over a year now. As of last month, nearly half, 46 percent, of the unemployed—6.7 million workers—were long-term unemployed.
    This Congress has taken important steps to encourage private sector job creation. The Congressional Budget Office credits the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law in February 2009 with saving or creating 1.2 to 2.8 million jobs and they estimate that 3.7 million jobs will be saved or created by September 2010. This legislation kept teachers in schools and police officers on their beats, even as tax revenues fell. It kept money flowing into the pockets of the long-term unemployed, which in turn has not only helped those individual families hardest hit by the Great Recession, but also helped keep dollars flowing into their local communities. The legislation also helped unemployed workers access health care, undoubtedly mitigating the well-documented negative health effects of unemployment.
    Even with the success of the Recovery Act, there are clear indications that in order to address long-term unemployment, Congress will need to engage in more fiscal policy. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that while lay offs have fallen back to pre-recession levels, the pace of hiring has remained flat for a year, rather than rising as we hoped would have happened at this point in the economic recovery. (There has been a small uptick this month due to Census hiring.) Once businesses do begin hiring en masse, it will likely take at least five years to move back to full employment. Those already in the unemployment queue will continue to struggle to find jobs, leaving millions of long-term unemployed languishing until our economy fully recovers.
    The unemployed cannot spend what they don’t earn, a fact that threatens economic recovery. On top of this, with the collapse of the housing bubble and the credit squeeze, consumers cannot tap into credit like they were able to over the early 2000s. The single most important thing Congress can do to address long-term unemployment is willingly taking the necessary steps to address this growing scourge on our economy, which threatens not only individual families, but also the path forward for our economy as a whole.
    High, long-term unemployment raises deficits and constrains economic growth. Consumers make up about 70 percent of our economy, and income from employment makes up about 80 percent of the typical family’s income. Without strong job growth, amid the kind of credit-constrained economy households are now experiencing, consumption will stall, which in turn will drag down economic growth. Slower economic growth will mean lower tax revenues, which will increase the federal budget deficit and condemn millions of Americans to the devastation wrought by high unemployment and a lower standard of living.
    Criteria for solutions
    We have a new face of the long-term unemployed, who have new and potentially different problems from prior recessions. While the best thing we can do is improve the economy overall, there are specific and unique challenges facing today’s long-term unemployed. These challenges are in many ways new, and we need “out of the box” thinking on how to address them.
    The rise of dual-earner families. The Great Recession is the first major recession where the typical family is a dual-earner household. In this recession, when one partner loses their job, the other one often keeps theirs. More often than not, the situation is that he’s lost his job and it’s not coming back soon in their local community, but she still has hers. It is now a classic “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” situation: Does he keep looking in their local economy, or does she quit her job and they both move and search for work?
    If a worker qualifies for unemployment benefits, these benefits travel with them if they move to another state. That is, a worker who lost his job in Michigan and moves to Texas will still receive Michigan benefits. But, the challenge in dual-earner families is often whether the “trailing spouse” can receive unemployment benefits as well if she voluntarily quits her job to look for work with her husband in a different state. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided incentives for states to provide unemployment insurance benefits to those individuals who quit their job to move with a spouse, but only eight states include “to move with a spouse” as a legitimate case for benefit receipt either by law, regulation, or interpretation (Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, and New York). Another 27 states allow some spouses to receive benefits, 18 of which only allow it in the case of military spouses, making unemployment insurance unusable for trailing spouses more generally.
    While on the face of it, it may seem that dual-earner families are better insulated from the economic shock of unemployment, in reality, these families are often more vulnerable. When a dual-earner husband loses his job, his family will have to make ends meet using about 40 percent of their pre-lay off earnings (the typical wife brings home 42.2 percent of earnings in a dual-earner couple). Combined with unemployment benefits (if he even gets them—currently only about half of all unemployed workers actually receive benefits), this often leaves families without the means to cover basics that cannot be “scrimped on” without significant transaction costs, such as the mortgage, car payment, or health insurance. Compare this to the early 1980s recession when, if the husband lost his job, the family lost 100 percent of its earnings, but both she and he could search for work. Even if the wife found a job and earned 59 cents on the male dollar (the typical gender pay gap in 1981), the family had more net income than today’s family (assuming similar probabilities of the husband receiving unemployment benefits across the two time periods).
    Collapse of the housing bubble limits geographic mobility. Families are less mobile overall because of the collapse in the housing bubble. Recent data shows that geographic mobility fell sharply in 2008 to the lowest rate since the U.S. Census Bureau began tracking this data in 1948, although it bounced up slightly in 2009. Renters are more likely to move than homeowners, and the unemployed are more likely to move than those with jobs. The high share of homeowners who are “underwater” on their mortgages limits the mobility of those who are both unemployed and homeowners. Congress can take steps to improve mobility by addressing the impact of the collapse of the housing bubble.
    Sheer numbers. We have never had so many long-term unemployed across such diverse groups. It appears that long-term unemployment is more “equal-opportunity” than unemployment overall.
    Figures 1 – 4 show that long-term unemployment is quite common across a variety of factors. Unemployed workers, for example, in management business and financial operations occupations have the highest share of long-term unemployed workers, 52 percent, across all occupations. African-American men and women not only have higher overall unemployment rates, compared to whites, but they are more likely to be long-term unemployed, underscoring the challenges they have in finding employment. Older workers are more likely than younger workers to be among those long-term unemployed.
    Youth. The costs of high long-term unemployment are especially high for our youngest workers. Yale economist Lisa Kahn has found that those who graduate from college in an economic downturn suffer persistent negative effects on their earnings. Her work examines the labor market experiences of white male college graduates as a function of economic conditions when they graduated from college. She finds that there is an initial wage loss of 6 to 7 percent for every one-percent increase in the unemployment rate measure used in her analysis, and even 15 years after graduation, the wage is 2.5 percent lower (and this lower wage remains statistically significant). Taken as a whole, the results suggest that the labor market consequences of graduating from college in a bad economy are large, negative, and persistent.
    The costs of inaction far outweigh the costs of action. There is a growing body of evidence on the deleterious effects of long-term unemployment on individual well-being, including lowered earnings, which can persist for many years after re-employment, as well as increased mortality, poorer health outcomes, greater probability of depression and other mental health issues, and marital instability. I will not summarize that entire literature here, but will provide a few examples:
    * The average mature worker who loses a stable job will see their earnings fall by 20 percent over 15 to 20 years. Research examining the long-term trends for displaced workers—those who lost a full-time job as a result of plant or company closings or moves or abolishment of their job or shift—found that over one-third of the re-employed full-timers in 2004 took a pay cut of 20 percent or more at their new job.
    * Chief Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Daniel Sullivan, and Columbia Professor of Economics, Till von Wachter, have found that job displacement leads to a 15 to 20 percent increase in subject death rates for the following 20 years. Overall, a worker displaced in mid-career can expect to live about two years less than a counterpart who is not displaced.
    * Krysia Mossakowskie, a sociologist at the University of Miami, found that adults between the ages of 29 and 37 were more likely to be depressed if they were unemployed or out-of-the-labor-force although the effects were stronger for men than for women. Longer durations of unemployment predict higher levels of depressive symptoms among young adults in the United States. These associations were measured independent of demographics, socio-economic status, family background and previous symptoms of depression.
    * Recent surveys confirm that unemployment is hard on families. A recent Rutgers University survey of the long term unemployed found that over half do not think they will find a new job in the near future even though 73 percent are willing to take a pay cut and 77 percent are willing to change careers in order to get a job. Long-term unemployed reported feelings of anger and despair. More than half borrowed money from family or friends, 45 percent have increased credit card debt, and 70 percent have used money saved for retirement. Additionally, four in ten went without medical care for themselves or family members, and the same number report having sold personal possessions to make ends meet.
    Much of the current debate centers on the effects of leaving our children with large debts to pay down the line. However, the evidence points to the conclusion that for today’s younger workers, the costs of inaction are much higher than the costs of future debts. The money we spend today is an investment in our future. These investments will help young people find jobs today and get on career paths that will put them or keep them in the middle class in the future. In May 2010, the employment rate of 16 to 24 year olds was just 1.1 percentage points higher than January 2010’s employment rate of 44.4 percent, the lowest point since the government began collecting this data in 1945, when it was 45.5 percent. Not acting today to get young people back to work will condemn many to a lifetime of lower earnings, which means they will be in no position to pay back the smaller debt.
    Policy ideas
    Congress should focus on three policy goals:
    1. Stop adding to the problem of unemployment. Expand work-sharing programs and having the temerity to keep recovery dollars flowing until the recovery actually takes hold, especially for the long-term unemployed as well as budget-constrained states and localities that are, as we speak, adding to our unemployment woes by laying off teachers and police officers.
    2. Help the long-term unemployed beat the odds and find work. Policymakers should recognize the unique challenges of today’s long-term unemployed and improve the basket of services available, including improving employment services, addressing the challenges of the collapse of the housing bubble for those who need to move for work, and supporting workers who need to take lower paying jobs.
    3. Fund national jobs programs. Congress should consider the need to create and expand jobs programs, including those outlined in the Jobs for America Act, increase funds for our national service programs, and continue the TANF Emergency Funds that are putting people to work.
    1. Stop adding to the problem: If someone has a job, help them keep it.
    One of the striking things about the Great Recession is that the market for job seekers is the worst in generations. The best thing to do for the long-term unemployed is to make sure our economy stops creating unemployment. A key piece of that is to keep recovery dollars flowing until the economy recovers. Here are three tested policies to focus on:
    i. Work-sharing. When businesses need to cut back on staffing, they have two options: lay off workers or reduce hours. There are strong incentives in our labor market to simply lay off workers—benefits are often tied to the worker, not their hours.
    New evidence from Germany shows that “short-term work programs,” which encourage employers to reduce hours rather than lay off workers, can significantly reduce unemployment. While output fell more in Germany during the Great Recession than it did in the United States (through winter 2010), the German unemployment rate actually decreased, while the US unemployment rate has risen 4.7 percentage points. Recent research by the International Monetary Fund points to the importance of the massive expansions to Germany’s short-term work program (Kurzarbeit), which led to hours reductions but not unemployment.
    Currently, 17 states have opted into the “short-time compensation” or “work-sharing” program within their unemployment insurance system, which allows workers to receive partial benefits from the unemployment insurance system if their hours have been reduced, not just if they lost their job or their pay is reduced. The unemployment insurance system also provides partial benefits to workers whose wages have been cut (including due to working part-time), but the thresholds are fairly low. The unemployment benefit is typically equal to the difference between the weekly benefit amount and earnings and all states disregard some earnings as an incentive to take short-time work. Mark Zandi estimates that the multiplier for the short-term compensation program would be relatively high: for every dollar spent on the program, $1.69 would be added to our economy’s output.
    Short-term compensation or work-sharing proposals have been garnering wider support over the past year. Congress should promote nationwide implementation of the short-term compensation program by encouraging the Department of Labor to provide clear guidance on the program and encourage more states to adopt it. Congress could adopt a technical amendment as part of an extension of the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program or another vehicle. Enactment of an amendment would send a clear signal that states should adopt short-time compensation laws as an option for employers. Work-sharing bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate (H.R. 4135 and S. 2831) based on the programs in several states.
    ii. Extend benefits to the long-term unemployed and ensure benefits stay on until local economies recover. A critical—perhaps the most critical—piece of fiscal stimulus is to continue to extend unemployment benefits and health care subsidies to the long-term unemployed until the recovery of their local economy. As has been well-documented, providing long-term benefits to the unemployed is one of the most effective means of economic stimulus available. As Mark Zandi, an advisor to McCain’s previous campaign, has shown, the multiplier from extending unemployment benefits is over 1.6. This means that government dollars spent on extending unemployment benefits have a bigger bang for the buck than other policies. This Congress has extended benefits six times already, but for short durations. The Senate is expected to vote on another extension this week as benefits expired at the beginning of June.
    Congress should continue to provide support for the long-term unemployed, especially considering the exceptionally long length of time it is taking workers to find a new job, the influx of job seekers, and the pace of job growth. Reforming the system to allow states to cycle off long-term unemployment benefits as they emerge out of the recession rather than having an arbitrary cut-off date would be a good way to make the system more responsive to the labor market. Among other things, implementing a state-by-state “off trigger” for extended unemployment benefits would eliminate uncertainty for the states and the cutting off of benefits, as we experienced last week.
    Extensions for the long-term unemployed should also continue to help the unemployed pay for their health insurance coverage through COBRA. The most recent extension cut off this important benefit, leaving millions without access to health care when their families are already suffering from unemployment.
    Not providing income support to the long-term unemployed is what economists call a “pro-cyclical” policy because it exacerbates the recession, rather than ameliorates it. Every person who is unemployed—in particular long-term unemployed—will spend less since they have lost their earnings and they will pay much less in taxes than they had when they were employed, which worsens the budget deficit.
    We also now have new research—which Professor von Wachter will undoubtedly discuss—that demonstrates that long-term unemployment benefits do not contribute to rising joblessness, but rather, they provide needed liquidity to families and, in turn, their local communities. The argument that helping the long-term unemployed encourages them to remain unemployed rather than seek work ignores the reality that there are nearly six job seekers for every one job opening.
    iii. Aid to the states. Additional aid to states, local governments, and school districts is, in many ways, the most efficient and effective way for the federal government to quickly increase the demand for labor. As of May 2010, 37 percent of those unemployed who had jobs in the public administration industry have been out of work and searching for a job for at least six months.
    The recession has had a devastating impact on states’ fiscal health. Unlike the federal government, states cannot deficit spend and have to make difficult choices amid declining revenue and a weak economy. According to the National Governor’s Association and National Association of State Budget Officers, 40 states so far have made $22.0 billion worth of mid-year budget cuts to their fiscal 2010 budgets. All but two states had or still have shortfalls for fiscal year 2010, totaling $200 billion. These fiscal problems are set to continue into FY2011, which starts on July 1 in most states, as well as through 2012. The combined shortfall for 2011 and 2012 is estimated to be at least at $260 billion.
    These shortfalls have led, and will lead, to budget cuts that result in widespread state and local government jobs. State and local governments shed 190,000 jobs between May of this year and May 2009, and 83 percent of the losses were at the local level, with almost half of those (49 percent) in the education sector. Simply put, schools are laying off teachers, public universities are trimming their staffs, and community colleges are cutting back. These cutbacks are one of the most unfortunate outcomes of the fiscal crisis precipitated by the Great Recession and constitute not just lost jobs now, but also eventually worse educational outcomes for tens of millions of students across the country—consequences that will have long-term negative effects on the economy.
    Additional aid to state and local governments and school districts boasts clear advantages over many of the alternatives. First, the added resources will immediately and directly boost employment in a very hard hit sector. Distinct from the private sector, job cuts are being forced exclusively by impossible budget situations, not by a lack of demand for services. Ameliorating those budget dilemmas will result in more jobs. Second, additional aid will prevent further cuts to state and local education systems—investments that will pay dividends far beyond the current recovery.
    There are a number of ways that Congress can deliver additional assistance to state and local governments. Congress could direct additional resources to struggling states by extending the increased Federal Medical Assistance Percentage enacted under ARRA into 2011. FMAP is the share of Medicaid costs paid for by the federal government, which when increased, frees up state funds for other expenditures. However, the higher FMAP is set to expire at the end of 2010—right in the middle of most states’ fiscal year. As a result, many states, expecting a large drop-off in federal support, are planning accordingly by restricting services and laying off public employees. Alternatively, or in addition, Congress could provide funding through a state stabilization fund as was also done under ARRA.
    2. Help the long-term unemployed beat the odds and find a new job
    With more than five job seekers for every [40-hr/wk] job available, to get the long-term unemployed into jobs, they need to be able to “beat the odds.”
    Improve employment services. Research shows that employment services and job search assistance can be helpful to unemployed workers. Currently, the Workforce Investment Act systems are not designed to stay with a worker over time; they are instead focused on quick job placement. For the long-term unemployed, it may be challenging to get them into a job quickly and Congress should provide the one-stops with flexibility and funding to provide professional career counseling services.
    Improvements to employment services can be done through WIA and Wagner-Pizer Act funding. One idea is to require that one-stop career center partners include opportunities to provide career guidance across agencies as part of their Memorandum of Understanding for co-location at the center.
    Make it easier for underwater borrowers to refinance (and possibly sell) their homes. In a recent paper, Andrew Haughwout, Richard Peach, and Joseph Tracy examine the challenges faced by homeowners with negative equity. Because these homeowners are in homes that they cannot sell without losing money, they are more likely than others to be “trapped” in their local labor market, unable to move for better employment opportunities. The problems for these families have increased as banks have largely been unwilling to do short sales, particularly for borrowers who are current on their loans. The authors conclude that the effectiveness of mortgage modification programs that reduce the principal balance on the mortgage will be appreciably more effective in supporting homeownership than those that simply lower the interest rate and extend the term of the loan.
    The Obama administration’s new program under the Home Affordable Modification Program incentivizes servicers to modify loans using principle reductions. As my colleague Andrew Jakabovics testified in April, the HAMP program needs significant process improvements, which Congress should encourage: “The Servicer Participation Agreement contains no real penalties for noncompliance, save withholding incentive payments…. Treasury must consider transferring servicing rights from servicers unable to meet their obligations to Treasury under the participation agreements to those who have demonstrated capacity to get it right.” “Changes to the program and overall throughput and compliance would be much easier if Treasury developed and maintained a single point of contact for borrowers and participating servicers. Specifically, they should develop a HAMP portal where borrowers and their advocates could securely submit applications for modification.”
    Provide subsidies for those re-employed at lower wages. One of the challenges of long-term unemployment is that many workers will become re-employed at far lower wages than their prior job and some workers will not or cannot afford to accept work at lower wages. Sen. Al Franken has introduced a bill, “Strengthening Our Economy through Employment and Development” (SEED) that proposes direct federal subsidies to businesses to help pay the wages of new workers, and requires that the jobs created will pay reasonable wages.
    About half of Sen. Franken's SEED money, drawn from bank repayments for federal TARP funds, pays small and midsized businesses and nonprofit organizations 50 percent of the hourly wage for a new worker for one year, although only jobs paying a minimum of $9 or $10 an hour would qualify with a cap of $12 an hour in federal dollars in most cases. Another $1 an hour in federal funds would be available to subsidize health care coverage. To qualify for the full wage subsidy, an employer would need to keep the new worker on payroll for 15 months, and employers could not use the program to replace existing workers or to fill existing vacancies.
    Provide assistance for unemployed workers who want to start their own businesses.Unemployed workers who seek to start their own businesses will often not qualify for unemployment benefits because instead of “job searching,” they may be engaging in business start-up. Congress could encourage states to allow potential entrepreneurs to qualify for unemployment benefits as they prepare to be small-business owners.
    3. For those left in the unemployment queue, directly create jobs
    The literature is clear: The long-term unemployed suffer greater and are at risk of never regaining as strong a foothold in the labor market. Many who cannot find work will end up moving from unemployment benefits to Social Security Disability Insurance, an even greater likelihood if unemployment benefits for the long-term are not restored. Especially for younger workers, the lifetime costs of unemployment can be startlingly high. Four policy ideas can get these folks to work now:
    i. Pass the Local Jobs for America Act of 2010, introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-CA), which would create approximately 1 million jobs by providing $100 billion in funds to be used over two years to protect state and local government jobs and create local government and nonprofit- sector jobs. This legislation would provide a critical interim solution to create jobs and boost local economies to help the private sector recover.
    ii. Invest more in national service programs such as AmeriCorps, VISTA, YouthBuild, and the youth service and conservation corps, which could create full-time positions for young people. These investments would in most cases be paid for jointly, by public and private resources. Investing $625 million in supplemental fiscal year 2010 funds for these programs could create 42,000 new jobs. An additional $830 million in fiscal year 2011 could create 60,000 more jobs. Most of these jobs would be in non-profit organizations.
    iii. Invest in a Summer Youth Employment Program. The Summer Youth Employment Program does more than provide hundreds of thousands of youth with seasonal employment opportunities; it has the potential to change the long-term employment prospects of disadvantaged youth who might otherwise by disconnected from the labor market. Youth get the experience and support they need to access entry-level jobs as they transition to adulthood through training in hard and soft jobs skills and exposure to services offered by community organizations. The House has already voted on this, but the Senate has yet to act.
    iv. Maintain TANF Emergency Funds. This program was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act but is set to expire on September 30th of this year. It has led to partnerships with the business community to create 185,000 new jobs for low-income and long-term unemployed workers. Extending this program for another year would continue to create thousands of jobs for long-term unemployed workers.
    In closing, I would like to underscore the urgency of Congress continuing to address long-term unemployment. Last month, Christine Romer, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers said: It would be penny-wise but pound-foolish to try to deal with our long-run problem by tightening fiscal policy immediately or foregoing additional emergency spending to reduce unemployment. Immediate fiscal contraction would inevitably nip the nascent economic recovery in the bud—just as fiscal and monetary contraction in 1936 and 1937 led to a second severe recession before the recovery from the Great Depression was complete. And nothing would be more damaging to our fiscal future than a protracted recession and permanently higher unemployment.
    Addressing the deficit is certainly an important concern, but economists are largely in agreement that cutting back on government spending before the recovery has fully taken hold is not the right policy. In fact, it could exacerbate unemployment. Record-high long-term unemployment will remain until employers begin hiring in much larger numbers than they are today. Because we are in the unusual situation of a recession following a financial crisis and because policymakers have already tapped into expansionary monetary policy as far as they can, using the “power of the purse” is necessary to push the economy into a self-sustaining recovery. If we do that and lay the foundation for a strong recovery, we will be in a much better situation to address the deficit in the years to come.
    Heather Boushey is a Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress.

  2. Prevent Layoffs with WorkShare Laws, BusinessWeek.com (blog)
    More states should enact WorkShare alternative laws. This way, instead of eliminating a position, employers can, for instance, cut one day from the schedule of each of five employees, and each one receives one-fifth of the unemployment compensation. Pro or con?
    Pro: Humanitarian and Practical
    by John Schmitt, Russell Sage Foundation

    As the unemployment rate skyrocketed in the U.S., from 4.6 percent in 2007 to 9.9 percent in April 2010, the unemployment rate in Germany fell, from 8.4 percent in 2007 to 7.3 percent in March 2010.
    How? The simple answer is that the Germans have a system that allows workers to collect "part-time" unemployment insurance. Instead of laying off 10 percent of workers, say, with each collecting full unemployment insurance, employers can cut all workers’ hours by 10 percent, with each collecting 10 percent of the unemployment benefit.
    In the eight rich economies with work-sharing plans, the average increase in the unemployment rate since 2007 is about one percentage point, compared with an average of about four percentage points in rich countries without such plans, according to data from the Center for Economic & Policy Research (CEPR). Because it builds on an existing program and simply reallocates money already in the system, work-sharing also has support across the ideological spectrum. My colleagues at the left-of-center CEPR and researchers at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, for example, all agree that work-sharing works.
    The proposals under consideration at the state level simply reallocate current unemployment-insurance benefits from the existing all-or-nothing system to one that allows firms to cut hours instead of workers. Even opponents of unemployment insurance would surely agree that if we are going to spend the money—and there is no chance that states will eliminate unemployment insurance now or anytime soon—we should spend it in a way that gives the most bang for the buck.
    Con: Businesses Aren’t Charities
    [But if they don't hire and fund their own markets, who else is going to?
    If their overall workforce can't purchase their own overall output, then where's the overall growth?]
    by John Tamny [Tammany?], RealClearMarkets [never mind market failures]
    [John's motto seems to be "Don't confuse me with facts, my mind's made up."]
    The very notion of a "WorkShare alternative" perverts the sole purpose of corporations. Whether public or private, companies are founded not to create jobs but rather to generate profits for their shareholders.
    [A number of CEOs would disagree: W.K. Kellogg, Charles Filene, the Lincoln brothers, the Lever brothers, the Nucor guys, the SAS guys...]
    Of course, profits are essential to job creation. Indeed, there are no jobs without investment [yes there are], and successful profit generation fosters the very investment necessary for expansion and subsequent job creation.
    [Nice to have these investor illusions all collected together.]
    To offer up but one example, when former IBM (IBM) CEO Louis Gerstner took over Big Blue in the early 1990s, he promptly laid off 60,000 employees in order to better serve his profit-interested shareholders. Investors rewarded the keen eye he kept on profits, and IBM’s share price skyrocketed, ultimately leading to the creation of 65,000 additional jobs during Gerstner’s tenure at the company.
    [And meanwhile, the 60,000 impositions on the taxpayer and the lost productivity till they found new jobs and the percentage that never found new jobs and lost their homes...? Once you don't care about jobs, you don't care about your own foundations, and your on a 'slow boat' to suicide.]
    Remember, also, that for state governments to essentially pay for, or offer tax deductions to, companies participating in WorkShare, they must raise the money through higher tax rates elsewhere.
    [They will soon be raising money through taxes on chronic overtime - with exemption for direct reinvestment in overtime-targeted hiring, and training wherever needed.]
    To put it very simply, the most profitable and efficient companies will essentially be forced to subsidize their less efficient competitors.
    [And maintain markets overall.]
    In short, WorkShare would likely kill as many jobs as it would allegedly "save" for the successful, who would be forced to prop up the unsuccessful.
    [Disproved by the German experience the last two years, by the experience of the 17-18 states with worksharing programs, by the French experience cutting from 39 to 35 hrs/wk 1997-2001 before the U.S. recession hit, by the U.S. experience 1938-40 cutting from 44 to 40 hrs/wk before World War II accelerated the process the wasteful way, by the world's experience 1800-1950 as standard workweeks came down from over 80 hrs/wk to 40.]
    In the end, I can’t stress enough that companies exist to generate profits, not jobs. Of course, if we remove the barriers to profit generation, job creation will always result.
    [If this were true, there would never be any recessions. And what about the companies in his own industry that exist to rip off taxpayers?]

6/06-07-08/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Robbed of jobs by the deficit cultists - The latest US jobs report shows how feeble this recovery is; Yet those managing the economy are set on a low-employment path, by Dean Baker, 6/07 Manchester Guardian via guardian.co.uk
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Friday's US jobs report caught most economic analysts by surprise. After touting the strength of the recovery for months, they had to come to grips with the fact that the economy just is not creating very many jobs.
    If the temporary jobs generated by the census are pulled out of the count, the economy created just 20,000 jobs in May. The average rate of growth of non-census jobs over the last three months has been just 130,000 a month, only slightly faster than the growth of the workforce. At this rate of job growth, it will take decades, not years, to get back to normal levels of unemployment. It's time that we stop the happy talk about recovery and get serious about the country's economic problems.
    Once again, the reason for this downturn is very simple, even if most of the country's top economists were (and are) unable to see it. We saw an $8tn housing bubble and a somewhat smaller bubble in non-residential real estate collapse. This bubble had been driving the economy prior to the recession.
    The bubbles directly generated close to $500bn in annual demand by stimulating construction. The housing wealth created by the bubble indirectly spurred another $500bn in demand by lifting consumption. With the destruction of this wealth consumption has now been drastically curtailed. The question is not one of consumer sentiments. Consumers are not spending for the same reason that homeless people don't spend: they lack the money.
    The $1tn plus in lost demand is the cause of the downturn and there is no obvious basis for replacing it. The stimulus package pushed a bit more than $300 billion a year into the economy, but close to half of this was offset by cutbacks and tax increases at the state and local level. The negative impact of the state and local actions will intensify after 1 July when most new fiscal years begin.
    There will be additional downward pressure on consumption coming from further drops in house prices. The first-time buyer tax credit, along with other supports for the housing market, temporarily reversed the drop in prices. However, with the end of the initial credit, and now the expiration of the extended credit on 30 April, house prices are again falling and are likely to drop at an accelerating rate in the second half of 2010. Purchase mortgage applications fell to their lowest level since April 1997 last week, suggesting that the falloff in demand is likely to be substantial.
    The crisis in Europe is another drag on the economy. As countries across Europe are forced to adopt contractionary fiscal policies, growth in the region will weaken as will imports from the United States. The decline in the euro relative to the dollar will further reduce exports, as US goods become more expensive in the eurozone countries.
    Even the end of the census jobs will be a drag on the economy. The census is currently employing more than 500,000 workers. The wages of these workers are helping to sustain demand in the economy. When the census lays off most of these workers in June and July, another source of demand will be eliminated.
    All of these factors dampening demand should have been evident even before last Friday, but May's weak job report should make the recovery's weakness so evident that even an economist can't miss it. At this point, we are presented with the option of taking steps to further stimulate the economy such as an extensive jobs programme, or facing years of unnecessarily high unemployment. (Work-sharing is another option that should be considered, especially if we can't get the political support for more stimulus. As a result of an effective work-sharing policy, Germany's unemployment rate has actually fallen slightly even though it has had a steeper downturn than the US.)
    Unfortunately, the deficit cultists are making it likely that the country will follow the path of high unemployment. This will mean an enormous amount of unnecessary pain for millions of workers and their families. These people will be out of work not because they lack the necessary skills or don't have a willingness to work – they were working just two years ago.
    No, today's unemployed are out of work because the people who are managing the economy don't have the skills necessary to do their job. And the incompetents who are managing the economy are all getting very well paid for their work. That is not good economic policy.

  2. Trends in US Physician Work Hours, by Douglas O. Staiger PhD & David I. Auerbach PhD & Peter I. Buerhaus PhD RN, 6/08 Journal of American Medical Association (subscription) via JAMA. 2010;303(8):747-753 via jama.ama-assn.org
    Context: Recent trends in hours worked by physicians may affect workforce needs but have not been thoroughly analyzed.
    Objectives: To estimate trends in hours worked by US physicians and assess for association with physician fees.
    Design, Setting, and Participants: A retrospective analysis of trends in hours worked among US physicians using nationally representative workforce information from the US Census Bureau Current Population Survey between 1976 and 2008 (N = 116 733). Trends were estimated among all US physicians and by residency status, sex, age, and work setting. Trends in hours were compared with national trends in physician fees, and estimated separately for physicians located in metropolitan areas with high and low fees in 2001.
    Main Outcome Measure: Self-reported hours worked in the week before the survey.
    Results After remaining stable through the early 1990s, mean hours worked per week decreased by 7.2% between 1996 and 2008 among all physicians (from 54.9 hours per week in 1996-1998 to 51.0 hours per week in 2006-2008; 95% confidence interval [CI], 5.3%-9.0%; P < .001). Excluding resident physicians, whose hours decreased by 9.8% (95% CI, 5.8%-13.7%; P < .001) in the last decade due to duty hour limits imposed in 2003, nonresident physician hours decreased by 5.7% (95% CI, 3.8%-7.7%; P < .001). The decrease in hours was largest for nonresident physicians younger than 45 years (7.4%; 95% CI, 4.7%-10.2%; P < .001) and working outside of the hospital (6.4%; 95% CI, 4.1%-8.7%; P < .001), and the decrease was smallest for those aged 45 years or older (3.7%; 95% CI, 1.0%-6.5%; P = .008) and working in the hospital (4.0%; 95% CI, 0.4%-7.6%; P = .03). After adjusting for inflation, mean physician fees decreased nationwide by 25% between 1995 and 2006, coincident with the decrease in physician hours. In 2001, mean physician hours were less than 49 hours per week in metropolitan areas with the lowest physician fees, whereas physician hours remained more than 52 hours per week elsewhere (P < .001 for difference).
    Conclusion: A steady decrease in hours worked per week during the last decade was observed for all physicians, which was temporally and geographically associated with lower physician fees.
    Author Affiliations: Department of Economics, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, and National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts (Dr Staiger); Health and Human Resources Division, Congressional Budget Office, Washington, DC (Dr Auerbach); and School of Nursing, Center for Interdisciplinary Health Workforce Studies, Institute for Medicine and Public Health, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee (Dr Buerhaus).

  3. Medical experience comes only with time, letters to the editor, 6/6 USA Today
    By Dr. Jack H.T. Chang of Denver -
    In the Forum piece "Shorter doctor-trainee hours alone not solution" (Wednesday), Dr. Kevin Pho's reference to the British Medical Journal analysis that an 80-hour workweek did not provide trainees with technical mastery omits an even more important aspect of surgical training, that of judgment. One does not need five years of training to be a competent technical surgeon. The time, however, is needed to learn correct judgment.
    During my own sixth and seventh years of pediatric surgical fellowship, we were required to be on-call every other night in the hospital as well as to come in to see patients with congenital anomalies even on our nights off. This was not to learn technique but rather to diagnose and decide on the correct treatment course. My training chief was fond of saying that he could teach an orangutan to operate but not to think.
    Reducing the hours in a surgical training program without increasing its length reduces experience and correct judgment [like sleep-deprived zombies have "correct judgment" (whatever that is, it has elicited record malpractice suits)]. An average technical surgeon with good judgment is far better than an exceptional technical surgeon with poor judgment.
    A physician or surgeon trained before 2003 is going to have far more experience than one trained after 2003, the year the 80-hour workweek was implemented [after years of self-regulation when the profession had penciled a line at 120 hrs/wk!]. Hopefully, with additional studies, we will be able to reach an optimal training program for not only patient safety but also physician training.
    By Exec. Dir. Richard E. Ralston of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine in Newport Beach CA -
    Doctors should decide
    [Yes, and Typhoid Mary should nurse the sick.]
    Kevin Pho provides a balanced discussion of an old issue in medical education. Only experienced medical professionals who train physicians can determine, based on their experience, the optimal work load for hospital interns and residents. Government or quasi-government agencies should not overrule such decisions.
    Patients receiving care for serious or critical conditions need continuity of treatment. Physicians in training need exposure to the course of treatment and recovery for individual patients. Shorter hours and more rest may or may not be beneficial in various circumstances ["may not" be better than EIGHTY HOURS A WEEK?? - get real, profession of sickos!]. None of us outside the process can determine that [oh please, the process has drifted off onto another planet]. Nor can political directives.
    [The sooner we slap you back to your senses with more targeted legislation, the better healthcare we'll get in the U.S. and the healthier we'll all be, especially superhuman-NOT U.S. physicians.]

6/04-05/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. In Defence of Downshifting and Work Sharing, by Anna White, 6/05 DissidentVoice.org
    SANTA ROSA, Calif. - In the hope of tackling the twin crises affecting the economy and the climate, governments and institutions around the world have echoed environmental groups in calling for a ‘Green New Deal’. Major government investment in renewable energy and other green initiatives would indeed create thousands of new green jobs, but would it address the underlying drive for endless economic growth that many now believe lies at the heart of our headlong gallop toward ecological destruction?
    As convincingly argued by Tim Jackson in his groundbreaking book, Prosperity without Growth, the unlikelihood of ‘absolute decoupling’ (reducing resource use while continuing to grow the economy) means that a different way of ensuring economic stability and maintaining employment is necessary. A growing number of academics and activists who recognise the tendency for New Deal economics to rely on a “grow your way out of unemployment” approach are calling for an alternative route to sustainability – reducing the working week and sharing paid employment equitably in a steady-state economy.
    A recent report by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) makes a particularly compelling argument for work sharing in their proposal for a new ‘normal’ working week for Britain of 21 hours.
    [Oh please, let's not have another permanently inflexible workweek, however short, while worksaving technology is constantly, flexibly pouring in and spreading "lights-out manufacturing" with no humans present at all.]
    “While some are overworking, over-earning and over-consuming, others can barely afford life’s necessities,” wrote one of the report’s authors in the Guardian. “A much shorter working week would help us all to live more sustainable, satisfying lives by sharing out paid and unpaid time more evenly across the population.”
    In her new book, Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth, Juliet Schor similarly argues for fewer and more evenly spread hours spent in paid employment. A long-time advocate of work sharing, she maps out a vision for a new economics that would not only allow more time for family and community, but would also give people the opportunity to acquire goods and services in more ecologically friendly ways outside of the fossil-fuel intensive market economy.
    Making the time to live sustainably
    An enduring myth of industrial capitalism is that as technological advances have increased labour productivity, we no longer have to work as hard to meet our material needs. That it takes fewer people to produce the same amount of goods is undoubtedly true, yet prior to the successes of the labour movement in the late nineteenth century, industrialisation drove working hours to their highest level in human history. According to the economic historian, James E. Thorold Rogers, the workers participating in the eight-hour movement were simply striving to recover the amount of leisure time enjoyed by their medieval ancestors. With the push for deregulation over the last few decades, work hours in the most affluent parts of the world have actually started increasing once again, reversing the century-long decline sparked by trade union action.
    As governments around the world have prioritised the pursuit of GDP growth as the single most important goal of their economic policy, productive effort has become separated from human needs. Economic activity now prioritises the accumulation of private profit over the securing of basic welfare – the pursuit of ‘what can be done’ over ‘what needs to be done’. The imperative for ever-expanding economic output creates a need to stimulate and satisfy higher and higher levels of consumer demand. Instead of producing the anticipated era of leisure – Keynes himself envisioned a 15-hour week with the work shared as widely as possible – the pursuit of growth for growth’s sake has led to an era of hyper-consumerism and overwork.
    There is much less evidence to suggest that the constant ramping up of economic efforts and the commodification of more and more of our time and activities is healthy for social or environmental well-being. In 2004, a study by the NEF found that whilst economic output in the UK has nearly doubled in the last 30 years, life satisfaction levels have remained resolutely flat. Steady-state economist, Herman Daly, suggests that growth in the industrialised world may even have become ‘uneconomic’ in that its social and environmental costs exceed the benefit it brings. Collectively, humanity is already using up the Earth’s natural capital faster than it can be replenished, as evidenced by the work of the Global Footprint Network. All of which begs the question: instead of maintaining a system that maximises economic output and full-time employment, what about creating new arrangements that maximise human well-being and ecological sustainability?
    People are already taking the transition to an alternative economic system into their own hands. A movement is growing around the idea of ‘downshifting’ – deliberately choosing to work and earn less in order to live a more fulfilling and simple life. In so doing, people are consciously rejecting the idea that we live to work, work to earn, and earn to consume. Such endeavours to redefine ‘the good life’ are not only reflected in individual decisions to downshift, but also in the growing popularity of transition towns, the collective rebuilding of local economies, and the climate justice movement’s vocal critique of overconsumption.
    The problem is that downshifting as well as other efforts to counter consumerism are incoherent in modern economic terms. In Willing Slaves: How the Overwork Culture is Ruling Our Lives, Madeleine Bunting reveals that while the majority of Britons accept it as self-evident that, for all but the poorest people, overwork ‘is your choice’, there is also a widespread acceptance that this purported power to choose is often exceptionally hard to exercise. It is not only the clear structural bias towards full-time employment that makes it difficult to negotiate flexible working hours, but also the ingrained logic of social comparison – the need to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ – which constantly upgrades our perceived materialistic ‘needs’ as incomes rise. The widespread sense of having to earn enough to live a ‘normal’ consumer lifestyle, one that is sold to us through advertising and reinforced by cultural norms, reflects the immense structural and social barriers to work sharing that exist in industrialised growth-driven economies.
    Overcoming structural barriers
    As evidenced by some of the more virulent reactions to the NEF’s 21 Hours report, the proposal to slash the working week and share hours more evenly across the population seems counter-intuitive. How would the poor and even middle-classes cope with losses in income? Wouldn’t government revenues drop and demand for public services rise? How would businesses cover the increased cost of employing a greater number of people for the same amount of work? What about shortages in skills that are already stretched to meet labour demand in some industries?
    Although many of these concerns are valid, it is important to remember that work sharing is not a short-term policy solution, nor do its supporters suggest that it should be a sudden or enforced change. No one assumes that the redistribution of paid employment is a panacea for the social and ecological malaise described above. It is instead part of a long-term vision for a post-industrial world in which the economy is transformed to meet the needs of communities rather than the desires of consumers; a sustainable future where the benefits of the planet’s limited resources are shared equitably and protected for future generations.
    Importantly, reactions such as that of the Institute for Economic Affairs’, Mark Littlewood, who called the proposal for a shorter working week “fantasyland economics”, reveal how deeply engrained the growth imperative is in today’s economic and social logic.
    [And how ignorant of economic history.]
    The tendency in orthodox economics to assume that GDP growth is the best measure of economic progress is the greatest barrier to any policies that seek to purposefully ‘downshift’ the economy. Yet it is precisely because work sharing goes against the conventions of the growth paradigm that the idea is so important.
    Overcoming the current structural bias toward long and unevenly distributed work hours requires a myriad of economic reforms. These could include income and wealth redistribution (including a substantially increased minimum wage); encouraging uncommodified forms of production and consumption (such as ‘self-providing’ or ‘co-production’); creating new measurements of progress and prosperity; and freeing sources of finance from the burden of interest-accruing debt. Perhaps most importantly, it requires an end to the work-to-earn, earn-to-consume mindset that currently dominates day-to-day life in many industrialised societies.
    The fact that the proposal for a 21-hour week has been taken seriously in the halls of Westminster is a sure sign of encouragement, but until a popular movement gathers momentum behind the idea, governments are unlikely to act. In the end, it is up to people themselves to willingly step off the consumer treadmill and demand the right to an even and reduced share of paid work. Instead of accepting the trappings of ‘consumer-sovereignty’, we must demand the freedom not to consume – the freedom to become the producers and creators in a new economy that builds lasting prosperity within ecological limits.
    Anna White is the editorial assistant at Share The World's Resources. She can be contacted at anna(at)stwr.org

  2. Council tackling work-hours issue, by CEO Dr. Thomas J. Nasca of Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, 6/04 ModernHealthcare.com
    CHICAGO, Illin. - When it comes to delivering excellent education and training to tomorrow's doctors, the medical profession has the moral responsibility to prepare residents to think independently, function effectively and deliver safe patient care. This requires having in place standards for supervision and resident-duty hour limits that reflect the needs of patients, the medical community and medical residents including those just beginning their residencies (post graduate year one) to those in subsequent years of training.
    As the accrediting body for more than 8,800 medical residency programs, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, or ACGME, is responsible for setting and enforcing these standards, a role we take very seriously. In 2003, the ACGME instituted duty-hours standards that capped hours for physicians in training, limited continuous duty time and required rest periods between shifts. Now, the ACGME is preparing to announce proposed new standards that will go the next step—by building on recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine in 2008 and by taking into account the best thinking of the entire medical profession.
    The proposed standards now in development are based on a comprehensive, multiyear process whereby a 16-member Task Force on Quality Care and Professionalism reviewed the scientific literature and assessed the formal positions of more than 100 medical and patient safety organizations. Once the task force completes its work, the ACGME will post the revised standards on its website for public comment, allowing time for all interested parties to provide additional information and viewpoints. Based on the information the ACGME receives, the organization will make final modifications before issuing new standards that will go into effect in July 2011.
    The ACGME has followed this very careful, very deliberate and thorough process to make sure the revised standards promote high-quality medical education and safe patient care. We look forward to announcing the proposed changes this month for the review and consideration of all stakeholders.

6/02-03/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. M'ville officials OK four-day workweek, by Joel Landau, 6/02 Vineland Daily Journal via thedailyjournal.com
    MILLVILLE, N.J. - City Hall will be closed on Fridays beginning next month.
    The City Commission unanimously approved a 10-percent reduction of non-public safety employees' workweek at Tuesday's meeting. The commissioners reduced the hours to save money on salaries and utilities by closing City Hall on Fridays.
    City Hall will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday beginning July 1. It's currently open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.
    Vice Mayor Joe Derella, director of revenue and finance, said the city will save about $725,000 in salaries from the reduced workweeks. The city does not have an estimate on how much closing City Hall on Fridays will save, he said.
    Derella said the commission could explore keeping City Hall closed on Fridays beyond this fiscal year if the savings warrant it.
    Employees on 40-hour workweeks -- mostly in public works -- will be reduced to 36 hours and 35-hour employees will be reduced to 32 hours a week.
    The 36-hour-week employees will work 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday. The 32-hour week employees will work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday.

    All employees will receive a one-hour lunch break.
    The changes do not affect public safety employees who work under the police and fire departments. The city is considering laying off at least eight police officers, one police dispatcher and may not fill five positions with retiring workers this year to save money.
    Also at the meeting, the commissioners requested the state Department of Transportation include a traffic light at Court Boulevard and East Main Street in its plans to reconstruct the area of Routes 49 and 55. A group of residents requested the light at a meeting about the project last week.

  2. ANALYSIS - German labour subsidies harbour longer term risks, by Sarah Marsh, 6/03 Reuters via Forexyard.com
    BERLIN, Germany - German subsidies to prop up employment by reducing working hours have helped bring about a "job miracle", but it may prove a mirage if they prevent necessary structural changes and hamper competitiveness.
    [Oooh, the English-speaking press is just straining to pick holes in this obvious and successful strategy that only Wales and 18 states have implemented.]
    Firms in Europe's largest economy have shed surprisingly few jobs in the global crisis, thanks in substantial part to state spending to encourage "Kurzarbeit" -- shorter hours.
    But a number of economists are criticising the government's decision to extend the Kurzarbeit scheme to March 2012, arguing it is redundant in a recovery, creates false incentives for companies to retain workers and raises labour costs.
    [redundant unless you want a real, sustainable recovery instead of just another uptick in a diagonally downward death spiral of deepening labor surplus, sinking wages and weakening markets...]
    If the country does not wind down the stimulus measures in good time, it could damage productivity, eating into Germany's share of global trade and stunt growth.
    "Kurzarbeit costs companies money, it costs the state money and productivity has fallen," said Joachim Scheide, chief economist of the Kiel-based IfW economic think tank.
    [Another unthinking thinktank that thinks productivity is just fine with or without marketability.]
    "Over the mid-term it risks hindering structural changes at firms and preventing natural staff fluctuations -- which could hold back growth. How much it would cost is very hard to say."
    Germany exited its deepest post-war recession in the second quarter of 2009 and recent economic indicators have beaten forecasts, with industrial output and orders surging in March while exports rose at their fastest rate in nearly 18 years.
    The strength of the country's industrial competitiveness has caused friction with key trading partners like France, who argue German wage restraint has depressed demand at home, curbing appetite for foreign goods and reducing potential for growth.
    Widespread use of reduced hours could help offset this if the scheme leads to a lasting increase in labour costs. But it could also damage German competitiveness.
    Unemployment fell for the eleventh month running in May and was kept in check throughout the crisis, prompting Economics Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman to call it a "jobs miracle".
    Many firms, especially in export-oriented industries such as the engineering sector, avoided mass lay-offs by exploiting the unique legal provision of Kurzarbeit, whose origins go back to 1910 but which has been heavily ramped up during the crisis.
    However, the DIW economic think tank pointed out in a recent research paper that even sectors hardly affected by the economic turmoil were drawing on the Kurzarbeit scheme.
    In the meantime, others continued to opt for reduced working hours although they were unlikely to achieve capacity levels again that would warrant holding onto all their workers.
    "Some sectors that were little impacted by the crisis are perhaps drawing on the Kurzarbeit scheme because of operational difficulties or structural problems," the DIW wrote.
    Jobless data look less impressive in this light, as critics say they fail to include some long-term Kurzarbeit workers for whom subsidies have become an ersatz unemployment benefit.
    The DIW said three quarters of all workers on Kurzarbeit had been benefiting from it for longer than six months in December, while 85,000 had been drawing on it for longer than a year.
    "Around summer 2008, there was a real surge in registrations, so two years later -- when those subsidies expire -- there is a big risk unemployment will pick up," said Jennifer McKeown, an analyst at Capital Economics.
    Instead of supporting jobs in structurally weak sectors such as the car industry, the government should promote job creation in sectors with more potential such as healthcare and research and development, said Carsten Brzeski at ING Financial Markets.
    "It doesn't need a lot now to redirect the job market and make this success story last for a while," he said.
    [but the top 0.01% of the population where so much of the money supply coagulates during a labor surplus can't do much with it when there's no marketable productivity to invest in anyway, can they?!]
    Furthermore, Kurzarbeit is partly to blame for the sharpest rise in hourly labour costs in Germany in over a decade last year, according to the Federal Statistics Office, as cuts in pay were less than proportionate to reductions in working hours.
    [But that's where the spending power that translates into consumer spending and healthy markets comes from, isn't it. So maybe it's time we got a finer-tuned definition of "costs." Where do these geniuses think the sustained domestic consumption came from, thin air? Note that the thin air ain't workin' for the USA.]
    The rise far outpaced the euro zone average.
    "We need to be careful that we do not perpetuate the one-off rise in unit labour costs but get them back in check over the next few years," said Holger Schaefer, a labour market expert at the Institute for Economic Research of Cologne.
    "Unit costs should decrease with increasing labour demand at firms, resulting in smaller working time reductions, but if not we could have problems with competitiveness," he said.
    Much of the financial burden of Kurzarbeit has been taken on by the government rather than by firms themselves. The scheme cost the Labour Office 4.6 billion euros in 2009.
    Previously, companies had to shoulder all social security contributions of workers on shorter hours, but under new laws introduced in the crisis the Labour Office pays 50 percent of this for the first six months, and 100 percent thereafter.
    Kurzarbeit is thus a major burden on the budget, at a time when consolidation is a major concern. This is offset in part by the fact the state has to dole out fewer jobless benefits.
    However, analysts say the dangers harboured by Kurzarbeit are receding as the German recovery gains traction.
    The number of workers on Kurzarbeit declined to around 830,000 in March from its peak of more than 1.5 million in May 2009 and could fall further as production picks up.
    ING's Brzeski said Germany still had to be careful. "The government should not be complacent and overstretch a success story," he said.
    (Editing by Mike Peacock)

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