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Millions of Jobs Between Now and November. Or Else.

January 10th, 2010 admin No comments

One of the chief responses to the continuing disaster that is America’s unemployment situation runs along the lines of: It’s a lot better than it was last year at this time. That depends on how you look at it.

In terms of the number of jobs the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported lost in the Decembers of 2008 and 2009, the situation is a lot better. Jobs aren’t being slashed in anywhere near the same numbers they were a year ago, 681,000 vs. 85,000. Layoffs are way down and, on average, people who still have jobs are more secure that they’ll keep them than they were just a few months ago. Various indicators of a slowly improving economy can be seen everywhere. No doubt, thanks to government intervention, however imperfect, there have been innumerable sighs of relief.


Click here for larger image.

But looked at from the standpoint of accumulated job losses, with no real hiring in sight, the situation looks far worse than it did a year ago. Back then, “only” 3.1 million jobs had been lost since the recession began in December 2007. Today, 5.0 million more Americans are officially out of work. And 6.1 million of them have been out of work for at least six months. Altogether, those counted as jobless number 15.3 million. That, says the BLS, is 10% of the work force, the “U3″ number. Add in the part-timers who want full time work and people too discouraged to keep looking for a job and this “U6″ measurement rises to 26.5 million and 17.3%.

The numbers, however, are actually worse than they first appear. Because, as BLS statistics show, 661,000 people left the labor force last month. We don’t know where they all went. Retired, enrolled in school, left the job market to raise a child, took time off to write a book, sank into despair. What we do know is that if they had stayed in the labor force and kept looking for one of those jobs that isn’t yet available, today we’d be looking at a 10.4% unemployment rate, with 16 million officially out of work. Maybe 27 million when the underemployed and discouraged get tallied.


Click here for larger image

What these terrible numbers represent are persons with rent to pay, kids to feed, tuition to cover, loans to repay. Not abstractions. People. Which is why everyone – except for Republicans hoping to make political gains off of misery – eagerly hopes each new job report will announce that the numbers have begun to be reversed.

However, given the BLS’s tweaky application of seasonal adjustment formulas and calculations about new businesses arising and old ones folding (called the birth-death model), this focus on when positive job numbers will finally be announced is really a perverse waste of time.

I don’t say this with any malice toward anyone. I’ve watched for that crossover from negative to positive, too. Nor am I saying there’s anything wrong with following the job trends that appear over a period of a few or many months. It’s just that when the day the numbers finally appear to go positive for more than a one-month blip, it will be a maybe-yes, maybe-no affair.

And, more importantly, that breakthrough, such as it is, will only mark the beginning of what must be obvious to everyone by now will be a long, long trek back to the employment levels of December 2007 when there were 8.1 million more people working than there are now and millions more had full-time instead of part-time jobs.


Click for a larger version of this Calculated Risk chart.

Our attention instead ought to be focused on the problem of how long it’s going to take to return to the number of jobs there were when the recession started two years ago.

As many others and I have pointed out for months, and Robert Reich noted Friday, it normally takes the creation of about 100,000 jobs each month just to keep up with added new job seekers entering the labor market. So, add to that 8.1 million jobs we’ve lost another 2.5 million “never entereds.” That’s 10.6 million jobs that have to be made up.

To achieve that by the summer of 2012, in time to have a favorable effect on the presidential election, would mean, Reich says, 400,000 jobs created each month. During the Clinton boom, the best rate was 280,000 a month. If that could be matched, it would still take until early 2013 to cover those 10.6 million jobs. And, it should be remembered, each month going forward we will need yet another 100,000 jobs to handle people entering the market for the first time. So the actual number of needed jobs over the next three years is more like 13-14 million. A formidable task.

If there were at least program in place that was showing marked improvement in the unemployment situation, even if the jobless numbers were still high, it would be harder for Republicans to spin things in their direction for the election. But what kind of program?

The imperfect stimulus has helped stop the bleeding. But the only way for the administration to do a timely job of putting Americans back to work is with a dynamic and massive federally run jobs program, one that employs millions as quickly as possible. That means more government spending. Not only should it be done right away for all the obvious human reasons, but also because the already somewhat dicey political situation for Democrats in November is going to be far dicier if more jobs aren’t generated soon. Excuses won’t go over well.

It would be the toughest imaginable sell on Capitol Hill. Fought against tooth and nail by obstructionist Republicans, Democratic deficit hawks and assorted worry warts. It might very well go down to defeat. The only alternative then would be diverting some TARP repayments and unspent stimulus dollars. That’s legally problematic and, at any rate, wouldn’t produce enough money.

But the possibility of defeat should not be a deterrent to trying. The White House should bite the bullet on this, go all out, take the issue to the American people and fight like hell in Congress to make this happen. The next few months will offer the only chance, however slim, of accomplishing it. Marching into November with massive numbers of Americans still unemployed and no program for effectively reducing those numbers could make it a painful year at the polls.  

There is, as pointed out many times before, far more to do than merely try to get more Americans back to work. We need a frontal assault on deregulation, deunionization, privatization, unfettered globalization, wage stagnation and the outrageous transfer of wealth to the upper 20%, especially the top 1%. Fixing, even ameliorating, structural unemployment will require rejiggering out trade policy and establishing a progressive industrial policy.

Atrios makes an excellent point in that regard:

One of my longstanding pet peeves is that everyone in the US pretends we don’t have an “industrial policy” because that implies naughty state intervention in certain sectors. But of course we have lots of naughty state intervention in certain sectors, we just don’t do it even notionally for any good reason. We prop up the single family homebuilding industry and the automobile industry (even before the bailouts). We prop up certain agricultural sectors. We favor big business over small. Now we’re massively propping up one skimmer industry – the financial industry – and are about to prop up another skimmer industry – health insurance.

So, yes, by design or accident we have industry policy. We should recognize that and then decide what we should be doing instead of pretending we don’t have any.

Whatever we do in that regard, however, will have to wait until we solve the immediate crisis. For one thing, there aren’t anywhere near enough fighting progressives in Congress to deal effectively with these deeper problems with the economy. For now, Band-Aids will have to do.


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Inbrics M1 is the thinnest Android slider we’ve seen, probably everything we ever wanted

January 10th, 2010 admin No comments

We don’t know what everybody else in the phone business has been doing lately, but Inbrics has just unveiled what looks to be the near-ultimate Android phone. The Inbrics M1 is a slider handset with a (great) 3.7-inch WVGA OLED display, 3 megapixel camera, front-facing VGA camera, 16GB of built-in storage, microSD slot and all the other usual trimmings, but what’s particularly stunning is that the phone is not only half an inch thick, but it has a full QWERTY keyboard that’s surprisingly clicky and typable. The phone is running Android 1.5 right now, but it should be up to Android 2.0 by the time it hits the market in March. The biggest concern is the 800MHz Samsung processor, the same chip that’s in the Samsung Moment, but the interface (as demonstrated in the video after the break) is smooth as butter, and they demo’d it playing back 720p video just fine.

Inbrics actually has a lot of custom UI and software running on top of Android, but the most interesting part is what they’re doing with video calling and beaming media from handset to videophone to TV to laptop over DLNA or through an access point device that plugs into the TV over HDMI. Inbrics also has a Cover Flow-style media browser that isn’t super deep in functionality, but still puts the stock Android stuff to shame, and some rather sexy custom widgets.

The plan is apparently to get a carrier to bite and rebrand this phone in the US, so price and availability are still pretty hard to pin down, but if this phone can hit the market soon it sure could give the rest of the QWERTY Android sliders out there some body image issues.

Continue reading Inbrics M1 is the thinnest Android slider we’ve seen, probably everything we ever wanted

Inbrics M1 is the thinnest Android slider we’ve seen, probably everything we ever wanted originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 09 Jan 2010 21:40:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Liquid Image Summit Series Snow Goggles heads-on

January 10th, 2010 admin No comments

Even the most exuberant fan of 3D displays and tablets has to admit to feeling a tiny bit jaded at this point. To sate the need for variety we went off exploring the quirkier booths and located this head-mounted video and stills camera being demonstrated by Liquid Image. We laid hands on a non-functional prototype, but as far as feel and comfort go, the few seconds we had these on led to no complaints. There’s an overwhelming amount of padding around the eyes, probably kinda important when you’re flying down the hills, and a tint to the visor keeping sunlight at bay. Recording can be done at 720 x 480 resolution and up to 5 megapixels for snapshots. The Summit Series will be available in July (perfect timing for a winter sports product!) for $149.

Liquid Image Summit Series Snow Goggles heads-on originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 09 Jan 2010 21:14:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Vuzix Wrap 920AR face-on: reality just got weird

January 10th, 2010 admin No comments

CES 2010 is awash in a sea of ridiculous 3D glasses, but that’s nothing compared to the insanity of the Vuzix 920AR, an $800 set of augmented reality specs with cameras built into the lenses. Sadly, the 1504 x 480 display just isn’t very impressive: we certainly saw a stereo 3D image, but it was grainy, dark, and generally unusable for anything apart from the augmented reality maze game on demo. Walking down the street with these things on your face would be incredibly dangerous, as far as we can tell. That said, the maze game did work seamlessly — you hold a pre-printed cardboard sheet in front of you, and in the glasses you see a 3D maze with a ball and puzzle elements that respond to “gravity.” That’s it, though — there’s no other software involved here, and unless you’re deep into developing augmented reality applications or extremely interested in looking like a killer robot from the planet Nerdotron, your $800 is better spent elsewhere. Check a Joanna Stern Video Event after the break.

Continue reading Vuzix Wrap 920AR face-on: reality just got weird

Vuzix Wrap 920AR face-on: reality just got weird originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 09 Jan 2010 20:50:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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RED Scarlet and Bomb EVF surprise hands-on!

January 10th, 2010 admin No comments

We just got a terrific surprise at the Engadget CES trailer: Ted Schilowitz from RED popped in with a RED Scarlet and the Bomb EVF for a quick hands-on! Our video producer Chad Mumm basically attacked him, as did the rest of the crew — pretty much everyone surrounded him as he pulled the Scarlet out of its pack. Chad actually shot video and did a little interview — we’ll get that up ASAP, but check out the pics in the gallery below.

Continue reading RED Scarlet and Bomb EVF surprise hands-on!

RED Scarlet and Bomb EVF surprise hands-on! originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 09 Jan 2010 20:24:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Fils Sound Film transparent speaker hands-on (video)

January 10th, 2010 admin No comments

Korean gadgets these days are either gunning for next-to-nothing thinness or mind-boggling transparency, which is marvelous. Today we came across another Korean company (and an old friend), Fils, which does transparent “sound film” speakers in many forms: photo frame, umbrella, curtains, cap, hoodie and even model yacht (yeah, seriously), all thanks to the highly-flexible piezoelectric film. Sure, the sound quality was hardly top-notch, but apparently Fils is hooking up with a few big-name Korean electronic companies (TVs?), so we’re all going to suffer soon whether you like it or not. Cheer yourself up with the video after the break.

Continue reading Fils Sound Film transparent speaker hands-on (video)

Fils Sound Film transparent speaker hands-on (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 09 Jan 2010 19:56:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Chances of Netflix on Nintendo ‘excellent,’ says Netflix CEO

January 10th, 2010 admin No comments
In case you missed it last night in the All Things D event — and frankly, given the length and general jejune of it, we wouldn’t blame you — Reed Hastings of Netflix took the stage and sat down with Peter Kafka. Here’s the takeaway: when Kafka asked him the chance of “getting on Nintendo,” Hastings replied, “our chances are excellent.” It’s not much, but after at least a year of hints and teasers, it’s by far the best confirmation we’ve got. Of course, he didn’t say which system, but let’s be honest… the only logical choice is DS, right?

Chances of Netflix on Nintendo ‘excellent,’ says Netflix CEO originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 09 Jan 2010 19:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Coby’s MP837 thankfully doesn’t pick up where the MP836 left off (video)

January 10th, 2010 admin No comments

Surely you remember the Coby MP836, the first touchscreen PMP from the low-end company that we had a bit of trouble with at last year’s CES. Well, this year they’re back at it again — this time pimping the MP837, which really deserves more than a one digit jump. We’re glad to report that they’ve made quite a bit of progress over the year, and that they’ve addressed many of the problems from the first one. It has a 3-inch touchscreen with haptic feedback, and it actually registered input this time (though we couldn’t confirm that it’s capacitive). The software was also a lot more polished, as was the demo we got from a PR rep on the floor. See for yourself after the break.

Continue reading Coby’s MP837 thankfully doesn’t pick up where the MP836 left off (video)

Coby’s MP837 thankfully doesn’t pick up where the MP836 left off (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 09 Jan 2010 19:04:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Crapgadget CES, round 5: Gimme Tunes

January 10th, 2010 admin No comments
We had a lot of fun hanging with the guys at the Electro Joe booth — they definitely love their crapgadgets. Our favorite was a little something called Gimme Tunes, a pair of speakers in craptastic high heeled cases. These guys are powered by USB, but the audio input is a classic headphone jack. “Gimme Tunes,” the guy in the booth asked. “It’s a pun. Do you get it?” Uh, no. “You know, like Jimmy Choo.” Right.

Continue reading Crapgadget CES, round 5: Gimme Tunes

Crapgadget CES, round 5: Gimme Tunes originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 09 Jan 2010 18:41:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Samsung’s new netbook line goes hands-on, Moblin makes a cameo

January 10th, 2010 admin No comments

We don’t know what it is, but there’s just something a bit too “netbook” about Samsung’s netbooks. We took a look at the new N210, NB30 and N150 models that Samsung is showing here at CES, and while there’s nothing precisely wrong with any of them, they just felt a little uninspired. Like almost everybody these days, Samsung has moved to chiclet keys, which would be alright if they were as quality as previous generations of Sammy’s netbook keyboards, but they just felt a little plastic and shallow. At least the NB30 has an excuse, with its water-resistant keyboard tray, and to the lineup’s credit, there was very little flex to any of the keyboards — a common netbook problem. The durable, ridged plastic that encases the NB30 is also pretty nice, but nothing to make our heart aflutter. We spied the NB150 sporting a rather unique pink shell and accents, but apparently the final model will come in a rather more tame black. Interestingly, the most inspired netbook in Samsung’s lineup was the N127 (pictured), which they aren’t even planning on bringing to market (yet). The unit runs Moblin at a lightning fast pace, has the old school “good” Samsung keyboard, and if it came to retail would likely undercut its Windows brethren by a nice margin. We’re not sure if Moblin is ready for the mass market, and obviously Samsung isn’t either, but it would be a fun experiment from our perspective. After all, if you’re going to bother building three formulaic netbooks, what’s the harm in cutting a little loose on the fourth?

Samsung’s new netbook line goes hands-on, Moblin makes a cameo originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 09 Jan 2010 18:15:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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