2012 Year-End Jobless Statement from the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs
January 15, 2013
Reflecting on 2012, we give prayerful thought to the 12.2 million Americans who found themselves without a job at the end of the year. As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. While we are encouraged by the steady growth we have seen over the past year, we still remain particularly concerned for those individuals often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery. We also recognize how vulnerable this growth is to the decisions currently being made by Congress in regards to budgetary spending and deficit reduction.
We began the year with a jobless rate of 8.3%, and ended the year with a decreased rate of 7.8%. The average unemployment rate for 2012 was 8.1%. Still, we continue to be deeply concerned about the long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), of which there were 4.8 million last month alone— 39.1% of the unemployed population. We were encouraged in December to see that Congress extended unemployment insurance through the end of the year, since this program is such a crucial resource for the millions of people who are experiencing long-term unemployment. Among specific worker groups the average unemployment rate in 2012 for adult men was 7.5%, adult women 7.4%, whites 7.2%, blacks 13.8%, Hispanics 10.3%, and Asians 6.0%. Charts with a month-by-month analysis of unemployment among specific worker groups can be found at the end of this statement.
2012 was a year of steady growth, yet Congress still failed to pass any major piece of legislation that created jobs in a large-scale manner. Mixed with the potential threats of massive program and budget cuts, our economy still struggles with the danger of a double-dip recession. While steady growth in encouraging, until we start to see a significant change in the number of new jobs being created each month—especially those focused on vulnerable communities— the faith community still remains cautiously optimistic about the job situation.
As Congress negotiates the second phase of a deficit reduction deal it is paramount that in order to continue the steady job growth that we saw in 2012, that funding is protected for programs that provide job training (including the Workforce Reinvestment Act), education, and safety-net for the unemployed, especially unemployment insurance, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program.
It is also critical that Congress and the White House introduce a serious and comprehensive job proposal that helps Americans get back to work, in both the public and private sector. Another year should not go by while Congress waits to pass real job creation legislation. A particular emphasis should be made in providing training and jobs in growth industries such as home healthcare, technology, education, and construction. In addition, any new jobs created through federal legislation must generate sustainable employment that pays fair wages and provides opportunities for advancement. A new jobs program must address the immediate needs while also creating a long-term path to economic security for both workers and employers.
Our faiths inspire our deep commitment to unemployed workers and their families. We are now looking to Congress to ensure that the federal government continues to work with our faith communities in this effort. To this end, we will keep you abreast on the monthly unemployment situation, sharing stories and information on struggling families who often fall under the radar.
As we reflect on our economy’s health during the past year and look towards a 2013 with prayers of progress in the job market, we remind our elected officials that they must act soon to aid those who have suffered unemployment far too long. As scripture tells us, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9
You can find DHN’s Jobs Statement of Principles at http://domestichumanneeds.org/uploads/DHN-Jobs-Statement-of-Principles.pdf.
American Friends Service Committee
Bread for the World
Church of the Brethren
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Interfaith Worker Justice
Islamic Society of North America
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
The Jewish Federations of North America
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches
National Council of Jewish Women
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
The Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Institute Justice Team
Union for Reform Judaism
The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ
The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society