Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Awaiting economic stimulus

On my way back from driving my wife to the airport, I caught Charles Colgan, USM economist, saying that he wasn't sure that the stimulus package was large enough to give Maine's economy the boost that it needs. That's interesting, because another economist, Paul Krugman, is also saying similar things.

Krugman, professor of economics at Princeton University and also a Nobel Prize winner, was speaking this morning on CNBC, where he was discussing his views on the stimulus package. According to Krugman, the $787 billion stimulus is not nearly enough to fill the "well over $2 trillion hole" in the economy, Krugman said. "A fair bit of the bill is not really stimulus," he added, noting that just about $650 billion would actually spur consumer spending and other types of stimulus.

It is "pretty likely" that the Obama administration will try and pass a second stimulus package in the next few months, Krugman said.

Krugman added that the economy is likely to remain depressed for at least two years, but probably much longer than that.

Yesterday, I spoke with a gentleman, who was visiting the Lewiston CareerCenter for the first time. He had been laid off after 19 years of employment, by a local manufacturer that produces materials for the U.S. auto industry. His reason for visiting was to inquire about a CNC Machinist's training being held at Central Maine Community College, in May. There are 24 slots available.

The CareerCenter's lobby is regularly jammed by the area's growing population of the recently unemployed. In fact, to handle the swell of unemployment claimants, who are forced to come to their local CareerCenters to get assistance filing their claims, the Lewiston office has now added extended hours during the week, as well as being open on Saturdays, beginning February 21. This is a direct response to serve the needs of laid off workers. While the U.S. unemployment rate is currently being reported as being under 10 percent, some claim this number is underreported and that nationwide, the actual rate is actually in double digits.

Nicholas Von Hoffman, in The Nation, has a column about unemployment where he mentions our state by saying that, "In Maine there are skilled carpenters knocking on doors, asking for any kind of work, shoveling snow or stacking firewood. "

One solution to the economic downturn is retraining, preparing people for the employer needs of the 21st century. Unfortunately, job training funds were less than adequate prior to the economic downturn. I remain watchful to see if the proposed funding coming to Maine will actually get directed to help people like the aforementioned laid off worker, and others like him.

Sorry for the gloomy report. I'll leave you with a positive, however. JobAngels is an online community with a simple mission--helping one person at a time find gainful employment. Here's a longer post about what it is that they do.

If you're on Twitter, you can follow them there.

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