WBEZ | Unemployment http://www.wbez.org/tags/unemployment Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Obama Administration Releases Budget Plan, but it’s Dead on Arrival http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2016-02-09/obama-administration-releases-budget-plan-it%E2%80%99s-dead-arrival-114778 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/0209_presidential-budget-624x429.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Although President Obama is ready to release his budget for the 2017 fiscal year, Congress has the final say on how the country&rsquo;s money can be spent.</p><p>While the legislature can allocate more or less money to certain suggestions in the $4 trillion plan, Republicans in control of the Senate and the House have already said they&rsquo;re not even considering the president&rsquo;s proposal. One sign of this: the White House budget director was not invited to present the proposal for the first time in 40 years.</p><p>The president&rsquo;s initiatives include a huge oil tax, Vice President Joe Biden&rsquo;s &ldquo;moonshot&rdquo; to cure cancer, education and employment, and Medicaid expansion.&nbsp;NPR White House correspondent&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/HorsleyScott?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor">Scott Horsley</a>&nbsp;speaks with&nbsp;<a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2016/02/09/budget-plan-obama"><em>Here &amp; Now&rsquo;s </em></a>Jeremy Hobson to discuss what&rsquo;s next for the budget.</p></p> Tue, 09 Feb 2016 15:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2016-02-09/obama-administration-releases-budget-plan-it%E2%80%99s-dead-arrival-114778 Obama Celebrates 'Durable Economy' as Unemployment Drops Below 5 Percent http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-celebrates-durable-economy-unemployment-drops-below-5-percent-114726 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/jobs2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The U.S. economy added just 151,000 jobs in January while unemployment dropped slightly, to 4.9 percent, according to the latest figures from the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm">Bureau of Labor Statistics</a>.</p><p>Economists had expected to see about 190,000 new jobs.</p><p>The unemployment rate, which has held steady at 5 percent the past few months, dropped slightly to 4.9 percent. It&#39;s the first time unemployment has fallen below 5 percent since the recession.</p><div id="res465704391"><div id="responsive-embed-unemployment-20160205"><iframe frameborder="0" height="562px" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" src="http://apps.npr.org/dailygraphics/graphics/unemployment-20160205/child.html?initialWidth=556&amp;childId=responsive-embed-unemployment-20160205&amp;parentUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.npr.org%2Fsections%2Fthetwo-way%2F2016%2F02%2F05%2F465686010%2Fu-s-added-151-000-jobs-in-january-unemployment-dropped-to-4-9-percent%3Fft%3Dnprml%26f%3D465686010" style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border-width: 0px; border-style: initial; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;" width="620px"></iframe></div></div><p>President Obama celebrated that benchmark by making a statement on the economy, noting that not only had unemployment returned to its lowest level in 8 years, but that the private sector had also seen 71 straight months of private-sector job growth. The growth of the economy is also &quot;finally starting to translate into bigger paychecks,&quot; the president said.</p><p>&quot;The United States of America right now has the strongest, most durable economy in the world,&quot; Obama said. But when asked by reporters, he acknowledge that many Americans are still feeling the effects of the recession &mdash; and that the labor force participation rate, 62,7 percent, is still comparatively low, indicating many Americans aren&#39;t actively looking for work.</p><p>Obama explained his position on the economy by way of a workout analogy:</p><blockquote><div><p>&quot;We should feel good about the progress we&#39;ve made, understanding that we&#39;ve still got more work to do.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s sort of like, you know, I&#39;m 54 now so I&#39;ve got to work out harder to stay in shape. And you know, if I&#39;m feeling good in the gym I want to acknowledge that what I&#39;m doing is working. Because otherwise I&#39;ll just go off and have a big double bacon cheeseburger or something, because I&#39;ll think, well, this isn&#39;t working.</p><p>&quot;No &mdash; if it&#39;s working then we should be staying on that same path. That doesn&#39;t mean that I&#39;m where I&#39;m where I necessarily want to be, it doesn&#39;t mean that I stop doing some hard work to get where we need to go.&quot;</p></div></blockquote><p>The January jobs report also revised the more-robust job growth during the end of 2015, shifting the overall total downward: November&#39;s job gains were changed from 252,000 to 280,000, the BLS says, and in December, the economy added 262,000 new jobs, rather than 292,000.</p><p>One bright spot on the report: Wages. Average hourly earnings rose by 12 cents in January, to $25.39. The report says that over the year, wages have risen 2.5 percent overall.</p><p>Retail, restaurants, healthcare and manufacturing all gained jobs, the BLS says. But jobs were lost in transportation, warehousing, private education services and mining.</p><p>Meanwhile, NPR&#39;s Yuki Noguchi reports for our Newscast unit that other reports suggest layoff activity has increased:</p><p>&quot;The Labor Department said claims for new jobless benefits increased last week. And outplacement firm Challenger Gray and Christmas said planned layoffs spiked last month because of cutbacks in retail and energy,&quot; Yuki says. &quot;Last month, Walmart and Macy&#39;s both announced plans to pare down their workforces.&quot;</p><p>And last month, the Commerce department reported that&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-29/economic-growth-cools-as-american-consumers-temper-spendinghttp://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/national/gdp/gdpnewsrelease.htm">GDP growth had slowed to 0.7 percent</a>.</p><p><a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/02/05/465686010/u-s-added-151-000-jobs-in-january-unemployment-dropped-to-4-9-percent?ft=nprml&amp;f=465686010"><em>&mdash;via NPR</em></a></p></p> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 12:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-celebrates-durable-economy-unemployment-drops-below-5-percent-114726 U.S. Economy Added a Robust 292,000 Jobs in December http://www.wbez.org/news/us-economy-added-robust-292000-jobs-december-114720 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/getajob.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="storytext"><div id="res462364817" previewtitle="A job seeker views a business card during a Giant Job Fair last month in Detroit. During 2015, employers created 2.65 million new jobs."><div data-crop-type="">The U.S. economy added 292,000 jobs in December while unemployment held steady at 5 percent, according to the latest figures from the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm">Bureau of Labor Statistics</a>.</div></div><p>The number of new jobs was higher than many economists had anticipated; NPR&#39;s John Ydstie says experts had expected about 200,000 new jobs.</p><p>In November, the BLS initially said the economy added 211,000 jobs &mdash; a &quot;healthy pace,&quot; as&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/12/05/458511046/more-jobs-cheaper-gas-and-rising-stocks-help-the-economy-look-up">NPR&#39;s Marilyn Geewax put it</a>.</p><p>That number has now been revised upward, to 252,000. The job gains for October have also been revised up, from 298,000 to 307,000.</p><p>With the revised numbers, the past three months have seen an average of 284,000 new jobs each month. The unemployment rate has held at 5 percent all three months.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p data-pym-src="http://apps.npr.org/dailygraphics/graphics/unemployment-20160108/child.html">&nbsp;</p><script src="http://apps.npr.org/dailygraphics/graphics/unemployment-20160108/js/lib/pym.js" type="text/javascript"></script><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Professional and business services, the restaurant industry, health care and construction showed some of the strongest job growth in December, the Bureau says, while mining jobs declined and manufacturing jobs stayed stagnant.</p><div id="res462371741"><p>&nbsp;</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">The economy added 292,000 jobs in December&mdash;a record-breaking 70 consecutive months of private-sector job growth.</p>&mdash; Barack Obama (@BarackObama) <a href="https://twitter.com/BarackObama/status/685471723915837440">January 8, 2016</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>&nbsp;</p></div><p>The labor participation rate was little changed in December, and average wages fell by a penny.</p><p>Over the year as a whole, average wages rose 2.5 percent, the BLS says &mdash; the fastest rise since 2008. But a healthy growth rate for wages would be &quot;in the 3-4 percent range,&quot; writes&nbsp;<a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2016/01/08/december-jobs-report-everything-you-need-to-know-2/">The Wall Street Journal</a>.</p><p>All told, employers created 2.65 million new jobs last year &mdash; not as strong as 2014&#39;s 3.2 million total jobs, but enough to make 2015 the second-best year for U.S. job growth since 1999, The Associated Press reports.</p><p>The news comes during a week of turmoil in the international stock markets. Chinese stocks plunged this week, while the S&amp;P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial average had their worst-ever start to a year.</p><p>Last month, the Federal Reserve&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/12/16/459989461/federal-reserve-announces-hike-in-short-term-interest-rates">raised interest rates</a>&nbsp;in the U.S. by 0.25 percentage point, signaling confidence in the American economy. It was the first change in the interest rate since 2008, and the first&nbsp;increase since 2006.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/08/462362534/u-s-economy-added-a-robust-292-000-jobs-in-december?ft=nprml&amp;f=462362534"><em> via NPR</em></a></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 11:24:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/us-economy-added-robust-292000-jobs-december-114720 What's Being Done For The Unemployed Blind? http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-02-02/whats-being-done-unemployed-blind-114682 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/blind employment-robarna.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">In America, &ldquo;blind&rdquo; and &ldquo;out of work&rdquo; go together too often. According to the National Federation of the Blind, about 60 percent of blind folks are unemployed.</p><p dir="ltr">We talk with Colleen Wunderlich of the Hadley School for the Blind about what&rsquo;s being done to address that statistic, including encouraging more blind people to start their own businesses.</p></p> Tue, 02 Feb 2016 15:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-02-02/whats-being-done-unemployed-blind-114682 Economy Adds 292,000 Jobs in December http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2016-01-08/economy-adds-292000-jobs-december-114431 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/0108_job-fair-624x416.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="attachment_99508"><img alt="Job applications and information for the Gap Factory Store sit on a table during a job fair at Dolphin Mall in Miami, on Oct. 6, 2015. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/media.wbur.org/wordpress/11/files/2016/01/0108_job-fair-624x416.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Job applications and information for the Gap Factory Store sit on a table during a job fair at Dolphin Mall in Miami, on Oct. 6, 2015. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)" /><p>What&rsquo;s been a turbulent week on the stock market ended with a positive jobs report.</p><p>The Labor Department reported today that the economy<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/us-economy-added-robust-292000-jobs-december-114720"> added 292,000 jobs in December, </a>better than many expectations.</p></div><p>The unemployment rate held steady at 5 percent, but average hourly wages were flat.</p><p>This comes weeks after the Federal Reserve decided to raise its benchmark interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade.</p><p>Michael Regan&nbsp;of Bloomberg News discusses the December jobs report with<a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2016/01/08/positive-december-jobs-report" target="_blank"><em>&nbsp;Here &amp; Now&rsquo;s</em></a> Peter O&rsquo;Dowd.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 08 Jan 2016 16:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2016-01-08/economy-adds-292000-jobs-december-114431 Some States Are Cutting Poor Dads A Deal On Unpaid Child Support http://www.wbez.org/news/some-states-are-cutting-poor-dads-deal-unpaid-child-support-113877 <p><div id="res456639793"><div data-resid="456639793" id="slideshowGallery456639793"><div><p>When the state of Maryland wanted to reach dads who were behind on their child support payments, it started in the boarded-up blocks of West Baltimore, in neighborhoods marked by drugs, violence and unemployment.</p><p>In just four zip code areas, the state identified 4,642 people who owed more than $30 million in back child support. Most of that was &quot;state-owed,&quot; meaning that rather than going to the child through the custodial parent, it&#39;s supposed to reimburse taxpayers for welfare paid to the child&#39;s mother.</p><p>This is a source of great resentment for many men, who say they want their money to go to their children. But most who owe it can&#39;t pay anyway, as they earn less than $10,000 a year.</p><p>&quot;So even if we use taxpayer dollars to chase &#39;em down, and we catch &#39;em, right, and we go into their pockets, there&#39;s nothing in there,&quot; says Joe Jones of Baltimore&#39;s Center for Urban Families.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cfuf.JPG" style="height: 390px; width: 540px;" title="The Center for Urban Families in Baltimore is a nonprofit that provides job training, parenting programs and other help for low-income families. (Jun Tsuboike/NPR)" /></div></div><div>Are they deadbeat?</div></div></div><p>Joseph DiPrimio, head of Maryland&#39;s child support enforcement office, doesn&#39;t like that expression.</p><p>&quot;I think that&#39;s vulgar. I don&#39;t use it,&quot; he says.</p><p>DiPrimio prefers &quot;dead broke.&quot;</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re talking about individuals that are economically challenged, they&#39;re underemployed, but they want to do the right thing,&quot; he says.</p><p>Unpaid child support in the U.S. has climbed to $113 billion, and enforcement agencies have given up on collecting much of it. They say too many men simply don&#39;t have the money.</p><p>What&#39;s more, research shows that high child-support debt can leave parents feeling so hopeless that they give up trying to pay it.</p><p><strong>Breaking Through The Distrust</strong></p><p>Like a growing number of state government officials, Maryland&#39;s DiPrimio wanted to make parents an offer. But he needed their trust, and that was a problem.</p><p><img accept="" alt="" cannot="" class="image-original_image" grant="" i="" me="" serenity="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Participants%20led%20by%20facilitator%20Eddie%20Pitchford%20form%20the%20Chain%20of%20Unity%20at%20the%20conclusion%20of%20the%20Responsible%20Fatherhood%20meeting..JPG" style="height: 206px; width: 310px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: left;" the="" they="" things="" title="Participants led by facilitator Eddie Pitchford form the Chain of Unity at the conclusion of the Responsible Fatherhood meeting. " to="" /></p><p>Research shows high child support debt can leave parents feeling so hopeless that they give up trying to pay it.</p><p>And sting operations to round up parents who owed child support have happened all over the country, including Baltimore. In a typical ruse, agencies have sent fake letters telling parents they won tickets to a football bowl game, for instance &mdash; but when they showed up to collect, they were arrested instead.</p><p>To break through years of distrust, Maryland sent letters to parents with the logo of the Center for Urban Families, a nonprofit in West Baltimore that provides job training and other help to poor families.</p><p>They made this offer: If the parent takes the center&#39;s month-long employment training course and lands a job, the state will forgive 10 percent of his or her child support debt. If they complete a Responsible Fatherhood program, the state will write off another 15 percent. One of the first persons to sign up was a mother, though the vast majority of noncustodial parents are men.</p><p>In a separate &quot;debt compromise&quot; program, Maryland will also write off 50 percent of a parent&#39;s child support debt if they maintain monthly payments for a year.</p><p>Response has been slow. In two years, slightly more than 100 parents have signed on.</p><div id="res456668086" previewtitle="From left, Stephen Johnson, Harrelle Felipa and Cornelius Dixon attend a Responsible Fatherhood meeting at the Center for Urban Families on Nov. 11 in Baltimore. In exchange for participation in programs such as this, the state will reduce the men's child support debt."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="From left, Stephen Johnson, Harrelle Felipa and Cornelius Dixon attend a Responsible Fatherhood meeting at the Center for Urban Families on Nov. 11 in Baltimore. In exchange for participation in programs such as this, the state will reduce the men's child support debt." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/19/responsible-fathers-meeting-jtsuboike-0399-edit-deaa96de02f501a6266c8882ce230ddbf017d974-s700-c85.jpg" style="height: 464px; width: 620px;" title="From left, Stephen Johnson, Harrelle Felipa and Cornelius Dixon attend a Responsible Fatherhood meeting at the Center for Urban Families on Nov. 11 in Baltimore. In exchange for participation in programs such as this, the state will reduce the men's child support debt." /></div><div><div><p>Many of them attend fatherhood meetings like one held on a recent Wednesday night. Two dozen men &mdash; 20-something to middle age, in sweats and in suits &mdash; sit in a large square.</p></div></div></div><p>Some complain their exes won&#39;t let them see their child if they haven&#39;t paid child support. Others don&#39;t understand why it doesn&#39;t count as support when they take their kids out to eat, or buy them clothes &mdash; or say they would do those sorts of things for their kids if their child support obligation wasn&#39;t so heavy.</p><p>Mostly, like 30-year-old Lee Ford, they say it&#39;s so hard to find work</p><p>&quot;You telling me no matter what, I gotta pay. But I can&#39;t get a job to work to save my soul,&quot; he says.</p><p>Group leader Eddie White cuts no slack.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Group%20leader%20Eddie%20White%20speaks%20during%20the%20meeting.%20Around%20two%20dozen%20men%20%E2%80%94%2020-something%20to%20middle%20age%2C%20in%20sweats%20and%20in%20suits%20%E2%80%94%20sit%20in%20a%20large%20square%20each%20week%20and%20discuss%20topics%20ranging%20from%20parenting%2C%20debt%20and%20unemployment..JPG" style="height: 420px; width: 620px;" title="Group leader Eddie White speaks during the meeting. Around two dozen men — 20-something to middle age, in sweats and in suits — sit in a large square each week and discuss topics ranging from parenting, debt and unemployment. (Jun Tsuboike/NPR)" /></div><p>&quot;If you know you got a criminal record, sure it&#39;s gonna be hard for you to get a job. But it don&#39;t mean you can&#39;t work,&quot; White says.</p><p>A big part of this class is also educational. White asks the men what a person who is paying child support should do if he gets laid off or loses his job.</p><p>&quot;There you go, that&#39;s the word. Immediately,&quot; White says. &quot;Immediately ask the court for an adjustment.&quot;</p><p><strong>Other Approaches To Debt Relief</strong></p><p>Maryland&#39;s program is part of a larger effort to keep impoverished parents from racking up child support debt in the first place.</p><p>Some states are trying to speed up the cumbersome process of adjusting an order when a parent loses a job. Ohio has experimented with sending simple reminders &mdash; by phone, mail or text &mdash; to parents who need to send in monthly payments. Texas has reached out to newly incarcerated parents, to let them know they can apply to have their payments reduced while in prison &mdash; something not all states allow.</p><p>&quot;We sent out a teaser postcard trying to combat the ostrich effect,&quot; says Emily Schmidt, a research analyst with the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, who helped with the Texas effort.</p><p>Schmidt says there was concern that someone going through the emotional transition of incarceration wouldn&#39;t likely be thinking about child support, and may not even open a letter from the state. So they printed the postcard on blue paper to stand out, and, taking a cue from marketers, it said, &quot;Four easy steps to lowering your child support.&quot;</p><p>After 100 days, the response rate among parents was up 11 percent, &quot;a very low-cost intervention for a fairly dramatic effect,&quot; Schmidt says.</p><p>The Obama administration wants to &quot;right size&quot; child support orders from the start, and has proposed regulations to make sure they are set according to what parents actually earn. Officials say some jurisdictions base orders on a full-time minimum wage, even if a parent earns far less. They say this can backfire, leaving so little money after a parent&#39;s wages are garnished that he or she quits and works underground instead.</p><p>The White House&#39;s proposals also would provide more job training for parents with child support debt &mdash; something Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution says is a good investment.</p><p>&quot;More fathers will get a job, more fathers will have earnings, and more fathers will use those earnings to pay child support,&quot; he says.</p><p>So far, that&#39;s what&#39;s happened in Baltimore. The numbers are small. But the amount of child support that&#39;s been paid is more than double the amount of debt written off.</p><p>Maryland wants to expand its child support debt forgiveness program, hoping to help more parents to pay what they can.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/11/20/456353691/some-states-are-cutting-poor-dads-a-deal-on-unpaid-child-support?ft=nprml&amp;f=456353691" target="_blank"><em> via NPR</em></a></p></p> Fri, 20 Nov 2015 14:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/some-states-are-cutting-poor-dads-deal-unpaid-child-support-113877 Hesitant to increase wages, some employers add perks instead http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-11-03/hesitant-increase-wages-some-employers-add-perks-instead-113608 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/1102_gyms-biz-e1446480067207-624x356.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="attachment_95344"><img alt="Employers are providing perks, such as gym memberships, to their employers, while showing reluctance to raise wages. (E'lisa Campbell/Flickr)" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/media.wbur.org/wordpress/11/files/2015/11/1102_gyms-biz-e1446480067207-624x356.jpg" style="height: 354px; width: 620px;" title="Employers are providing perks, such as gym memberships, to their employers, while showing reluctance to raise wages. (E’lisa Campbell/Flickr)" /><p>Unemployment may be at its lowest level in seven years, but wages for workers<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/stuck-place-american-economy-113519" target="_blank"> have not been increasing</a>.</p></div><p>It appears that a number of companies are hesitant to increase wages, but are adding other benefits, such as signing bonuses, more paid time off or gym memberships.</p><p><a href="https://twitter.com/DKThomp" target="_blank">Derek Thompson</a>, senior editor at The Atlantic, joins <em>Here &amp; Now&rsquo;s </em>Peter O&rsquo;Dowd to discuss why the trend.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/11/02/perks-wages-employers" target="_blank"><em>via Here &amp; Now</em></a></p></p> Tue, 03 Nov 2015 10:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-11-03/hesitant-increase-wages-some-employers-add-perks-instead-113608 Englewood girls learn how to restore furniture, and their community http://www.wbez.org/news/englewood-girls-learn-how-restore-furniture-and-their-community-110759 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/furniture%20thumb.jpg" title="Jamika Smith is the founder of Teena’s Legacy, a furniture reupholstery apprenticeship program named for her grandmother. (Courtesy of Jamika Smith)" /></div><p>Four young women are in an airy living room in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood. They are learning how to reupholster second-hand furniture. As the sound of a stapler echoes throughout the home, one is pulling them out from a worn chair.</p><p>Across the room Laquisha Clinton refurbishes a foot stool. She picked out some fabric the color of regal purple.</p><p>&ldquo;It shows my gratitude and attitude toward fashion,&rdquo; Clinton said.</p><p>Jamika Smith is trying to teach a trade that she hopes will lead to self discovery for a group of Englewood girls. There&rsquo;s a lot of talk about the high youth unemployment rate in Chicago. For black youth, the figure is close to 90 percent. But girls are sometimes left out of the conversation.</p><p>Smith first learned how to restore furniture from her grandmother Miss Teena. As a teen, she didn&rsquo;t always appreciate her grandmother&rsquo;s skills. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I did not,&rdquo; Smith said laughing. &ldquo;But she used to have my brother and I garbage dump. Go down alleys and pick up dressers and chairs and things to that nature so it was kind of embarrassing.&rdquo;</p><p>But the garbage dump isn&rsquo;t so bad now. That&rsquo;s where she finds pieces for the girls in her apprentice group. She calls it <a href="https://www.facebook.com/teenalegacy">Teena&rsquo;s Legacy</a> in honor of her late grandmother.</p><p>Smith said learning a trade is important but she has bigger aspirations for these girls.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s more of how these young women find out who they are as individuals, finding out what is their style. Finding out what do they like and what kind of woman to they aspire to be.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/furniture%20inset.jpg" style="height: 444px; width: 250px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="Laquisha Clinton refurbishes a foot stool as part of Teena’s Legacy. (Natalie Moore/WBEZ)" />For Smith, repairing furniture is a metaphor.</p><p>&ldquo;The whole concept is you have this chair that needs restoring and reviving and there may be something in your life that needs restoring and reviving, too.&rdquo;</p><p>All the girls are from Englewood, a neighborhood rocked by high unemployment and poverty with few activities for youth.</p><p>&ldquo;I probably would be outside with my friends all summer on the streets even though I know the streets can be dangerous,&rdquo; said 17-year old Jannie Ross. She&rsquo;s wearing a Cleveland Browns football jersey as she puts the final touches on a cotton candy colored chair. She painted it pink and added fake fur.</p><p>&ldquo;Fluffy is just like my personality. Bubbly. The pink feels sympathy for me. Because I have a lot of sympathy for some people I know going through a lot of stuff like I am,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Now Jannie&rsquo;s adding rhinestones. The blinged-out chair looks like it belongs in a Las Vegas hotel.</p><p>Teena&rsquo;s Legacy is a pilot summer program. Smith wants to raise more money to work with more girls throughout the year.</p><p>Smith said her young charges may not go into the furniture business full time. She hasn&rsquo;t. But knowing a trade gives them a chance to earn a little money on the side.</p><p>&ldquo;At the end of the day it&rsquo;s important that we invest in our women because they are powerful and they do have influence,&rdquo; Smith said.</p><p>Take Shawtiana Clinton, for example. She took an &ldquo;ugly brown chair,&rdquo; as she describes it, and put a new pattern on it.</p><p>&ldquo;I picked cheetah because it&rsquo;s powerful.&rdquo;</p><p>Shawtiana said that print now makes her feel powerful.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a>&nbsp;Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p></p> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 12:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/englewood-girls-learn-how-restore-furniture-and-their-community-110759 Left out of economic recovery, workers go underground http://www.wbez.org/news/left-out-economic-recovery-workers-go-underground-110399 <p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Santana%20CROP.jpg" style="height: 377px; width: 300px; float: right; margin-top: 4px; margin-bottom: 4px;" title="‘I barely make ends meet. Why should I pay taxes?’ a Chicago ice-cream vendor asks. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />Santana does not want to be part of Chicago&rsquo;s underground economy but says he has struck out everywhere else.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve tried getting a formal job at Menard&rsquo;s, Home Depot, Target, Walmart &mdash; all these big corporations, which usually do hire a lot of ethnicity people,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I have not been called back for an interview.&rdquo;</p><p>So Santana &mdash; who, like other workers in this story, spoke on condition we not publish his full name &mdash; spends most days pushing an ice-cream cart in Little Village, a Mexican-American neighborhood.</p><p>Santana does not earn much. &ldquo;On a decent day, maybe about $90,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>And he comes from a low-income family. &ldquo;I actually have to claim homelessness to get funds from the government such as a Link card,&rdquo; he said, referring to Illinois&rsquo;s food-stamp program. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been paying rent at my mom&rsquo;s since I was 16.&rdquo;</p><p>So Santana says he has good reason to skip paying taxes on his income.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s all off the books,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Five years since the Great Recession, the U.S. economy has grown but a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/left-out-economic-recovery-workers-go-underground-110399#charts" target="_self">key labor-market gauge</a> shows little evidence of the recovery. As of May, more than 41 percent of the working-age population lacked employment, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on civilian, noninstitutionalized individuals. The most recent figure for Chicago, from 2012, is almost 44 percent.<br /><br />Many of the jobless folks are, like Santana, finding other ways to earn money. And there is reason to believe this shadow economy is expanding.<br /><br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;">Down but not out</span><br /><br />It is hard to know how many jobless individuals have resorted to working off the books. Few economists will even hazard a guess.<br /><br />But Edgar Feige, a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, estimates that income not reported to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is as high as $2 trillion a year &mdash; equivalent to roughly 20 percent of the nation&rsquo;s total adjusted gross income. Feige said that number is &ldquo;approaching the levels that we observed during the Great Depression.&rdquo;</p><p>He means the one in the 1930s.<br /><br />Nowadays a business may look legitimate from the street while most of its staff works off the books.</p><p>&ldquo;I get paid $8 an hour to basically just clean this restaurant,&rdquo; a 25-year-old man said as he hosed off a grill in back of a South Side jerk chicken joint. &ldquo;No one here ever gets a check or pay stub. It&rsquo;s all paid in cash.&rdquo;<br /><br />What is driving people to take these shady jobs? Many of the workers say formal employment is beyond their reach. The labor market is particularly tough for young workers, African Americans, people with a criminal record, immigrants in the country illegally and high-school dropouts.<br /><br />And it can be tough even with a college degree. &ldquo;I have a bachelor&rsquo;s in information technology and I&rsquo;d like to be a Web developer,&rdquo; said a man I&rsquo;ll call Jonathan, a 27-year-old in Flossmoor, a suburb south of Chicago.<br /><br />Jonathan says he came up with nothing in searches for an internship or apprenticeship &mdash; anything that would put food on the table while he developed his skills. So he works on cars.</p><p>&ldquo;I go to the junkyard and I pick out an engine,&rdquo; he said. In his mom&rsquo;s garage, he installs those engines in cars he finds on Craigslist. Then he sells the cars.<br /><br />And the title on those vehicles?</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t even transfer the title into my name first,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I actually just pass it straight on to the person that&rsquo;s buying because I&rsquo;ve reached my limit as far as how many cars I can sell.&rdquo;<br /><br />Jonathan admits he is paying no income tax on this work. &ldquo;The choice is, Do I pay my water bill or do I pay my taxes?&rdquo; he said.<br />&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Everyone affected</span><br /><br />If you think Chicago&rsquo;s underground economy operates only in low-income neighborhoods, you are wrong.<br /><br />&ldquo;I live on the North Side of Chicago,&rdquo; said a 45-year-old woman I&rsquo;ll call Jennifer. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m a presentation designer and writer. I&rsquo;ve had no full-time employment since 2008.&rdquo;<br /><br />Jennifer does get freelance gigs in her field. &ldquo;But that&rsquo;s infrequent,&rdquo; she said.<br /><br />So she resorts to other paid work, much of it off-the-books. It includes dog walking, cat sitting and handing out swag at trade shows and street festivals. &ldquo;Then I figure out what things probably won&rsquo;t go noticed if I don&rsquo;t claim them,&rdquo; Jennifer said.<br /><br />She&rsquo;s not talking about hiding income from the IRS but from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. She doesn&rsquo;t want officials there to dock her unemployment checks.<br /><br />Jennifer says her options are few. &ldquo;Right now, I don&rsquo;t have electricity,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;My electricity was turned off five weeks ago. And I guess I owe ComEd $500 and I have no idea how I&rsquo;m going to get that $500.&rdquo;<br /><br />Even if people report all their income and pay taxes on it, they might still have close ties to the shadow economy. Maybe they have a nanny and do not report her pay to the IRS.</p><p>Or maybe the taxpayers shop at a big-box store. The prices might be great, but that could owe partly to shady contractors that clean the place at night. Those contractors might bring in janitors working off-the-books.<br /><br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;">Drawbacks</span><br /><br />&ldquo;You can think of these underground economies as actually being a buffer that helps families get through difficult times,&rdquo; said Feige, the economist, pointing out that people making money off-the-books also spend it. &ldquo;It contributes to economic growth in the official economy as well.&rdquo;<br /><br />The informal economy does have its downsides. It does not generate many tax dollars to fund the job training or social services that some workers might need. The workers may also lack benefits and protections such as unemployment compensation and a minimum wage.<br /><br />&ldquo;A young person will have fewer and fewer contacts to the outside regional economy,&rdquo; said Steven Pitts, a labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley. &ldquo;They&rsquo;ll have a résumé that&rsquo;s undeveloped for use in that economy. So you may get a reproduction of poverty because of that.&rdquo;<br /><br />There are other risks, especially when the work is further outside the law, such as drug dealing.<br /><br />On Chicago&rsquo;s West Side, a 23-year-old who calls herself Ebony faces workplace hazards every day. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m a prostitute,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I work the streets.&rdquo;<br /><br />Ebony, a Chicago Public Schools graduate, says she does not enjoy her trade but considers it her best option. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve applied for McDonald&rsquo;s, Walmart, White Castle,&rdquo; she said.<br /><br />Employers have all passed on her &ldquo;because I don&rsquo;t have a work history,&rdquo; she said. Or at least not a formal work history.<br /><br />Ebony says she has been earning a living since she was 16.</p><p>&ldquo;I stand and wait for guys to pick me up,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;You get in a car. They ask you, &lsquo;How much is this?&rsquo; and &lsquo;How much is that?&rsquo; You give them a price. They give you the money. You either do it in the car, you rent rooms from people, or you go to a hotel.&rdquo;<br /><br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;">Desperate measures</span></p><p>That brings us back to Santana, the young man who pushes the ice-cream cart. Even without paying taxes, he says he is not making enough money. And he could be heading down the same road as Ebony.<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve actually even considered being a sugar baby,&rdquo; Santana said, describing that as spending time with an older woman and providing her all sorts of services. &ldquo;She&rsquo;d be a cougar. I&rsquo;d be a cub. She&rsquo;d basically pay for my bills and stuff like that.&rdquo;<br /><br />To become a sugar baby &mdash; to find his sugar mama &mdash; Santana says he might have to become a stripper.</p><p>With that in mind, he says, he has been lifting weights. He has the shoulders and arms to prove it. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m never going to look this good again in my life,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>In Chicago&rsquo;s underground economy, Santana figures his body might be the best thing he&rsquo;s got.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Employment-population ratio<a name="charts"></a></span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chart%201.PNG" style="height: 370px; width: 500px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chart%202.PNG" style="height: 390px; width: 500px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chart%203.PNG" style="height: 478px; width: 500px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chart%204.PNG" style="height: 426px; width: 500px;" title="" /></div></div></div></div></div></div><p><em><strong>SOURCE:</strong> U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. <strong>NOTES: </strong>The employment-population ratio is the proportion of the U.S. working-age population (ages 16 and over) that is employed, either full- or part-time. That population includes everyone except members of the military and institutionalized persons. A 2013 figure for the city of Chicago is not yet available. Annual figures are averages of monthly figures. <strong>REPORTER:</strong>&nbsp;</em><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 14:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/left-out-economic-recovery-workers-go-underground-110399 Morning Shift: The good, bad and ugly of unemployment numbers throughout Illinois http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-17/morning-shift-good-bad-and-ugly-unemployment-numbers <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Unemployment Flickr Tax Credits.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We look at the latest job numbers for Illinois and what towns have the highest unemployment. Also, the music of Sondheim - we get a visit from the cast of the Shakespeare Theater&#39;s production of Road Show.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-good-bad-and-ugly-of-unemploymen/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-good-bad-and-ugly-of-unemploymen.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-good-bad-and-ugly-of-unemploymen" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: The good, bad and ugly of unemployment numbers throughout Illinois" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 08:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-17/morning-shift-good-bad-and-ugly-unemployment-numbers