The long and rough recession and its lingering aftermath have taken a toll on Pennsylvania's unemployment trust fund, now insolvent. The state owes the federal government $3.8 billion and counting as it continues to borrow money to pay out employment benefits to the state's jobless. Obviously, the fund can't go on being broke, so a fix is needed and Pennsylvania's legislators are working on it this week. Tucked away in the bill, which accomplishes much of the fixing by making fewer people eligible for benefits, is a provision that seeks to reduce the drain on the system by making fewer people unemployed period.
It's not a job creation measure -- those have dubious success anyway. It's a job retention approach. What if, instead of a company laying off a small group of people, it temporarily reduced hours of a larger group, moving them into part-time status? The unemployment fund would be able to help those workers make ends meet by providing a smaller benefit.
It's not ideal, obviously. No one wants to earn less money, obviously. But it's an interesting concept for society at large and one worth exploring.
When someone loses a job, there is more lost than that one person's income. Also lost is an investment in that person made by society and by the person's company. The money the company put into training, into retention, into recruitment is all thrown out. The skills that the company needed are now not available. Society too loses, because the person who is unemployed is now now using his skills to their highest level. If they take a make-do job at a lower level of pay or skill, the money spent on college, or advanced training may be wasted. And, as I've reported over and over again, when these people lose their way, they may never recover. Their spending power is reduced (bad for the economy) and the future of their children is curtailed (bad for the nation's future too).