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John Morgan joins the Democratic Talk Radio line-up as a co-host

04.19.09

John Morgan joins the Democratic Talk Radio line-up as a co-host

John is best known as the genius behind the Pennsylvania Progressive website http://thepennsylvaniaprogressive.com/.
John is very dedicated to healthcare reform. He will add a great depth of knowledge on this subject to our program.

In addition, he is a political consultant with a very deep knowledge of Pennsylvania politics.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA unemployment rate the highest in state at 8.6 percent

04.19.09

April 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

MSA unemployment rate the highest in state at 8.6 percent

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 1st- According to labor data provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 8.6 percent, increasing by seven-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) includes Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming Counties. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 5.4 percent. The last time the region had a unemployment rate this high was April 1994.

The MSA’s unemployment rate continues to remain higher than Pennsylvania and the nation. The unemployment rate in the state is 7.5 percent, increasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,455,000 with 483,000 not working and 6,455,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 8.1 percent, increasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month. There are 12,467,000 civilians in the nation without employment.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA civilian labor force, workers between eighteen and sixty-five years old, increased by 200 from the previous month to 285,300 and increased by 4,600 during the previous twelve months. There are 24,500 civilians not working within the MSA, increasing by 2,000 from the previous month, and increasing by 9,200 from twelve months before.

The MSA has the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 3,003,200 with 231,800 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA is second at 1,226,000 with 84,800 without jobs; the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 424,700 with 34,400 not working; and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 288,700 with 19,700 residents without employment.

Of the 14 MSA’s within Pennsylvania, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA is tied with the much smaller Williamsport MSA for the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania. The Johnstown MSA only has a civilian labor force of 69,100, with only the Altoona MSA at 65,000 and the Williamsport MSA at 60,100 with a smaller civilian labor force in Pennsylvania.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.5 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 6.7 percent with the Lancaster MSA third at 6.8 percent.

Within the MSA, Lackawanna County has the lowest unemployment rate at 8.0 percent, increasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month and two and eight-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before. Lackawanna County has a labor force of 108,300, decreasing by 100 from the month before and 1,400 during the past twelve months. There are 8,700 Lackawanna County residents without jobs, increasing by 700 from the previous month and increasing by 3,100 from twelve months ago.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.9 percent, increasing by seven-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month and increasing by 3 and three-tenths of a percentage points from one year ago. Luzerne County has a labor force of 162,500, increasing by 400 from the month before and increasing by 3,100 during the previous twelve months. There are 14,500, increasing by 1,200 from the previous month and increasing by 5,600 from one year ago, residents in Luzerne County not working.

Wyoming County has a unemployment rate of 8.5 percent, increasing by eight-tenths of a percentage point from the month before and increasing by 3 percentage points from one year ago. Wyoming County has a labor force of 14,600, unchanged from the month before and increasing by 200 during the past year. There are 1,200 Wyoming County residents not working, increasing by 100 from the previous month and increasing by 400 from twelve months ago.

There are 252,100 total nonfarm jobs in the MSA, decreasing by 1,600 from the previous month and decreasing by 6,800 from twelve months before. The total nonfarm jobs count for the MSA is the lowest for the area since reporting 255,200 jobs in May 2004.

Teamsters Union members at Pepsi ratify new contract

04.19.09

April 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Teamsters Union members at Pepsi ratify new contract

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

SCRANTON, March 25th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 229, North Main Avenue in Scranton, members employed at Pepsi Bottling Group Inc., 3015 North Main Avenue in Scranton, ratified a new four year contract agreement with the company. The membership voted 38 for the agreement to 7 against.

According to Robert Weber, Secretary/Treasurer and Principal Officer of the 229, the new pact was reached after 11 months of tough negotiations.

The union represents 51 workers including all truck drivers and warehouse personnel at the facility which is a warehouse and distribution center for Pepsi products.

The pact includes a wage increase of $1.70 over the life of the contract, with the first year wage increase being paid retroactive. The previous contract expired on March 31st, 2008.

The membership will also receive increases in pension contributions, sick and accident pay as well as increased entitlements to their personal holidays and sick time.

“Throughout the negotiations the Company continued to remind us of the current poor economic conditions and was determined to negotiate a final contract with numerous concessions. The Committee did not give in. They stuck to the important issues and the final result was one that they can be very proud of. It is a contract without any concessions and one that benefits all of the members,” stated Mr. Weber.

Statistics show unemployment rising in all 50 states

04.19.09

April 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Statistics show unemployment rising in all 50 states

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, March 18th- Data released by the United States Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics confirm that the recession has led to higher unemployment in every state across the nation. Since the recession began, employers have laid-off 4.4 million workers and a record 12.5 million workers are now unemployed. Every state and the District of Columbia have unemployment rates that are higher than a year ago.

Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 11.6 percent, followed by South Carolina at 10.4 percent, Rhode Island is third at 10.3 percent, and California is fourth at 10.1 percent.

Twenty-nine states have lost at least 2 percent of their total jobs since their employment level peaked in 2007 or 2008, during the height of the economic recovery of the 2000s. Nonfarm payroll employment decreased in fourty-two states, increased in seven states as well as the District of Columbia, and was unchanged in one state, Vermont.

High unemployment has led to substained high numbers of applicants for unemployment benefits nationwide. The four-week moving average, the weekly average number of new applicants for unemployment benefits over the previous four weeks, continues to be at highs not seen since the recession in the early 1980s.

Many unemployed workers are finding that getting a new job is increasingly difficult. Nearly one in four unemployed workers, 23.1 percent, have been out of work and searching for a job for at least six months, up from less than one in five, 17.3 percent, a year ago. And 3.4 million workers over the past year ran out of unemployment benefits before they found a new job.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed by Congress and signed by President Obama included more than 7 billion in incentive funding for states to modernize their unemployment insurance systems. Nearly every state is now debating how to change their systems to cover more unemployed workers.

Researchers estimate that these reforms will increase the number of workers, especially low-wage workers, eligible for benefits by at least 500,000. Fifty-five percent of workers unemployed over the past twelve months have not received any unemployment benefits

COBRA expanded to help job losers with health benefits

04.19.09

April 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

COBRA expanded to help job losers with health benefits

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 22nd- The United States Department of Labor (DOL) announced changes to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

Under the COBRA legislation, most group health plans must give employees and their families the opportunity to temporarily continue their health group health coverage when coverage would otherwise be lost for reasons such as termination of employment, being laid-off, divorce or death.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) signed into law by President Obama on February 17th, 2009, made available a premium reduction and the additional election period as part of the administration’s stimulus package.

“Our action today gives workers and their families useful information on their rights to receive the COBRA subsidy and makes it easier for employers and plans to meet their notice obligations. Given the current economic situation facing dislocated workers and their families, it is very important that individuals do not lose their group health coverage,” said Alan D. Lebowitz, deputy assistant secretary of labor for the DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).

The DOL has developed four model notice packages that will enable group health plans and employers to provide notice on the availability of premium reductions and additional election opportunities under COBRA.

• A general notice to be given to qualified beneficiaries covered by plans subject to the federal COBRA at the initial COBRA election opportunity.

• An abbreviated general notice, which may be furnished to individuals who elected and are still covered by COBRA.
• An alternative notice to be sent by issuers of group health insurance coverage subject to state continuation coverage laws.
• A notice of extended election periods for eligible individuals who declined or discontinued COBRA coverage.

Each package contains a summary of the premium reduction provisions, questions and answers, and forms to use in requesting the premium reduction (and Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act coverage, if not already enrolled).

The four model notice packages are available for download from EBSA’s dedicated Web page at http://www.dol.gov/cobra. The web page contains additional frequently asked questions to help dislocated workers, their families and their employers understand the requirements.

DOL’s secretary Hilda L. Solis stated under ARRA, these programs are vitally important to the economic well-being of people who lost their jobs. “American workers and employers are the most productive in the world. With the labor and capital markets under financial stress, the Obama Administration is working to provide relief to American families. In February, the President signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to create jobs, provide training opportunities for new jobs, extend unemployment benefits and help relieve the burden of health benefits,” stated Ms. Solis.

The ARRA provides a 65 percent tax subsidy for the cost of health benefits, making them more affordable for the unemployed and their families. Under the program millions of individuals, including those who previously declined, will be eligible to receive a subsidy on their premiums for up to nine months.

CEPR study shows unemployment rate worse than reported by media

04.19.09

April 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

CEPR study shows unemployment rate worse than reported by media

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 1st- A new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows the current unemployment rate is higher than conventionally measured and is already at roughly the same level as the high reached in 1982, the year with the highest unemployment rate since World War 2.

The CEPR of Washington, DC, is an independent, nonpartisan think tank that reports and studies most important economic and social issues.

The report, adjusts the current unemployment rate to account for demographic and statistical differences that lower the unemployment rate today by 1.4 percentage points, relative to the official unemployment rate in 1982. After the adjustments, the current unemployment level rises to over 9.5 percent, a level that is close to the 1982 average of 9.7 percent.

The report notes that the population today is substantially older than it was in the early 1980s, which has the effect of lowering the unemployment rate than older workers because the young change jobs more frequently and are more likely to move in and out of the labor force. In 1982, about 22 percent of the labor force was between the age of 16 and 24; in 2008, 16 to 24 year olds were only 14 percent of the labor force. As a result, the age of the typical U.S. worker has risen from 35 in 1982 to about 42 today. Adjusting for this aging of the population raises the unemployment rate in 2009 by 1.2 percentage points.

“After accounting for these demographic and statistical difference, today’s unemployment rate rises to 9.5 percent, already on a par with the worst recession since the Great Depression,” said John Schmitt, CEPR Senior Economist. “The unemployment rate is bad news, but the unemployment picture is even worse than it looks.”