According to the Labor Department, 52,000 temporary workers were added to the workforce in November, which the New York Times hailed as a surge in temp hiring. The unemployment rate that month was 10 percent, with nearly 18 million workers without jobs.
In some cases companies bring back laid-off full-time workers as temporary employees, noted Joanie Ruge, senior vice president of the temp agency Adecco.
While some callbacks have occurred, the level of production is still far below what it had been. Signs of Revival in Heartland, headlined a December 23 Wall Street Journal article, citing the callback of 250 workers by a recreational vehicle company in Elkhart County, Indiana. The company had laid off 900 workers.
For those employed, the bosses have succeeded in boosting speedup, producing more goods with fewer workers. This productivity output rose 8.1 percent in the third quarter of 2009, the largest gain in six years.
Pushed to work harder and faster, many workers face worsening safety conditions, longer workdays, and more mental and physical fatigue.
Unemployment funds going broke
Those receiving unemployment benefits may soon see these payments reduced. Twenty-five states have run out of unemployment money and have borrowed $24 billion from the federal government to cover the gaps, reported the Washington Post. By 2011, 40 states will be out of these funds and will need $90 billion in loans to keep issuing benefit checks, according to the Department of Labor.
In Kentucky, state authorities are recommending a 9 percent benefits cut. Other states are considering similar reductions. The average weekly unemployment check in Kentucky is about $300, reported the Post.
Meanwhile, city and state governments are cutting funds for public transit, reducing train and bus service and raising fares. The cost of riding public transit rose by an annual rate of nearly 18 percent in the six-month period ending in November, reported the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In San Francisco fares for a monthly pass for Bay Area Rapid Transit rose 27 percent to $70, and more than 100 workers are being laid off. Chicago Transit is furloughing nonunion employees, laying off about 1,000 union workers in February, and eliminating nine express bus routes. In New York public transit cuts being planned include eliminating discounted or free MetroCards to more than half a million students.
In another development, Ford Motor Co. has again offered buyouts to all of the 41,000 United Auto Workers union members it employs. Those younger than 55 with at least one year of employment can get $50,000 and the choice of a $25,000 vehicle voucher or $20,000 more in cash.
The proposed buyouts come after workers in November voted down company-demanded concessions that included a six-year ban on some strikes and a wage freeze for new hires until 2015. According to the current union contract, Ford can pay new workers $14 an hour, way below the average union wage. Workers with high seniority make about $28 per hour.
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