Senate passes jobs bill, but more help needed fast

Senate jobs billThe Senate went to work today, voting 70-28 to send a jobs bill to the House that would give businesses tax breaks for hiring the unemployed, and puts $20 billion into highway projects.

With nearly one out of 10 Americans in the labor force out of work, that's good news, although long-term unemployment is becoming a way of life for too many people, and it could be years before hiring levels are back to what they were before the recession.

As WalletPop reported two weeks ago, the incentive in the Senate jobs bill for employers to hire the unemployed isn't enough to encourage businesses to hire.

The bill exempts businesses that hire the unemployed from the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax through December and gives them an additional $1,000 credit if new workers stay on the job a full year. Tax breaks aren't enough, employers told WalletPop, and said that loans for small businesses are more needed to get them hiring again.

Mark Zandi, an economist at Moody's, apparently disagrees. Zandi told the Huffington Post that the tax credit could spur about 250,000 new jobs. The economy has shed 8.4 million jobs since December 2007 when the recession began.

That's still not enough jobs, The Atlantic Monthly reports. The country would need 200,000 new jobs created each month for the next seven years to hit 5% unemployment by 2017, according to story.

Pumping $20 billion into highway and mass transit programs by the end of the year, as the Senate bills calls for, should help create some jobs as the spring construction season begins.

But there are a lot of unemployed who don't work in the transportation or construction sectors. What these workers need -- right now -- is for the Senate to approve an extension to unemployment benefits that are set to expire. An estimated 2.7 million jobless people will lose their unemployment checks before the end of April unless Congress and the president extend the payments, according to the Labor Department.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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