Monday, July 25, 2011

Haley's "less talk, more jobs" platform abandoned

A year ago, we all saw the signs. "Less talk, more jobs," read then-Rep. Nikki Haley's campaign signs.

Last week, our unemployment rate bounced back up to 10.5 percent. The Spartanburg Herald-Journal's headline called it the "highest increase in the nation."

So, at what point do we get to officially declare the Haley jobs agenda a bust?

For public employees, anyway, that moment is upon us.

Public employees have taken the biggest hit in job losses over the past year, as the number of government workers plunged by more than 16,500 jobs since June 2010 and fell by 4,500 positions since May.

Public employees: That's teachers and other school district personnel, policemen and other law enforcement personnel, firefighters and other public safety personnel, social workers and other public services personnel.

If memory serves, the Associated Press reported in the middle of June -- when the Haley-era unemployment rate achieved double-digit status at 10 percent -- that "[G]overnment jobs posted a loss of 1,900 jobs over the last month, with that sector losing 24,000 jobs in the past year. Education jobs, up 3,100 since May 2010, showed losses of 2,400 from April to May, as schools began letting out for the summer months."

That's a spectacular dive.

A month ago, South Carolina was in seventh place nationally in unemployment. Clearly, Haley's administration believes that seventh place is unacceptable and has initiated a campaign to be first in the nation; in a month, South Carolina has jumped two places to tie for fifth with Michigan.

South Carolina's jobless numbers have consistently outpaced the national rate, which was 9.2 percent in June. The state's unemployment was tied with Michigan for the country's fifth-highest rate in June, ranking behind Nevada (12.4), California (11.8), Rhode Island (10.8) and Florida (10.6).

Watch out, Nevada: Luck is a lady, and your governor is not.

“There's really very little positive spin you can put on this,” said Frank Hefner, an economist at the College of Charleston. “Just because there are a lot of other people having a more difficult time doesn't really make our situation any better.”

With sustained high unemployment, Hefner said the nation's economic picture is becoming more grim than after previous recessions. In 1992, after a recession two years earlier, the nation's unemployment had rebounded from 8 percent to 5.5. More than two years after the end of the recession that began in December 2007, Hefner said he's concerned that double-digit employment could mean the country is now in for a much longer recovery than in times past.

“Is a 10 percent unemployment rate going to be considered normal? It should not be considered normal, but say we go into a third year of lackluster job growth,” Hefner said. “We've had jobless recoveries, but this is worse than a jobless recovery.”

State government leaders have been bracing for the impact of a threatened Aug. 2 federal government default unless President Barack Obama and congressional leaders reach a deal on the debt limit.

This week, Moody's Investors Services also warned that it would likely lower the credit rating for South Carolina and four other states if it downgrades the U.S. government's credit rating.

A spokesman for Gov. Nikki Haley, who on Thursday said a door-making company was investing $14 million to create 150 new jobs in Bamberg County, where unemployment is 16 percent, said the Republican is determined to bring new jobs to the state.

“The Haley administration is working daily on the business climate — recruitment of new companies and to support expansions of existing businesses,” spokesman Rob Godfrey said. “During this tough time in our country and with these unemployment numbers, it only strengthens our commitment to bring more jobs to South Carolina.”

This is precisely what worries me. Haley's man Godfrey says she's been "working daily on the business climate." And the result of her "working daily" is that we're rapidly putting people out of work. Perhaps, in order to reverse the damage, Haley should stop -- halt -- bring an end to -- whatever it is that she's doing, and go back to the drawing board.

It's noticeable that Godfrey said Haley's "working daily on the business climate — recruitment of new companies and to support expansions of existing businesses." But if South Carolina is losing jobs by the thousands in the public sector, then maybe the highest-ranking public official in the state ought to focus a little bit of attention, maybe a few hours a week, on addressing the problem of all those unemployed public sector workers. Clearly, "recruitment of new companies" and "expansions of existing businesses" ain't getting the job done.

Here's a thought: Haley might help herself substantially by urging her lackluster education superintendent to apply for the federal waiver and automatically collect $144 million in federal dollars to preserve and restore jobs in public schools.

That is, unless she's dead-set on having the highest unemployment rate in the nation.

P.S. What message does it send that the governor only addresses the news of rising unemployment through "an email statement attributed to her press secretary"? What, does Her Excellency not want to address bad news herself, in front of cameras?

Gov. Nikki Haley, who has made job creation a priority but has been accused of inflating jobs numbers, responded to the bad news with an email statement attributed to her press secretary.

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