Times Reporter: Modern Layoffs Worse Than Great Depression

     A New York Times reporter who called recent corporate layoffs worse than the Great Depression was the papers choice to write about the positive job growth in the economy.

     Reporter Louis Uchitelle authored somewhat critical view of the latest unemployment report by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That report showed a 211,000-job gain in March 2006 and a low jobless rate of 4.7 percent. By comparison, nearly one in four Americans was without work in the early 1930s.

     Despite low unemployment and 31 straight months of job gains, economics writer and author Louis Uchitelle calls for federal laws to restrict corporate layoffs, a policy even a liberal Berkeley economist questions.

     Uchitelle, did start off his April 8 article noting that the jobs gain suggested that the economy has picked up speed and is likely to keep growing. He soon hit the brakes, skidding his article into a pessimistic look at the strength of the economic recovery.

     Then Uchitelle cited liberal economist Jared Bernstein of the labor-oriented Economic Policy Institute complaining that the expectations for economic growth have been pretty diminished from previous economic recoveries.

     Its little wonder that Uchitelle, the author of The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences, has a fascination with reporting a dark side of the strong American economy. An excerpt of his book available at the liberal Web site alternet.org shows the Times reporter argued that modern unemployment is worse than the economic collapse of the 1930s.

     Layoffs, wrote Uchitelle, chip away at human capital by eating at self-esteem on a mass scale, he said. The Great Depression was less damaging, Uchitelle continued. Sure, says the author, Millions of people lost their jobs then, compared to thousands now part of individual layoffs. Though current low unemployment enables those workers to find gainful employment elsewhere, things were better during the worst economic cataclysm in American history because the majority blamed flaws in the market system, not in themselves.

     Uchitelle lamented that the collective response, which helped to produce the New Deal, is missing today.

     According to Random House, whose Knopf Publishing Group printed his book, Uchitelle passionately argues that government must step in with policies that encourage companies to restrict layoffs and must generate jobs to supplement the present shortfall.

But even a sympathetic reviewer like liberal Berkeley economist contributor Brad DeLong find Uchitelles neo-New Deal solutions troubling.

I see no examples anywhere in the world of economies that have taken steps in the direction he desires without severe side-effects, wrote DeLong in an April 2 book review in the Times, noting that high overall unemployment, extra-high long-term unemployment and extra-extra-high youth unemployment appear to be the consequences of laws in Europe which make firing workers difficult.

Companies that know they cannot lay off groups of workers if demand goes sour are very likely to be companies that hesitate to hire workers when demand is strong, DeLong cautioned.

TimesWatch.org, a division of the Media Research Center, has similarly documented Uchitelles history of negatively slanted business reporting for the Times.