This week on Off the Charts, we focused on the economy, health care, food assistance, education, and poverty and the safety net.
- On the economy, Chad Stone examined the August jobs report, explaining that despite 30 straight months of private-sector job creation — including 103,000 new private-sector jobs in August — the unemployment rate is likely to remain high for the foreseeable future. Michael Leachman noted that state and local governments cut 10,000 jobs in August and have cut workers in 20 of the last 24 months. Kathy Ruffing explained why labor force participation has fallen over the past few years.
- On health care, Paul Van de Water highlighted a column by former White House budget director Peter Orszag on the benefits of the new Independent Payment Advisory Board, a presidentially appointed commission that health reform created to help slow the growth of Medicare costs. Michael Leachman explained that the House-passed budget would cost states far more than expanding Medicaid under health reform.
- On food assistance, Zoë Neuberger discussed the importance of free or reduced-price school means for low-income children, describing several steps that schools can take to make enrollment in the programs as smooth as possible.
- On education, Phil Oliff noted that after adjusting for inflation, per-student school funding in 35 states stands below 2008 levels, and he explained that 15 states have cut more than $500 per student since the recession began.
- On poverty and the safety net, Chad Stone warned against allowing Emergency Unemployment Compensation to expire abruptly at the end of the year, when unemployment likely will still be very high. Arloc Sherman summarized Census data that show that a decline in unemployment insurance payments and large public-sector layoffs drove poverty higher in 2011.
In other news, we issued Chad Stone’s statement on the August employment report. We released papers on the effect of declines in unemployment insurance benefits and public-sector jobs on poverty in 2011, key steps to improve access to free and reduced-price school meals, how to improve school meals applications, and steep cuts to education funding. We also updated our chart book on the legacy of the Great Recession. Finally, we updated our paper on how the House farm bill would make drastic cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program), and our Policy Basics paper on the number of weeks of unemployment insurance benefits currently available in each state.