Mr. President, I rise today to address the devastating
jobs crisis hitting my home state of Oregon.
Last Monday we got new job numbers and on the surface it
was good news. The rate of unemployment
dropped from 12.2% to 11.5%. Of course,
we would all expect that this is because there were more jobs. Well, as it turns out, that is not the case. Oregon lost 10,300 jobs in September. The unemployment rate dropped simply because
in the face of so much unemployment, many Oregonians are giving up in their
search for a job. A year ago 121,000
Oregonians were unemployed. This
September, 211,000 Oregonians were out of work.
Jobs are hard to
find in my home state right now. The
reasons for this are many. We’re an
export state that has seen our trading partners hit hard with their own
economic problems. Countries like South
Korea, whose G.D.P. year over year dropped up to 20%. Mexican penalty tariffs have hit Oregon’s
agricultural sector, our fruit and our Christmas trees particularly hard. And one of our main industries, the timber
industry which produces dimensional lumber for the construction all across this
great United States, has been wiped out by the collapse of construction in
housing sectors of our economy.
Allow me to zero in on the county where I was born, Douglas
County. In September, Douglas County had
a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 16.1%. One out of every six adults was out of a
job. Now, Douglas County is a big timber
county and there’s just no market for dimensional lumber right now.
The recovery package has helped some by creating
jobs, preventing wildfires in choked and overgrown second-growth forests, but
that’s not enough. We need the housing
market to turn around and we need to diversify Douglas County’s economic base
by investing in clean energy technology that will turn biomass from the forests
into renewable fuels.
We’re hard at work on both fronts attempting to stabilize
housing and crafting new clean energy legislation. But in the meantime, workers in Douglas County
are hurting. There are not enough jobs. It is a crisis for the Douglas County
families. And in a crisis, we help our neighbors. And one of the best ways we can help our
neighbors and friends in Douglas County and other counties throughout Oregon,
other counties throughout the United States of America, is to pass an extension
of unemployment benefits.
Let me be clear. Oregonians
want jobs. That’s our first and best
answer. If there are jobs out there,
citizens will line up to get them. But
when there are no jobs, we need to help. And the extension of unemployment benefits is
such help. It would extend benefits for
14 weeks for all states and 20 weeks for high unemployment states like the State
It is paid for through extending a fee employers are
already paying. So it puts no additional
pressure on business, but provides a critical safety net to our out-of-work
Before I close, I want to add one point. This bill will help these families and workers
get by, but it will also help our economy as a whole by putting money into the
hands of those who need it most. Unemployment
benefits rapidly turn into bags of groceries, new and second-hand school
clothes and needed home repairs. All of
that has a big impact on small businesses in Douglas County, in small towns
like Roseburg, the Sutherland and Myrtle Creek. And that’s why economists say that extending
unemployment insurance is about the best job creating step the federal
government could take.
Now, I understand that some of my colleagues on the other
side of the aisle are objecting to consideration of a bill. They don’t want that bill to come to this
floor. I think we need to look more
closely at this issue. A bill like extending
unemployment benefits to assist in shoring up the financial foundations of our working
families while they are still searching for those jobs — that is
essential. And we need to have, not
partisan pot shots, but real help for working families.
Mr. President, I appreciate that some members of this
chamber may come from states that are doing quite well right now. There may be some states in America that aren’t
in the middle of a job crisis. But far
too many of our states are like Oregon where families need assistance. And the delay of providing an extension of
unemployment benefits will cause real pain to families in those states and slow
down the effort for our economy as a whole to recover. I urge my colleagues to join in supporting the
working families of Douglas County, the working families of Oregon, the working
families of the United States of America and support job creation by supporting
this extension of unemployment benefits.