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During the recession of the 1990s, I remember hearing then Governor Jim Florio proclaim that the best social program is a good job, a statement that has since been made by other leaders. Back then, the real estate industry was in a downward spiral, leaving a much-diminished tax base and many New Jerseyans unemployed. While it was not a particularly fun time wondering if you and your spouse might still have a job at the end of each week, it pales in comparison to what we are now experiencing long after the Great Recession ended. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, some 13.1 million individuals were unemployed in December 2011, long after the trough in business activity was reached in June 2009. The Philadelphia Fed’s Fourth Quarter 2011 Survey of Professional Forecasters indicates that the unemployment rate is not expected to drop below 8 percent until 2014.*
With the employment picture still looking bleak, in this issue of Cascade we continue to highlight efforts to change the earning capacity of people with minimal education or work experience. Our lead story is about the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, a philanthropic effort launched in late 2007 to create partnerships between employers and trainers and educators so that low-wage workers can learn skills that benefit not only employers but also themselves and their families. The fund served 18,109 individuals as of the end of 2010. Thirty-two percent were incumbent workers, 36 percent were African American, and almost half had a high school diploma or less.
Two other stories describe Philadelphia’s and Los Angeles’s efforts to increase the job skills of adults and teenagers. In Philadelphia, the Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia, Inc. is training adults and teenagers for “green” jobs. In Los Angeles, the priority is to get young people who are 16 to 24 years of age to return to high school or enter community college or credentialed training programs. The programs are important for both the community and the individual and his or her family.
It seems only fitting that my final column is in a Cascade issue focused on work prospects. While others are embarking on new positions, I am leaving a great one. As I have contemplated my retirement, I am struck by how quickly the years have passed. I had intended to stay just five years but recently passed my 13th anniversary with the Bank. There was always some interesting project to captivate or interest me.
There are important projects currently underway. Look for the first report on the longitudinal study of the effectiveness of homeownership counseling in 2012. The Bank will host its next Reinventing Older Communities conference on May 9–11, 2012. I’ll see you at the reception.
Also, look for the Fed’s release of a new HD video on the purposes and functions of the Fed. Although the film is designed for students, the general public will find it valuable in understanding why the Fed is important. When I first joined the Fed, I didn’t understand what it was. Fred Manning, my predecessor, was my only point of reference. It didn’t take long for me to realize how significant the Fed is to all of us.