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Angle vs. Reid -- and Nevada -- on unemployment benefits

Whatever else Nevadans can say about their Senate race this year, they can't say they've been denied a clear choice. In the blue corner is Harry Reid, who took to the Senate floor last night to introduce yet another bill to extend unemployment benefits. One important thing to note: The measure varies unemployment insurance by state. The states with the highest levels of unemployment get up to 99 weeks of help. States with more modest unemployment levels get much less than that.

In the red corner, wearing the Ayn Rand trunks, is Reid's opponent, Sharron Angle. While Reid was introducing his bill last night, Angle was sitting for an interview in which she explained that that "what we need to do is make that unemployment benefit go down," as right now, "we're making [people] make a choice between unemployment benefits and going back to work and working up through the ranks of that job and actually building up a good wage again."

"There are jobs that do exist," concluded Angle. "That's what we're saying, is that there are jobs."

But there really aren't. At least not in her state. And that's the problem with Angle's statement: It's not that it's ideologically extreme. Excessively high unemployment benefits can stop people from going back to work. It's that her statement seems curiously distant from the labor market in Nevada.

Right now, Nevada leads the nation in unemployment. The basic unemployment rate is 14 percent. The broader underemployment rate is about 20 percent.

In contrast, North Dakota's unemployment rate is 3.8 percent. If unemployment were being driven by personal initiative, as Angle implies, that would suggest that Nevadans were, well, quite a bit lazier than North Dakotans. But I don't think Angle believes that, and neither do I. Instead, unemployment is structurally related to factors specific to the economy. Nevada had a lot of workers tied up in construction, so it got hit really hard. North Dakota relies heavily on natural resources, and so it didn't.

The problem for Nevadans is not that they don't want jobs, but that they can't get them. And if Nevadans are suddenly cut off from unemployment checks and have to stop spending what little money they were getting, the businesses and landlords that were relying on money from those checks will find themselves in worse shape, and the state's economy will tumble further, and there will be even fewer jobs for Nevadans to get.

Moreover, Angle's specific point isn't true to the nature of the bill: Quite smartly, the legislation lets workers who get part-time, low-wage work continue getting benefits, so that joining the workforce in a marginal capacity won't end someone's unemployment benefits. The hope is that those part-time jobs eventually become full-time jobs. But without unemployment benefits, many of those jobs won't exist, and the ones that do will not pay employees enough to live on.

(On a slightly separate note, how come Sharron Angle doesn't have a full Web site up yet?)

By Ezra Klein  |  June 30, 2010; 12:37 PM ET
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Sharron Angle doesn't have a website up because she took it down after the primary, presumably on the grounds that it was filled with her somewhat nutty policy positions:

Posted by: dbfclark | June 30, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

"There are jobs that do exist," concluded Angle. "That's what we're saying, is that there are jobs."

Ezra says: "But there really aren't."

And then idiotically goes on to quote unemployment numbers- why not look at job openings? 27,000+

Posted by: staticvars | June 30, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Unemployment insurance probably shouldn't run for 2+ years. At some point well short of that it should kick over to welfare.

What we need is a reduction in the minimum wage - even a temporary one. Too many of the unemployed have been priced out of the labor market.

Posted by: tbass1 | June 30, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Ezra says: "On a slightly separate note, how come Sharron Angle doesn't have a full Web site up yet?"

It's funny that it took me, by myself using only Wordpress, part of a weekend to put up a personal site that has loads of more information than her's. (

She and her communications staff clearly don't put much stock in the value of the "interwebs", even for her nuttier Tea Party supporters.

Posted by: kendg8r | June 30, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone think Sharron has a plan for the unemployed in Nevada? Anybody who wants to dismantle the EPA clearly doesn't care about people.
btw, if you're looking for work (and who isn't) I've been hearing great job search advice on an internet radio show

Posted by: kcsam215 | June 30, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Angle is arguably the weaker candidate for the general election, yet she won the primary. So, the Nevada Republicans will get what they voted for.

It will be interesting to see if both the lagging popularity of Harry Reid, and Obama's repeated use of Las Vegas as a punching bag in what seemed like an almost intentional attempt to torpedo Nevada tourism (apparently Harry Reid ticked Obama off at the time) is enough to propel Angle into Harry Reid's position. Experience and political savvy rarely impress me as great recommendations for political leaders, but I'm not sure Angle will be a great standard bearer for conservatives, or be a particularly exemplary senator, if elected.

Although I'd find it a delicious irony if the web-siteless, non-savvy Angle somehow managed to defeat the powerful and long-established Reid. But, I'm certainly not going to count on it.

BTW, "You know how the government is giving you money? Elect me, and I'll stop that," may be good economics, but usually isn't good politics.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 30, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

@staticvars : get serious.

there are 27,000+ jobs and 392,000 unemployed people (2.8 million * 14% unemployment). So there are about 10 unemployed people for every job. And how many of those 27000 jobs pay a living wage and how many of the unemployed are qualified for the jobs that do pay a living wage? Construction workers can't work as IT specialists without a lot of training.

Even if every job posted was filled there would still be 360,000 unemployed people in Nevada. What about them?

Pretty weak tea....

Posted by: srw3 | June 30, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

@ Staticvars - Maybe you've heard of this thing called population growth? So even if 27,000 jobs are available this month in Nevada... how many people are being added to the working population in Nevada this month? If that number exceeds 27,000... then some people aren't going to find a job. It's simple math.

I love it when people assume that the number of jobs available is more than the number of people looking for jobs... over time, these numbers may be in equilibrium... but on any given day, they are likely to be mismatched... and the unemployed still have to live until that day when the number of jobs exceeds the number of workers... which is supposedly the purpose of having unemployment insurance.

Or should the unemployed simply stop existing until the jobs-workers equilibrium is reached?

Posted by: djs04f | June 30, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Sharron Angle: The unemployed are spoiled.


Posted by: landrycarl8 | June 30, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

To staticvars: A simple count of jobs opening on some sites does not really tell the job situation. For example: a) employers these days have very very specific and high requirements that make it tough to get even look at. Or they may have just label you with "overqualified" for possible many kind of possible reasons not necessary because you are "overqualified". b) some companies post fake jobs. They can be jobs that don't exist or mean for the US. They are there to "show" that the employer tried to hire but cannot and therefore need more H1Bs to fill the "shortage" of labors. There are so many tricks out there. Job market is better then a year ago in the sense that "some" more jobs are open, but still VERY bad. Of the jobs that are available, very very high demand in qualifications. There are even reports of employers not willing to look at a job seekers if he/she is currently unemployed. This stand by the employer is silly and show short sightedness. Anyway, the employer call the shot.

Posted by: joejoe272 | June 30, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

As we may all know the job market is bad out there, what that means is employer can take advantage and have been taking advantage of the situation. For example, paying very little for top talents. But if you are desperate, what can you do. Here is one of the things that is interesting. With top talents coming in at much cheaper pay then existing employees (those that is currently employed), will those employee get let go, shuffle, or be on top of the list in the "next round of layoff"? Even if the currently employeed wish to move to another company for advancement or whatever...much lesser pay then would have been.

Posted by: joejoe272 | June 30, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

You can still access the issues and bio sections if you scroll down and look under the "refresh totals" button. There you will find well hidden gems such as: "Like a soldier going to war, Sharron Angle has the training and is battle tested" and "[Angle] operated the Tonopah Life Center (family-oriented fitness gym.)"

Posted by: siannaz | June 30, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse


Unemployment is at 190,000, not 390,000. 11 year olds, 73 year olds and housewives/husbands aren't counted as unemployed. Still high though.

In 2005, unemployment was ~55,000 and that's a pretty normal year. So we have something like 150,000 excess unemployment assuming some population growth.

The good thing is the economy is very dynamic. When you see reports saying the economy created 200,000 jobs, the economy actually created something like 4,000,000 jobs, but then also lost 3,800,000. The 200,000 is the net change.

I don't know numbers for Nevada, but nationally 4.3 million new hires were brought on in April. If you assume Nevada can get about 1% of that, having a labor force about 1% of the total, that's 43,000 new hires. If the separations rate could be held at 35,000, you'd be back to 2005 unemployment in late 2011. Lower labor costs could potentially help here (on both ends).

Posted by: justin84 | June 30, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

"In the red corner, wearing the Ayn Rand trunks, is Reid's opponent, Sharron Angle."

So is Angle a militant atheist? I expect some people probably need a reminder that Ayn Rand had about as much contempt for Christianity as she had for socialism.

For an interesting perspective, see

Posted by: HalMorris | June 30, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

"cut unemployment benefits to get the jobless back to work". Let's examine the logic of Angle's statement: If the official statistics indicate that there is one job for every 5 unemployed Americans, then cutting off people's unemployment benefits "to get them back to work", will not work. It will lead to 1 person out of 5 getting a job, with 4 people having no income. Here is a story saying there is 1 job for every 5 people searching:

Posted by: moetychandon | July 1, 2010 2:34 AM | Report abuse

srw3 said: "there are 27,000+ jobs and 392,000 unemployed people (2.8 million * 14% unemployment). "

Your math is as atrocious as your economics. First of all, Klein said there weren't jobs. Maybe that's hyperbole, but it sounded idiotic to me.

Second, the unemployment % isn't based off of total population.

Third, is just one website. There are likely other jobs out there.

Fourth, you aren't looking for 100% employment are you? I am just saying that there might be enough jobs out there for NV to get on the national trend.

What's really happened is that they are loaded up on unskilled service workers, the minimum wage increase makes it hard to hire as many of those, and the drop in tourism to LV hurts. Job migration has also been severely damaged due to all of the housing gamblers that overran the real estate market. (It is an insult to all mortgage payers to call these people homeowners.)

The population growth in Nevada is trending towards negative as people are leaving, but even in 2009, total growth was less than 30k. With 9% of residents illegal, there is room for some emigration.

Posted by: staticvars | July 2, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I just called both of Angel's campaign offices and read them selected quotes and asked what amount of money Angel thought unemployment paid. They didn't seem to clear about why anyone would ask such a question and kept trying to tell me what she "really meant."

After some badgering, the person in the Las Vegas office complained "there are no jobs here." I told her she was contradicting what she just said and that the reason the unemployment was so high is that everyone was spoiled by the high amounts of $$$ they were hauling in.

They hung up on me. Both offices.

Posted by: Keramos | July 5, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

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