(The Return of) Ignatz, by Sam Heldman

Friday, January 03, 2003

This darn blogging thing has gotten so out of hand, that I can't even be the first one to post in outrage about the Department of Labor's decision to stop publicly disclosing information about mass layoffs. Jeanne D'Arc and Nathan Newman have already discussed it well.

For years, the DOL has been posting such information, and it has (as reflected in the news article linked above) been very useful to state and local governments as well as to labor. Just to give you a sense of what we're talking about, it was 240,000 lost jobs during November alone, at more than 2000 employers -- and that's just mass layoffs, those that affected more than 50 people for a sustained period. But to the Administration, it's not worth keeping track of the numbers or making them publicly available -- even when our beloved States say that they find the information very useful in their task of helping dislocated workers.

There would, by the way, be an easy way that the DOL could continue to provide information that was not as good but still worth something, and to do so very cheaply. Employers who have mass layoffs or plant closings are required by federal statute to give notice to their State governments; and the feds could very inexpensively collect and publish the aggregate data from the notices given to the States by law-abiding employers. Again, this would not be perfect, but it would help. How far from perfect would this cheap alternative be? Hey, that's an interesting question in itself -- if we compared the DOL's independently-obtained data against the list of those employers who gave the statutorily-required notice, what would we find to be the rate of law-abidingness among employers who had the statutory duty to provide this notice? Fascinating question to which I have absolutely no answer, and don't expect to get one from the Administration. They just don't want to get into such things. The economy is fine -- now move along.

posted by sam 7:14 AM 0 comments


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