Lisa Katz| Crain’s Detroit Blog
The federal government shutdown that went into effect on Oct. 1 has resulted in 800,000 federal government workers being furloughed from their jobs (28 percent of the 2.8 million federal workers on payroll). Essential workers responsible for the health and safety, like the military and police, are still on the job. Sadly, for the Workforce Intelligence Network, labor and economic statisticians are not. The good news, however, is that a great number of programs for employers, job seekers and higher education students so far are largely untouched.
Among the region’s nine community colleges and numerous four-year education programs, higher education funding mechanisms, like Pell grants and federal students loans, and the customer support systems, including staff and assistive websites will continue as normal. The exception is that new applications cannot be processed with staff out of work. Smaller programs, like student work-study, have seen furloughs, as have supplemental student opportunity programs. These programs, which include Head Start (supports child care for needy families) and WIC (food assistance) are important for student and nonstudent parents (that is, their children) who face financial need.
On the workforce development front, all but two of Southeast Michigan’s seven Michigan Works! agencies are strongly tied to county government, which, in most cases, will support the full range of services provided for job seekers and employers until the federal government is ready to reimburse them. For job seekers, this means ongoing access to career counseling, skills assessment, resume and interview coaching, available education and training services, special programs for youth, special programs for low-income individuals, unemployment processing and more. For employers, this means access to talent recruitment and screening, job profiling, worker matching and other forms of early identification of vetting for a full spectrum of workers, from the entry level to highly skilled.
Most Michigan Works! agencies that operate as 501(c)(3)s, independent of a county government partner (and even those aligned with the counties), already had plans in place for a reduction in available federal funding for the first quarter beginning Oct. 1 (this was due to government sequestration). If the government shutdown becomes protracted, these agencies may begin cutting back on certain support for job seekers and employers, but for now, services will continue as usual. Even in the longer-term they will continue support for unemployment processing.
Government workers currently furloughed can apply for unemployment and many private companies are beginning to take stock of how shutdowns will affect their own hiring needs. The result nationally has been a surge in unemployment claims, up 66,000 nationwide in just one week (about 15,000 of these are believed to be government contractors). Of course, these data must be scrutinized carefully, because, as aforementioned, the shutdown has affected job and economic reporting and resulted in numerous computer glitches, which also affect the data.
Whether an institute of higher education or a Michigan Works! Agency, any program that is anticipating a federal grant disbursement, especially a new grant, is out of luck until the shutdown comes to an end. This affects special training and education programs, for example, supported by the U.S. Department of Labor.
At the end of the day, the government shutdown so far has been largely not felt by most people encountering the Southeast Michigan talent system, and this likely will continue to be the case. Unfortunately, it also means that more people are coming into contact with it as they are forced to make unemployment claims, while others are cut off from services that prove crucial to their loved ones and them. Here at WIN, we will continue to monitor the situation and do our very best, despite a lack of some data (but certainly not all!), to monitor employment and other trends in our region.
Infographic source: Eric Weiss, Weird News and Odd News, Tarboro Times, Oct. 1, 2013