JIM LEHRER: Several states are testing creative ways to tackle the jobless problem.
Rhode Island for example, has partnered with businesses, and also uses unemployment insurance to keep workers on the job.
Our colleagues at the PBS program “Need To Know” have reported that story as part of series called “Help Wanted.”
Correspondent Mona Iskander reports.
MONA ISKANDER, “Need To Know”: Fran Rosato is a supervisor for Taco, a Rhode Island company that makes heating and cooling parts. Taco has been around for over 90 years, but, like many businesses, it’s faced hard times in the economic downturn.
FRAN ROSATO, Taco, Inc.: Toward the end of the summer, we started to notice the inventories building, and they kept building, and things weren’t going out of the warehouse, just going in. And we — the writing was on the wall. We knew something was going to have to happen.
MONA ISKANDER: Kyle Adamonis is one of Rosato’s supervisors and a senior vice president at Taco. She calls each of the company’s nearly 500 employees an important asset, so when business slowed, Taco faced some difficult choices.
KYLE ADAMONIS, Taco, Inc.: As we took a look at areas that we had that were slow within the production operations group, we said, OK, what — what are our options?
MONA ISKANDER: One option was laying people off. But Adamonis avoided that because of an employment program offered by the state of Rhode Island. It’s called WorkShare. The goal is to keep people working when companies face financial trouble.
Here’s how it works. Let’s say a company needs to cut costs. Instead of laying anyone off, the company temporarily cuts the work schedule from, say, five days to four, a 20 percent reduction for everyone. So, a worker making $1,000 a week for five days has her weekly salary reduced by 20 percent to $800.
Here’s where Rhode Island’s WorkShare program steps in. It uses unemployment funds to reimburse the worker a portion of the lost wages, up to $120. So, in this case, the worker ends up taking home $920, and, more importantly, she gets to keep her job and benefits.
You could just eliminate costs by laying people off. Why not take that route?
KYLE ADAMONIS: In keeping people employed, you have a continuity, right? You have the ability to ramp up when you need to ramp up. You have people who have been in — on a job for a long time. They know exactly what they’re doing. So, to have to lay people off and then risk losing people, there’s a cost to that.
JEFFREY BROWN: “Need To Know” airs on most PBS stations tonight.
And our coverage of the jobless problem continues online. Paul Solman explores the real scope of unemployment. This month, the Solman Scale puts the wider number of those out of work around 18 percent, or double the official rate.