The Lookout
  • Unemployed workers at a Los Angeles-area employment center. AP Photo/Damian DovarganesA popular idea in President Obama's new jobs bill could represent a step toward fundamentally transforming the existing system of federal jobless benefits. Some critics say such a move is long overdue--but others worry that a major overhaul could threaten a program that since the Depression has been a core component of the social safety net.

    Obama's jobs measure, sent to Congress Monday, contains a provision that would encourage states to replicate a voluntary Georgia program that allows jobless workers to continue collecting unemployment benefits while training with potential employers. (Last month, we looked at how effective the Georgia program has been.)

    The initiative was one of the few from the president's plan that drew an enthusiastic response from Republicans. After Obama talked up the idea in his speech to Congress last week, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the number two Republican in the House, noted in response that it had originally come from the GOP, and called it "something that we should be able to get to work on right away."

    Read More »from Could Obama’s jobs bill help end jobless benefits as we know them?
  • More than a fifth of Americans under the age of 18 lived in poverty last year, new U.S. Census figures show.

    The poverty rate for children rose from 20.7 percent in 2009 to 22 percent last year, making kids more likely than any other age group to be poor. For children under the age of 6, the picture is even bleaker--25.3 percent of them lived in poverty last year. Overall, 15 percent of Americans were poor last year, the highest rate since 1993. (The poverty line is $22,314 pre-tax income for a family of four, not including non-cash benefits, like food stamps.)

  • (OECD)

    America appears to be losing an important edge in the global knowledge economy, with its share of college-educated workers falling relative to rival economic powers, according to a new study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

    At present, the study found, one in four of the 255 million people worldwide with a bachelor's degree or higher live in the United States. But that share is expected to shrink in the coming years, as developing countries such as Korea and China push more and more of their citizens into college. China already accounts for 12 percent of the world's college-educated working population, even though only 5 percent of its people have gone to college. And that trend will only gain momentum as younger Chinese citizens age into the college demographic; among young workers aged 25-35, China accounts for 18 percent of the college-educated.

    "The expansion of tertiary education in many countries has narrowed the advantage of Japan and the United States both in overall levels of attainment and in the sheer number of individuals with tertiary education," the OECD writes.

    Read More »from America losing ground in global competition for college-educated workers

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