Jobless benefits extension likely, Reich says Layoffs, scarcity of new jobs cited

January 28, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- In the face of huge layoffs at companies like Sears Roebuck, Boeing and Pratt & Whitney, the Clinton administration is preparing to extend the unemployment benefits of the 1.7 million Americans now receiving them, Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich said yesterday.

"I think that's likely," Mr. Reich said in an interview. "It's on the table. The president has not made a decision.

"But it seems to me that given the sluggish rate of job creation and persistently high unemployment numbers, it seems that emergency unemployment compensation will be extended and that the president will seek to do that."

Mr. Reich said the administration was also considering extending the benefits of workers who have been without work so long that they had exhausted up to 59 weeks of regular benefits and extensions.

A Labor Department official said 256,000 workers fall into that group.

Mr. Reich also reaffirmed two of Mr. Clinton's campaign promises: to raise the federal minimum wage of $4.25 an hour and to prohibit employers from hiring permanent replacements for workers who strike. The striker replacement issue is the highest priority for many labor unions this year.

Mr. Reich also elaborated on his disclosure Tuesday that the president favored spending about $20 billion to stimulate the economy.

And he said for the first time how the administration might distribute that spending: a third might be used for public works, such as building roads and bridges, a third for job training and education and a third to induce companies in invest in machinery and equipment to increase production.

The last part represents the money the government would lose by granting industry a 10 percent tax credit to make the investments.

In several appearances this week on television news programs and before Congress, Mr. Reich has been speaking harshly of many companies where, he says, workers are treated as costs rather than assets.

On NBC's "Today" show yesterday morning, where he also raised the possibility of extending unemployment benefits, he called many recent large-scale layoffs in industry "a management failure."

In November 1991, Congress extended unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 33 weeks.

Congress later renewed the extension program twice. But workers were allowed no more than 59 weeks of benefits, so many who have been unable to find jobs for more than a year have now exhausted their benefits.

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