High unemployment not due to stoned job applicants
Gov. Tom Corbett has set a new standard for novel explanations for public problems.
During a radio talk show appearance Tuesday, the governor rationally explained the commonwealth's low rate of job creation relative to other states, noting that since Pennsylvania had lost fewer jobs than many other states during the recession, it had less ground to recover.
But then, pressed about Pennsylvania's overall unemployment rate remaining above the 7.6 percent national average - a different matter - the governor came up with this: "many employers that say we're looking for people but we can't find anybody that has passed a drug test."
Really? They can't find anybody who has passed a drug test? Even more remarkably, the governor's comment would mean that employers who set out to hire somebody apparently give up when a candidate or candidates fail drug tests. They don't even import someone from a state where fewer people are stoned.
Unfortunately, the causes of the state's persistent unemployment are just as intractable as drug addiction. Even though politicians get too much blame when unemployment is high and too much credit when it's low, the governor and the Legislature can act to mitigate Pennsylvania's problem.
Mr. Corbett and the Legislature for more than two years have failed to craft a transportation bill, even though the state's highways, bridges and transit systems badly need attention. Attending to the failing infrastructure not only would boost direct construction employment in every part of the state, but create or restore jobs all along the supply chain.
And since transportation-related industries are fundamental to Pennsylvania's overall economy, the improved infrastructure also would help to boost employment broadly for the long term.
The government also could boost employment by restoring at least some lost funding for public schools, which have lost more than 20,000 jobs statewide over the last several years. Generally, over the last several years, public employment has fallen more precipitously than private-sector employment, and it all shows up in the unemployment rate.
State action would be welcomed especially in Northeast Pennsylvania, which has the sad distinction of having the state's highest unemployment rate, now two full points higher than the national rate at 9.6 percent - for three consecutive years.
The state Department of Labor and Industry says, not surprisingly, that there are no statistics connecting drug addiction with unemployment. Rather than resorting to anecdotal, unrealistic explanations, the governor and lawmakers should do what they can to help create jobs.