WASHINGTON Jan 7 If the U.S. Congress does not
pass an economic stimulus plan soon the country will lose
another 3 million jobs in 2009, former U.S. Labor Secretary
Robert Reich said on Wednesday.
"Unemployment will rise to 10 percent of the workforce by
the end of this year, and under-employment -- including people
working part-time who would rather be working full time, and
those too discouraged even to look for work -- will reach 15
percent," said Reich, who served under former President Bill
Clinton and has consulted with President-elect Barack Obama
about correcting the current downturn.
"Without federal action, next year could be even worse," he
said while testifying at a U.S. House of Representatives
Democrats' forum on a stimulus bill.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release data on Friday
on how many jobs the country lost in December. In November it
lost 533,000 jobs, helping to bring the unemployment rate up to
6.7 percent, according to last month's reports.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com, told
the same forum that he expects Friday's report to show 500,000
more Americans were put out of work last month.
Reich, who is currently a public policy professor at the
University of California at Berkeley, called for a stimulus
package of at least $900 billion spent over two years -- much
larger than the proposals currently being discussed.
Along with promoting expanded jobless benefits, Reich said
the federal government should help state and local governments,
but he warned that there may be pitfalls to boosting
"The challenge will be to do it quickly," he said, and
suggested that some public works projects be earmarked for the
long-term unemployed, minorities and women.
Reich said the U.S. Congress should not be wary of
borrowing to pay for economic stimulus, pointing out that at
the end of World War 2 the country's debt was more than 100
percent of gross domestic product.
Currently, Reich said, the debt ratio is below 50 percent.
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Leslie Adler)