JOB OPPORTUNITIES STILL LACKING - Encouraging Stats Sound Good, But....

While employment is increasing for the third month in a row, most of the gains are in low-end jobs, according to Jared Bernstein, a senior economist at EPI in Washington.

The job gainers include the health-care industry, temporary work in business services, retail stores, fast food and hotel accommodations, most of which are centered in urban hubs.

"The recovery from this recession is spotty. There are areas of the country that will take a good deal longer to pull out of this," Jared said during an interview.

The bounce-back in most manufacturing areas has yet to occur with hundreds of thousands of jobs going abroad.

There are enormous geographic disparities in what is being proclaimed as a recovery, certainly including West Virginia and most of the rust belt states.

West Virginia's manufacturing industries have experienced employment declines, especially the steel, chemical and aluminum industries.

Coal production in the mountain state has dropped somewhat, but employment has fallen dramatically, primarily due to increased productivity in mountaintop removal.

Corporate profits rose by 62.2 percent between April 2001 and March 2004. During those same 36 months, workers' take-home pay dropped by six-tenths of 1 percent.

Then there are the inflationary costs faced by families - higher gasoline prices, higher health care costs, higher insurance costs and higher food costs.

It is crunch-time driving from rural areas to urban areas for employment.

About 32,000 of 945,000 jobs gained in the last three months were in manufacturing industries, which offer higher wages and better benefits than service-sector jobs. Not enough to help most workers.

Lee Price, research director for EPI, said President Bush and his economic advisers predicted the nation would see an increase of 3.4 million jobs from July 2003 to May 2004, as a result of the Bush-backed tax cuts approved by Congress.

Employment increases are still running two million jobs short of what the Bush administration predicted with their tax cuts.

The actual unemployment rate should be 7.3 percent, not the official rate of 5.6 percent.

The stats do not include people who have given up looking for a job and "withdrawn" from the labor force. The official rate also fails to include people who want jobs but who have never held one, among other regional factors where workers have left the area.

Statistics could be glowing in a area that has a declining population and only the remaining jobs are filled.

West Virginia has lost tens of thousands of blue collar jobs, from high paying jobs in the chemical industry to low paying clothing and shoe plants.

Vicky Lovell, of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, said the recent recession was "the only period of sustained job loss that women have experienced in the last 40 years.