Free Markets and the Re-employment Charade

Virtually all ends of the political spectrum appear to agree on one thing, which is that more should be done to get people back to work. Although the economy is said to be on the mend, unemployment is still 7.6 percent, which really says nothing about the actual jobless number. Conservatives and Republicans argue that government should get out of the way so that the full force of the market place can be unleashed and job be created.

Liberals and Democrats argue that more activist policy is needed in order to create jobs. And yet, one wonders if the language of job creation is nothing more than bromide. Do adherents of free market ideology really want to lower the unemployment rate? Continue reading

April Jobs report: views from the left

A variety of progressive groups make analyses of the federal jobs reports each month.  We’ve gather a number of their looks at the April unemployment report released on May 4.

 Chicago Political Economy Group

The April job numbers were uniformly dismal according to both the Household and Establishment Survey. 115,000 jobs were added, even less than the disappointing March numbers of 120,000 (since revised upward to 154,000), and not nearly enough to cover the rise in the civilian labor force. This led to a significant reduction in the labor participation rate, the key significant number. There is no sign of making up for the 5-7 million jobs lost in the 2008-9 recession.

While the unemployment rate dropped from 8.3% to 8.1% this was due to discouraged unemployed dropping out of the job market. In April 2.4 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, essentially unchanged from a year earlier. There was also 7.9 involuntary part time workers. These are people who were looking for full time work but could not find it but are not counted as unemployed.

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Support unemployed workers


Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

From Wall Street to Main Street to Capitol Hill, we’re taking action for America’s jobless workers this Thursday.  Find an event near you and RSVP to attend a National Day of Mobilization for the Jobless and Jobs action: [ ].

If Congress fails to act by Dec. 31, nearly 2 million job hunters will lose their emergency unemployment aid in January alone. And without action in 2012, that number will rise to 6 million.

Lawmakers need to be reminded that these aren’t statistics–they’re real people, like Mickey from Battle Creek, Mich. He told us his story: “I have worked since I was 15 years old. I’ve been laid off before but never have I had this much trouble finding employment….I have always given my best to my job and have gone the extra mile.…I am BEGGING you to extend unemployment benefits and the payroll tax and act on it soon.”

And Elizabeth from Kamuela, Hawaii, has struggled, in spite of her advanced degree: “Even with credentials as an advanced practice nurse, I went 2 and a half years without full employment. I lost my house, had a bankruptcy and would have starved had it not been for unemployment benefits.”

Stories like these illustrate why we all need to do what it takes to make sure the voices of America’s jobless workers are heard loud and clear. So Thursday, we’ll bring more than 2,000 unemployed workers and clergy to Capitol Hill. As long-term jobless workers and clergy meet with Congress, we’ll be backing them up at local congressional offices and public spaces across America.

Join the fight for emergency unemployment Thursday. Find out where and RSVP to attend now: [ ].

America has never experienced the record stretch of high unemployment and long-term joblessness that plagues our economy today–not since the data were first collected in 1948. And Congress has never cut back on federally funded unemployment insurance when unemployment was anywhere near this high for this long. (1)

It’s time to demand obstructionists in Congress put a stop to the partisan bickering and reauthorize extended unemployment insurance aid–without delays or strings attached.

Tell Congress that inaction is not an option: find an event near you: [ ].

Thanks for all the work you do.

In Solidarity,

Manny Herrmann
Online Mobilization Coordinator, AFL-CIO

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Little to cheer about in November jobs report

Dr. William Barclay

Bill Barclay

I woke up this morning, turned on my computer and saw that headline: “Unemployment rate falls from 9% t 8.6%.” I thought, “Wow! – the economy added over 600,000 jobs.” After all the total US labor force is a bit larger than 150 million so every 0.1% of that is 150,000 jobs. Thus an improvement of 0.4% in unemployment rate would represent at least 600,000 jobs.

I looked again – oops, no, the economy didn’t create 600,000 jobs in November. At best it only created about 120,000 jobs. So why did the unemployment rate decline by 0.4%? The most striking number in today’s BLS Employment Situation Report is the number of people who dropped out of the labor force between October and November: more than 300,000. In fact, we have fewer people at work than we did 5 years ago – 6 million fewer jobs than in Nov of 2006. We are half way through our own lost decade. The reality is that our job creation numbers need to be, at a minimum, double those that we saw today to significantly eat into the nearly 14 million unemployed and the more than 8 million underemployed.

And our elected leaders don’t care.

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August Jobs—Worse Than Zero

by Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

Last Friday, September 2, 2011, the latest jobs report was released by the US Labor Department. It showed no jobs created for the month of August. Zero. Zip. The report confirmed the growing evidence that the US economy was on a track toward a serious economic relapse, at minimum, or a possible even worse double dip recession. The stock market went into another tailspin. Bond markets globally reeled.

Those trying to downplay the August jobs report noted the August numbers included 45,000 Verizon telephone workers who were on strike and who subsequently have returned to work. That would mean, apologists argued, there were actually 45,000 jobs created last month. Big deal. It takes 150,000 new jobs a month just to absorb new entrants into the labor force.

It is important also to note that the ‘zero’ number was the very best of the various job numbers that might have been reported, not the worst. Other data show the August jobs situation was not stagnant, with no jobs created, but actually much worse. Here’s why.

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Human costs of a broken economy

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Labor Day Statement.

When we look at the situation of unemployed people and many ordinary workers, we see not only individuals in economic crisis, but also struggling families and hurting communities. We see a society that cannot use the talents and energies of all those who can and should work. We see a nation that cannot assure people who work hard every day that their wages and benefits can support a family in dignity. We see a workplace where many have little participation, ownership, or a sense they are contributing to a common enterprise or the common good. An economy that cannot provide employment, decent wages and benefits, and a sense of participation and ownership for its workers is broken in fundamental ways. The signs of this broken economy are all around us:

▪                About 14 million workers are unemployed. We see the stories and pictures of hundreds, even thousands lining up for the chance to simply apply for work. There are currently more than four jobless workers for every job opening. Many more have given up looking for employment.

▪                There are increasing numbers of children (more than 15 million) and families living in poverty. This does not mean they lack the newest video game, it means they lack the resources to provide the basics of food, shelter, clothing and other necessities. Continue reading

Fake Political Crisis and Real Economic Crisis-

(The Depression) The Single Men's Unemployed A...

Image via Wikipedia

Fake Political Crises and Real Economic Crises – A Call for
Leadership and for Action

AFL-CIO Executive Council Statement
The United States is in a continuing and severe jobs crisis.
Our economy is growing at less than 2 percent per year, and
growth is slowing. Official unemployment is 9.2 percent and
rising – driven now by mass layoffs of teachers, first
responders and other public employees. The real unemployment
rate is almost twice as high – once labor market dropouts
and involuntary part-time work are taken into account.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are real solutions to
the jobs crisis, but real solutions require government

Yet Washington is inexplicably focused on measures that will
make the situation worse – both in the short and long run.
Our nation’s leaders are offering working people the choice
between bad and worse policies. Instead of addressing our
profound economic crisis, they are adding to it an unending
series of fake political crises.

Real wages have been stagnant for three decades and are now
falling. The housing market, the largest market of any kind
in our country, continues its downward slide, driven by the
collapse of an enormous bubble. Millions of American
families have been or will be thrown out of their homes by
banks, guaranteeing that this drag on our economy will
continue for the foreseeable future. Our trade deficit keeps
growing. We invest less and less in our nation’s
infrastructure while unemployment in construction is nearly
double the national average. Veterans return home and
struggle to find work. Our education budgets at every level
are shrinking, and fewer and fewer of us have adequate
health insurance or a pension. Continue reading

June Jobs Report Shows a Depression and Need for Large-scale Jobs Program

Ron  Baiman

There are two ways of measuring employment. One using payroll data from business does not included agriculture or self-employed and is commonly referred to as non-farm payroll “establishment” data, and the other from a self reported sample of households that includes agriculture, self-employed and all other employment, referred to as “household” data. Generally over time the two series tend to converge in trend.

The first is considered a “harder” more accurate (though more limited in its scope) number. Establishment data for June 2011 show a gain of only 18,000 jobs over the month of June the result of 57,000 private sector jobs and -39,000 public sector jobs.

This is an abysmally low figure that is well short by around 80 to 90 thousand of the number of the new jobs needed just to employ new entrants to the labor force. This continues the terribly week figure of 25,000 for job gains in May. This suggests a moribund labor market that is not growing at nearly the rate necessary just to employ new entrants to the labor force. Over the last two years (from the official end of the recession in June 2009) only 524,000 jobs have been created of the 7,490,000 lost during the recession (Dec 2007 to June 2009).

As bad as this report is, the household report is even worse. The household data show a June employment decline of 445,000 more than offsetting the modest May gain of 105,000 causing the official (and vastly understated) unemployment rate went up from 9.1% in May to 9.2 % in June. Since March 2011, the official unemployment rate has gone up by 0.4% (from 8.8%).

Over the last six months employment growth has averaged 21,000 , about 95,000 short of the 115,000 or so necessary to accommodate new entrants and maintain employment at previous (pre-recession) levels.

Based on Household data employment in June 2011 is 6,938,000 less than it was at start of recession in Dec 2007 (employment has dropped by 644,000 since the official end of the recession in June 2009). Needless to say we cannot raise employment by 7 million and employ 110,000 new labor force entrants a month with an average employment increase of only 21,000 a month!

This means that the long term picture shown below we have not budged at all, June 2011 employment level (based on non-farm payroll) was 5.04% below pre-recession employment levels, 16 months after the trough job level in Feb 2010 – so the red line below can be extended one more month but doesn’t go up at all. (Source: Ilan Moscovitz June 10, 2011 blog.)

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March Jobs Numbers—A Contrarian View

by Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

On Friday, April 1, the U.S. Labor Department released its numbers for jobs and unemployment for the month of March. It reported 216,000 net new jobs created in March, after 192,000 the previous month. The two months are heralded as a definite shift in the labor market and jobs in the U.S. Business pundits at the New York Times declared the results represent “a solid” record in job gains, “kicking (job creation) into high gear”. Obama and the administration are calling it clear evidence of a new momentum in job creation, bragging that about 1.3 million jobs were created in the past 14 months since January 2010. However, a closer look at the numbers reveals that continuing, and emerging, problems in the jobs market in the U.S. should be of great concern.

About 658,000 jobs were created in the past three months, since the beginning of 2011, according to the Labor Dept. But the same data show 798,000 workers left the labor force over the same period. In other words, more are giving up finding a job than are locating one. The number is even worse when the past 14 months are considered. 1,353,000 found jobs but 2,121,000 left the labor force. A jobs market truly recovering does not experience that kind of a massive number of discouraged workers leaving the labor force. Quite the opposite. A truly recovering labor market is characterized by large numbers of discouraged re-entering the labor force. Something else is going on here.

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The Jobs Crisis is Not Over: Understanding the March Jobs Report

CPEG (Chicago Political Economy Group)

The BLS employment report for February 2011 is better than we have seen for several months, reporting a job creation total of 192,000.  However, before we decide that the jobs crisis is over, let’s put these numbers in context.

(1)    We lost 8.8 million jobs in the Great Recession – we have now recovered about 1.5 million or 17% of those.  And this is 20 months after the official end of the Great Recession in June 2009.
(2)    We are still have over 500,000 fewer people employed than was the case at the end of the Great Recession.
(3)    There are normally about 110,000 new labor force entrants each month.  Even at the positive rate of job creation reported for February, roughly 80,000 above the new labor force entrants, it would take 171 months, 14 years, to provide jobs or the 13.7 million “officially” unemployed.  If the 6 million discouraged workers are included, it would take over 20 years to provide sufficient jobs.
(4)    This discouraging picture reflects the very slow rate of job creation over the past 12 months, an average of 106,000/month, less than the number needed to provide jobs even for those newly entering the labor force.
(5)    The proportion of long term unemployed remains at record levels: 43.9% of total officially unemployed were unemployed for 6 months of more (the definition o long term unemployed).
(6)    The number of unemployed is large, large enough that sometimes people have trouble grasping it.  So is a way of visualizing our current unemployment situation.  If the 13.7 million officially unemployed and the more than 6 million discouraged workers were lined up shoulder to shoulder, they would stretch from Maine to California and back – and there would still be 2 million unemployed waiting to get into the line.


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