Last month, the US added a net 169,000 jobs. There was also some downward revision for the employment stats of the month of July. Once the revisions are added in, the actual average job creation over the past three months has been at 148,000 a month–that’s a rounding error away from covering simple population growth, and does virtually nothing to pull in the millions of long-term unemployed. At Brookings, it’s estimated that it will take more than NINE YEARS to get employment back to where it was in January 08 if all we’re adding is 169k. The UI rate ticked down by a tenth of a point, but nobody should get excited about that– it’s almost certainly due to people discouraged from looking or timing out of UI.
One of the stats being reported by Huffington Post (although they aren’t the only place it’s being reported) is that total worker participation in the US is lower than it has been since 1978. The labor-force participation rate, the percentage of working-age people either working or looking for work, dropped to 63.2 percent from 63.4 percent in July, the lowest rate since 1978. I actually remember the 1970’s. What was happening in 78 was the heyday of ‘women can have it all’ and the return of homemakers to the work force. This was heralded as a great victory for women’s rights, and to a certain extent it was. But it was also the point at which it was clear that the oil price spikes that roiled the US economy in the hours after the beginning of the Arab Israeli war of 1973 were going to be a permanent part of the US economy, and most house-holds were going to need a second laborer in the workforce. So we’re back to having a ‘home-maker’ except that this time it’s involuntary. And that pain is not evenly spread around–it’s going to hit people with less education, it’s going to hit older workers (who are more expensive) and it’s going to hit people whose skill-sets aren’t being maintained.
In Europe, this continuing crisis has people out in the streets. But in the US, most of the unemployed have been drinking the Kool-Aid of the free marketers and take personal blame for their travails. This is an amazing piece of propaganda–Joe Lunchpail wasn’t the one playing fast and loose with derivative futures and credit default swaps. But the two party duopoly has helped to deflect blame from the bankers and their servants in DC. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a play about some of the fifty-somethings who joined Occupy Wall Street. They’re a small sub-group of what’s left of Occupy, but they are not willing to accept shame about their straitened economic situation–they played by the rules and they got the shaft. Their kids are living in the basement and their pensions aren’t worth enough to keep them afloat, but they understand that they couldn’t have avoided problems by ‘working smarter, not harder’ or investing better. And the criminals are still walking down Broad Street every morning.
Speaking of Occupy Wall Street, I’m still a supporter. But the second anniversary (S17) is coming up in two weeks. There are protests planned at the banks, and there’s an action for a ‘Robin Hood Tax‘ and speak-outs on the Trans Pacific Partnership. There are also protests in solidarity with fast food workers. But where’s unemployment? Something like one in five adults are either unemployed, on public assistance, or working part-time. I have a number of friends who’ve felt the ax fall in recent weeks–cut to part-time status or ‘restructured’ out of jobs where they were on call 24/7 and earning middle-class wages. Where’s the affinity group for those folks? Why should someone looking at the last weeks of UI get up off the couch and join a bunch of kids protesting TPP?