93 million: an update

The increasing number of American adults not in the labor force--since April, almost 100K new drop-outs a week. From Atlanta Fed.

The increasing number of American adults not in the labor force–since May, almost 100K new drop-outs a week. From Atlanta Fed.

Since I seem to be in update mode, I thought I’d share this. I’ll try to keep things simple. Back in May I wrote that a count of adults unemployed or underemployed in the current economy indicated that there were some 93 million working age Americans who weren’t in the workforce in any reasonable way (or any way that would support themselves). I was wondering when someone would revisit those statistics. Yesterday’s jobless figures were out again, and they were buried under the headlines of the shootings in Oregon.  But the numbers are not good. Per this overview, we added 142,000 jobs, which is around the 125-150 K we need to keep even with population growth. But August employment numbers were revised downward, from 200,000 to 136,000. And Paul Craig Roberts points out that almost all the jobs added were in low-pay positions in retail and hospitality or service jobs, many of which are part time. And there’s a paradox in the retail jobs added–sales are flat right now, so why are retailers adding positions? Are they trading full-timers for part-timers? Remember that the BLS counts someone working an hour a week as ’employed’, even if that person is living in their car and eating at soup kitchens. Another bad sign is that average wages fell. That’s not consistent with an economy with an ‘official’ unemployment rate of 5.1%. But the big fall is in labor participation rate. Per Roberts, The labor force participation rate fell further and is now the lowest in about 40 years. This is especially damning when we remember that in those long ago years many more households could exist as one-earner households.

Which brings me to this. I’ve been back and forth on the reporting from Zerohedge, but they found this and it’s pertinent. Apparently, someone at the Atlanta Fed (aka the Atlanta office of the Federal Reserve) made a rather unfortunate statement about why adult non-participation in the workforce is now 94.6 MILLION adults. 

 The decrease in labor force participation among prime-age individuals has been driven mostly by the share who say they currently don’t want a job. As of December 2014, prime-age labor force participation was 2.4 percentage points below its prerecession average. Of that, 0.5 percentage point is accounted for by a higher share who indicate they currently want a job; 2 percentage points can be attributed to a higher share who say they currently don’t want a job.
So there you have it. Per the nameless reporter at the Fed, there are plenty of fulltime jobs around but people don’t want jobs. And again, blame the unemployed.  If 93 million adults can’t earn their keep, then another 1.6 million just decided to live the life of Riley. Not the Fed’s fault, not the politicians’ fault.
Unfortunately, these events seem to be converging.


Future Hipsters will be wearing this. Upriser.com.

Future Hipsters will be wearing this. From Upriser.com.

I’m also getting headline stories from friends in the NTHE movement that the economy and the environment are going into the crapper at roughly the same time and are in fact two sides of the same coin. This article makes some interesting points. It’s about the crash of industrial civilization, which is as easy to predict now as it was for an outsider to see that societies like Easter Island and the Anasazi would fail. Here’s the remedy:
To avoid an apocalypse, the scientists urge economic equality, stark decreases in consumption, and the fairer distribution of resources. Energy production should rely on cleaner, renewable technologies and support a smaller, more conservative population. If humans are to survive on the planet, immediate political action is needed to curtail the runaway growth of the economy, the threat of pollution, and the unfair allocation of wealth. To preserve not just the quality of life but its very existence, it is time to restore balance to both natural and social systems.
Looks like we’re peering at revolution.


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