Fade to Black
By David Glenn Cox
It's that time of the month again, when the Labor Department comes out with their monthly employment statistics. Politicians, media and stockjobbers all move in and attempt to prove from the numbers that a nickel is a dollar and one is really a hundred and one.
Employment numbers were good, well, not good but better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Employment was up by 290,000 jobs and just think, at that rate we will eliminate the backlog of unemployed in 1,000 months or just 83 years. That’s the good news, the bad news is the economy added 800,000 more workers and that’s why the unemployment rose despite 290,000 new jobs.
Twenty percent of the new jobs were government jobs and the majority of those are temporary with the continued census hires. In the "job growth by age" category the largest gainers were 16 to 19-year-olds, and the losers were every other age group. As I’ve said before, the government likes to play the month to month game which magnifies the minute and minimizes the massive. If you lost your job of fifteen years last month and didn’t find a new one this month, then your employment situation is considered stable. So let's use year-over-year statistics, and as we already know, April of 2009 was an awful month.
This will give us a fair chance to see how things have changed for the better. From April 2009 to April 2010 the labor market expanded by over two million people and during that time the total number of people employed declined by 550,000. Those unemployed for over twenty-seven weeks made up 45.9 percent of the total, an increase of almost two million over last April. The figure that really jumps out as the largest change is the one where once you exhaust your unemployment pennies you move into the nether world of “not in labor force.”
You cease to be counted, so while month-to-month official unemployment rose to 9.9 percent, 635,000 Americans stopped being counted and fell into the “not in labor force” category. If you earned a bachelors degree or higher the unemployment rate is unchanged from last month but from last year it is up by 50,000. If you left school before earning your high school diploma your job prospects picked up! Year over year they have gained 2,000 jobs. I bet those are the promised green jobs we’ve heard so much about. “There’s the lawnmower. If it's green, cut it.” The rest of you, well, you’re just overeducated.
Over one million Americans have lost “temporary jobs” between last April and this one and the number of those working part time for economic reasons rose by 980,000. The number of discouraged workers rose year over year by an astounding 35 percent from 740,000 in April 09 to 1,197,000 this month last. What makes this truly astounding is that on average 400,000 workers per month fall out of the discouraged category and into the “not in labor force” category. So the 9.9 percent unemployed number is made up of primarily the newly unemployed; many of those in the April '09 8.9 percent unemployment number have been erased from the counting.
The Labor Department reports non-farm productivity rose at a 3.6 percent annual rate. Productivity is the output of each individual worker. So if your friendly Wal-Mart cashier rings up a $1,000 per hour and management tells one cashier to close and go home, it is to raise productivity. Like the California State workers furloughed on Fridays, the state still expects the same volume of work from each worker. So while the labor Department touts the rise in productivity the census department reports retail sales as flat year over year but corporate profits from some store sales are up.
There is some good news though, average wages have gone up since April '09 by $12.21 a week, before taxes of course. That works out to .37 cents an hour times a 33-hour week. The number of hours per week an employee works depends on the employment sector. If you work in mining or logging it is 39 hours per week; if you work retail or in the leisure and hospitality industry it is only 25.8 hours, so their extra cash is only $9.62 per week before taxes. Overall wages have been flat for all categories including bosses and management. There is only one category that shows significant wage growth year over year. Want to try and guess? Come on, you know you do!
Well, I want to tell you because it speaks volumes about what’s going on here in this country. Our friends in the troubled financial services industry had wage increases averaging $37.00 per week. Of course this figure doesn’t include the $120 billion management gave themselves for doing such a good job in 2009-10.
The total number of Americans in the civilian labor force in April 2009 was 154,718,000; the number in April 2010 is 154,715,000. The number of unemployed grew from 13,816,000 to 15,260,000, but when you add the 2,060,000 “not in labor force" year over year the unemployed number grows to 17,320,000. I tell you these numbers not because I am nabob of negativism. I just really resent media spin. Like Orwell said, “Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper.” I don’t relate these statistics just as partisan attacks because unemployment is a matter of national security. There is plenty of blame to go around and I voted for hope and change but I just haven’t seen any yet.
I’ve seen corporate, union-busting bailouts and increased war spending with long-term plans for decades of fighting twilight struggles for a people who really deep down inside themselves hate our guts. I cannot look at a picture of Hamid Karzai without wanting to retch.
I read about the Deepwater Horizon blowout where the U.S. Minerals Management Service were partying with oil company executives. They were smoking weed and snorting coke and underreporting the number of barrels of oil taken from our federal lands, getting so high that they gave the Deep Water Horizon project a pass on filing an environmental impact study. Had the Deepwater Horizon blowout not occurred when it did BP CEO Tony Hayward would be accepting an award from the Minerals Management Service for safety!
President Obama looked directly into the camera and told the American people that BP will be held responsible for the cleanup when he knew very well that BP’s damages are capped by federal law at $75 million. After that point an insurance fund kicks in. The fund, financed by an eight cent per barrel fee, was figured by the MMS on the average cost of an oil spill rather than by a worst case scenario. When did they decide to figure the premium this way? Right after the Exxon Valdez spill. Deepwater Horizon is expected to considerably deplete the fund, and if the fund goes broke, then you pay!
Projects like Deepwater Horizon were part of Obama’s coastal drilling plan to raise domestic oil production from 30 percent to 38 percent of our daily domestic needs. When Jimmy Carter was run out of town on a rail for saying that there was an energy crisis, domestic oil production was near 50 percent.
So the issue here is candor. The rest of the industrial world is turning to alternative energy while our administration wants more coastal oil drilling and nuclear power. We have seventeen to twenty million chronically unemployed Americans, many who have or soon will have exhausted all government benefits while we import $38 billion more per month than we export.
Employment, energy, trade and income, we need candor on these issues, not salesmanship. Tax cuts for the rich haven’t worked so let's get rid of them. Spending billions on fossil fuels and nuclear power is walking backwards. Raising worker income means more tax revenue for the treasury. A net loss of $38 billion from our economy each month is unsustainable no matter what the corporate lobbyists and campaign contributors may whisper in the ear of politicians. Without candor we can do nothing except fade to black, collapsing Greek-style in an acropolis built on self-interest and greed.
“The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government.”
“Not only our future economic soundness but the very soundness of our democratic institutions depends on the determination of our government to give employment to idle men.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt