Thursday, November 27, 2008

That Oldtime Job

The figures of growing unemployment truly do not tell the whole story, and it isn't just admitting the facts that reality-based people are doing among themselves. At Salon this morning, I found a good picture here;

Back in the 1990s, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recognized that in a changing economy, in which outsourcing, self-employment, and contracting were becoming more commonplace, the traditional methods of measuring unemployment and job growth might not accurately portray the economic situation. And it knew its methodology had some quirks—the unemployment rate doesn't account for people who have given up looking for jobs, or who have taken themselves out of the work force. So since 1994, the BLS has been compiling alternative measures of labor underutilization. There are many different varieties of labor underutilization. There are marginally attached workers: "persons who currently are neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the recent past." There are discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached crowd, who have "given a job-market related reason for not looking currently for a job." There are people who work part-time because they can't find—or their employer can't provide—full-time work. There are people who have left the work force entirely. Neither the unemployment rate nor the payroll jobs figure captures the plight of many of these folks.

And the alternative labor underutilization measures show a lot of stress. The data on people not in the work force show the number of people not looking for work because they're discouraged about finding jobs has risen from 276,000 in September 2007 to 467,000 in September 2008—up 70 percent. The percentage of people unemployed for more than 15 weeks stood at 2.3 percent in September 2008, up from 1.6 percent in September 2007, a rise of nearly 45 percent. But the most troublesome is the U6. The U6 is sort of the summa of job angst, a shorthand tally for the aggregate of job-related frustration. (Moneybox covered some of this terrain back in 2004.) To compile the U6, the BLS takes the number of unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus all of those employed part-time for economic reasons, and then calculates that total as a percentage of the sum of the entire civilian labor force plus marginally attached workers.

The U6 in September rose to 11 percent, its highest level since the data series started in 1994 and significantly higher than it was in the last recession, in 2001.

Those 'good Americans' holding down three jobs are not playing with figures, they are desperately trying to support themselves or, in too many cases, their families. The right wing mantra that if only we just would put out the effort we would all be rich is observably, demonstrably, wrong. Given living wages, the workers in the U.S. would even be buying stuff and making an functional economic system that would support even other working people.

While being wrong would be a spur to reality-based adults, to the wingers it is a spur to repeat loudly and often the same lie. That lie keeps appearing in media accounts about the economy, while simple truths are still waiting their turn.

A special place is hopefully waiting in any hell there might be for the business reporters who keep insisting that Americans are refusing to buy the country out of its economic crisis because they are waiting for prices to go down before they spend their great reserve funds. Instead, they are spending themselves ever deeper into debt because without those mythical reserve funds they are forced to use credit to keep body and soul together, in that oldtime job, with the newfangled salary.

There is an old image of the U.S. as the land of plenty, and we need to get that back for everyone who contributes. It's overdue that that plenty should not be reserved for those who take from the rest of us.


A deserved tribute to President Lyndon B. Johnson:

On the night her father signed the 1964 act, coincidentally her 17th birthday, Luci Turpin recalls him telling her, "As a result of the courageous act of this Congress, many men and women who have stood up for this bill and helped it to become law will not be returning here just because of their courageous act.

"And many men and women will be coming to Congress who otherwise would not be able to get here because of the courage of this Congress."

And a special thanks to Sen. Ralph W. Yarborough, who gave that vote to his country, knowing it would end his career.

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Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

i'd bet a hunnert dollahs there are no Ralph Yarboroughs in the Congress today, nor shall there be any after Jan 10, either.

just a hunch...

12:07 PM  
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10:46 PM  

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