Friday, April 1, 2011

get a job!

the fed bureau of labor statistics has released the latest job numbers here in the US, and the numbers show an unexpected growth spurt. (from FOX latino:)
Washington – The headline unemployment rate fell to 8.8 percent last month as the U.S. economy enjoyed a net gain of 216,000 new jobs, the Labor Department said Friday.
Joblessness is at its lowest level since March 2009, a few months before the recession officially ended.
Most analysts expected 200,000 new jobs to be created in March and forecast that the unemployment rate would remain steady at 8.9 percent.
All of last month's job growth came from the private sector, which generated 230,000 positions, while government employment fell by 14,000 due to layoffs at the state and municipal levels.
 it's always important to take these numbers with a grain of salt, as they say. this is "headline unemployment," which is just a slice of the jobs picture that is meant to paint a rosy picture during hard times. when one factors in discouraged workers who've stopped looking, as well as those who are under-employed doing part-time or temp jobs and such, the numbers get quite a bit higher -- more like 16 percent.

not only is the BLS fudging the numbers for PR purposes, but we need to be aware that there are 8 million jobs gone missing since the bottom dropped out at the end of dubya's reign in 2008. we took a great fall, with the rapid deflation of the great housing bubble, leading to a deficit of jobs on a scale that -- if present rates of  growth continue -- will take us at least five years to recover from. your unemployment benefits will run out before 2016, pal.

even worse, however, is the kind of jobs that are available. this is also something that, if we don't know it statistically it's intuitively obvious: these "new" jobs suck. in the new york times today, an article by motoko rich explains:
...many of the jobs being added in retail, hospitality and home health care, to name a few categories, are unlikely to pay enough for workers to cover the cost of fundamentals like housing, utilities, food, health care, transportation and, in the case of working parents, child care.
and that's what's killer about this "improvement" in the economy. this is no knock against people doing what they have to do to survive. there is dignity in work, and all that. but when you consider the true inflation picture -- and not "headline inflation" -- that's running about 8 percent against these low-paying jobs, it's quite apparent that you just can't make it on the paycheck you're liable to get these days.

i have friends who deride this idea that times are so hard out there in the US, because signs of affluence and conspicuous consumption are all around. at least in my state -- which has fared a lot better that much of the rest of the country -- the economy didn't suffer a full-fledged blowout, as happened in rust-belt areas like michigan and ohio. it's still possible to get stuck in mega traffic jams as late-model cars snake down boulevards of ritzy condo developments, office parks and shopping malls. you would never know that people are hurting.

at the same time, a friend with medical problems is choosing between food and medicine. although she makes a decent enough salary, by the time payday rolls around her fridge is likely to be empty and there's not a dime left in her bank account. it's hard to watch a proud, hard-working person struggle -- and it's not like she spends a lot of time crying about it -- but i know that by herself, she does.

the fact is, we're getting squeezed. if you need statistics to quantify it:

According to the report, a single worker needs an income of $30,012 a year — or just above $14 an hour — to cover basic expenses and save for retirement and emergencies. That is close to three times the 2010 national poverty level of $10,830 for a single person, and nearly twice the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
A single worker with two young children needs an annual income of $57,756, or just over $27 an hour, to attain economic stability, and a family with two working parents and two young children needs to earn $67,920 a year, or about $16 an hour per worker.
That compares with the national poverty level of $22,050 for a family of four. The most recent data from the Census Bureau found that 14.3 percent of Americans were living below the poverty line in 2009.
there are plenty of people that make this kind of scratch, but for the growing number of those who aren't, it's a decidedly ugly outlook. two-income households are a necessity for most people, and the loss of one wage-earner's income can be devastating.

for white guys with some money, people who are struggling financially are dissed as lazy jerks who want a handout. people who are victims of the crony capitalist machine that runs the country as denigrated in congress as moochers trying so soak the system, and made the butt of jokes by commentators on FOX news and CNBC for not being among the winners in our casino economy.

unfortunately, the situation can only get worse. when it comes to greedy people, there's no "off" switch for the acquisitiveness gene -- the banksters and corporate wheeler-dealers will keep soaking everything they can out of the system until the whole works comes crashing down.

i guess they assume their money will protect them. i'm not sure i'd be so confident. there's much that can go wrong, and when the dominoes start to fall, it's not easy to put things right again -- check out the situation at the fukushima reactors in japan.

sure, it's nice to see the unemployment situation easing, but like so much else in this spin- and hype-infatuated landscape we inhabit, what you read and how things really are seldom mesh. constantly fed intellectual saturated fats, government and economy are assumed to be both healthful and delicious, but that, too, is spin and bullshit. just like most of the shit we eat, we really don't want to find out how bad it is.

addendum: there's a dark undercurrent that pulls at the loose threads of the employment gains: a substantial growth in poverty in general and food stamp applications in particular: as they guys say, there's no way to spin this number.

No comments:

Post a Comment