A U.S. Jobs Boom for Whom?
by Seth Sandronsky
November 10, 2003
“Hey, did you see that the economy is improving?” my neighbor asked me. He was, sarcastically, referring to the White House and American media spin on the Oct. jobs report.
Case in point is “Bloom Is on the Economy,” the headline of a NY Times article on Nov. 8. Readers learned the U.S. economy last month experienced a “surge in employment.“
The nation’s payrolls added a total of 126,000 new jobs in Oct., bringing the work force to 130.1 million, according to the Labor Dept. Overall, 286,000 new jobs were created in Aug.-Oct., a sharp contrast to the previous six months of job losses.
Is this the end of the “jobless recovery?” That happens when the economy grows without creating new employment.
On Nov. 7, President Bush said he will not rest "until everybody who wants to work can find a job." The previous week, the president had backed the creation of “jobs aplenty for those looking for work.''
Presumably, Bush’s three tax cuts are finally spurring new job creation.
That, in turn can fuel consumption and economic growth.
The U.S. economy did grow at a 7.2 percent annual rate during Aug.-Sept.
Yet consumer debt, seasonally adjusted for the same period, rose by $15.1 billion, a 9.7 percent annual rate, according to the Federal Reserve Board.
Credit is the unmentioned force driving consumers’ buying power. Why?
Part of the answer is workers’ real wages. They have been flat for the past year, unlike living costs.
As a result, workers are going deeper into debt to pay their bills. For example, employers are increasingly forcing employees to pay a greater share of their health care.
In Oct., most of the new employment was in the low-wage service sector. Job losses for factory workers slowed, but the decline in manufacturing employment continued as it has month after month on Bush’s watch.
At one point in the NYT article, reporter Floyd Norris noted “The unemployment rate fell to 6 percent in October, down from a peak of 6.4 percent in June but still far above the low of 3.9 percent reached in December 2000. The rate would have gone higher save for the fact that some people dropped out of the labor market, and therefore were not counted as unemployed.”
“Some people?” What is being covered and covered up here?
Officially, a total of 1.6 million Americans were “marginally attached” to the job market in Oct., having searched in vain for paid work during the past year. However, these folks are not counted as jobless due to their not seeking employment in the 28 days before the Labor Dept.’s Oct. survey.
“Of the 1.6 million, 462,000 were discouraged workers--persons who were not currently looking for work specifically because they believed no jobs were available for them. The number of discouraged workers was up by 103,000 from October 2002.”
“Some people,” indeed. If that is not patronizing, we need a new definition of the term.
“In October, 2.0 million unemployed persons had been looking for work for 27 weeks or longer, about the same level as in September,” Labor Dept. data found. “They represented 23.0 percent of the total unemployed.”
Meanwhile, America’s color line is alive and well in the job market. In Oct., the jobless rate for blacks, 11.5 percent, was more than twice that for whites, 5.1 percent, unmentioned in Norris’ article.
This skin-color trend in hiring is no fluke. You will not learn much about that by reading the daily newspaper of record in America, the NYT.
For more on this racialized trend in the U.S. job market, we turn to Richard D. Vogel. He details some of this disparity in the Sept. 2003 edition of Monthly Review.
“The unemployment rate for black males is consistently twice that of white males, a consistency which represents a basic fact about the economic life of national minorities compared to the white male population” http://www.monthlyreview.org/0903vogel.htm.
Such a rate of joblessness means many things. One is that being a poor black adult male in America increases the likelihood of being imprisoned, since employers have little need for these members of society.
Vogel continues: “The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) developed a statistical model to predict the chances of Americans going to prison during their lifetime. Their model predicted that a young black man age sixteen in 1991 had a 28.5 percent chance of spending time in prison during his life. This prediction counts only felony convictions and does not include time spent in local or county jails. When social class differences within the black population are factored in, the prospect of poor black males being incarcerated is probably double this figure—closer to 60 percent. And, if we add the differential jail incarceration rates for blacks, a 75 percent likelihood of going to prison is not an unreasonable estimate.”
Concerning the past three months of jobs growth, incarcerated Americans have been and will continue to be uncounted in the official government jobless report. They now account for 2.1 million people, the highest number in the nation’s history.
Away from the big lockup, my neighbor is probably typical of the general public. He and countless other Americans have yet to see evidence of the improving economy.
“Unless the pace of job growth picks up dramatically, President Bush will be the first president since Herbert Hoover to face re-election with a net loss of jobs,” wrote Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Expect the Bush White House in the next year to sidestep that link to Hoover (1929-1933).