08 October 2010

Jobs Situation Still Ugly

Via Calculated Risk.

Part time employment for economic reasons is at record highs, the employment to population level is hovering at the lowest level in about 27 years, and is down by about six percent of the population since its peak in 2000. The percentage of people who have been unemployed for at least six months (about 4.0% of the workforce) is still near a record high although it is finally starting to ease a little. In short, still ugly.

If the trendlines are to be believed, we are about sixteen months from returning to the pre-recession employment situation, in other words, it will take until sometime around January 2012.


Maju said...

Six months?! You are being overly optimistic. The red line shows a trend downwards (in line with the "double dip" recession woes everybody is talking about). Even if you take the "ex-census" dotted line, it's so poorly steep that it'd take at least two years in the best case.

But I am not that optimistic and I forecast instead that pre-recession employment levels will never recover without a revolutionary change. Why? Because this is how Big Capital manages the crisis they have created with their bubbles (Ponzi-schemes by another name): placing the burden on the people, on the working class. Only by creating a huge unemployed underclass can they impose lower salaries and much worse working conditions, because only under such situation will workers accept whatever is offered to them, even if it's obviously a shitty job.

We are now in the process of thirdworldization of former "First World" semi-privileged working classes. That's a fact, I fear.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Not six months. Sixteen. If I wrote something different, I'll correct the typo.

I would suggest that "Big Capital" certainly has no interest in creating a huge unemployed underclass. They may not have a lot of incentive to solve that problem either, but there is more neglect than malice at work.

Nobody even has enough of a handle on the economy to think in those terms.

Jobs will come back, with or without reform, history has shown that pretty persausively, sooner or later. But, the economy does need changes, some through government policy, some through the marketplace.

Working conditions aren't necessarily worse either. Workplace accident rates have fallen steadily for about forty years in the U.S., sexual harassmen and a lot of other intolerable behavior by employers is far less common, and wages rarely go unpaid or get paid in scrip as they once did. Health insurance will be mandatory by 2014 (far behind Europe, but progress).

Do Americans work longer hours than much of the world? Yes, although less than before WWII. Has pay been stagnant for less skilled workers? Yes.

Do anyone in power, in or out of government, have any idea how to solve unemployment? No.

Maju said...

My bad about the number of months, sorry. :(

"I would suggest that "Big Capital" certainly has no interest in creating a huge unemployed underclass".

Why not? Only the threat of unemployment will get people working in growingly worse conditions, in salaries, journey length and safety. Even illegally (underemployment) if need be. Labor costs are an important fraction of production costs. If most people is employed, they can demand better conditions more easily.

However it is true that they are damaging the markets that way. But they do not think in such a long term, not anymore.

"Jobs will come back, with or without reform"...

I live in a country that has got the worst unemployment figures of the developed world for some three decades now. I think I know what I am talking about when I say that massive unemployment is both sustainable and effective in forcing workers to become submissive. Even when the economy was good, unemployment was very high. Now it is horribly high (20% by official figures, surely more in reality).

Also I have made some analysis of what is going on with the draconian adjustments promoted by the IMF and Brussels all around EU and they clearly mean the following:

1. Most jobs can be outsourced to developing countries where pay is low and workers' rights almost zero.

2. There is not anymore a need to keep living conditions in the "First World" so high, specially as the bolshevik threat is apparently gone.

3. Someone has to pay for the crisis and it's not going to be the Oligarchy, whose wealth has not decreased the least overall since 2007.


Maju said...


"Workplace accident rates have fallen steadily for about forty years in the U.S."

Also in the last three years? I am talking about the crisis scenario. 40 years ago was 1970 and I was 2 years old: it's ancient history... and a historical scenario of the Cold War and with massive revolts very fresh. The "glorious Capitalist" tendency persisted, via the Credit Bubble, well into the 2000s but it's now totally blown up.

And Capitalism is now naked in its ugliness. And it does not care because people, raised in a context in which Capitalism used to work (somehow), in which politicians more or less managed to solve the problems, does not yet react to what is going on. They expect a prompt solution... but this time it just will not come. There will be ups and downs but it will be mostly down. This crisis has no precedent, not even that of the 1930s; this crisis is only comparable to the crisis of the late 18th century, which culminated with the revolutionary collapse of the Ancien Regime.

Remember this around 2016 or 2020, as it is very difficult to grasp the real extent of this collapse right now (unless one has some solid formation in Marxist economics, something they do not teach in universities).

"Do Americans work longer hours than much of the world?"

I'm not talking of US-Americans, I'm talking of the World, or at least what used to be known as the "First World" or "the West". Of course, what happens in the USA is central but it's also only part of the picture in this hyper-globalized reality we live in.

In the 1930s, the crisis produced a major leader: Franklin D. Roosevelt, who at least showed some capacity to lead the country ahead. The particulars can be discussed but statesmen were still possible back then. Now there is nothing like that in the horizon: all politicians are corrupted by the corporations and the oligarchs run the show.

This makes total sense considering the two very different sub-eras of the two crisis: Roosevelt, like Hitler, Stalin, De Gaulle or Gandhi, belongs to a period where personal leadership was still important and society was largely disciplined, as was production. Today nothing of that exists: we are in a pure Capitalist world where those old methods have long ago gone obsolete and nothing has been brought forward as replacement other than blind faith in "free markets" which are anything but free (unregulated oligopolization).

"Do anyone in power, in or out of government, have any idea how to solve unemployment? No".

There was never unemployment in the USSR. If anything there was lack of working force. However they had other problems, because they remained for too long in the disciplinary era and when they tried to move forwards it was probably 20 years too late.

But true: the exit way is not apparent at all now and won't probably be for some years. It's time to think hard.