Our economy is supposed to be in a recovery mode following the Great Recession of 2007…according to the government the recession ended in 2009. You’d never know it given the number of people who continue to be unemployed and cannot find decent work in this country.
The unemployment rate in the US was last reported in October 2010 at 9.6%. From 1948 until 2010 the US unemployment rate averaged 5.7% reaching an historical high of 10.8% in November of 1982 and a record low of 2.5% in May of 1953. The labor force is defined as the number of people employed plus the unemployed but seeking work. The non-labor force includes those who are not looking for work, those who are institutionalized and those serving in the military.
There are approximately 154 million Americans employed in the US and the Bureau of Labor Statistics claim the 9.6% rate as being accurate. If their figures were true only 14.9 million people would be classified as unemployed and collecting benefits. However, the Bureau uses outdated methods to count the unemployed and no longer counts those individuals who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, those that are underemployed or those who want work but have simply stopped looking because they haven’t been able to find a decent job. When those individuals are counted, and rightfully so, the current unemployment rate is about 16.5% which means that the actual number of people who are unemployed tally to 25.4 million. That’s the highest true unemployment rate in over seventy-eight years. For comparison, consider that in 1932 during the Great Depression the rate was calculated at 23.6%.
Structural changes in employment that developed because of globalization of labor in the past twenty years have led to the loss of millions of American jobs. In particular, white collar employment and those at the lowest employment level have suffered the most. The disparity between white collar and blue collar unemployment is stunning: 4.5% among college graduates versus 10.8% for those with high school diplomas, and 14.3% for those who have not graduated from high school. And these rates are from the Bureau so the actual rates for these categories are considerable higher. Minority unemployment rates are even more dismal.
From its peak of 19.5 million manufacturing jobs in 1979 those jobs declined, on average, by about 1.5 million jobs a decade until 2001. Then the declining rate increased from 2001 to 2007 when we lost another 2.5 manufacturing jobs to globalization. The majority of products, services and development still are being done, just not in America. Finally, during the Great Recession an additional 2.5 million jobs were lost again.
White collar jobs associated with this decline will not return anytime soon. They continue to be shipped off to other countries as technology makes accounting, engineering and manufacturing more profitable for US producers off-shore. These were high paying, rewarding, and sometimes creative positions that many times were tied to future employment opportunities. Gone!
The Congress just failed to pass an extension of unemployment benefits for those long-termed unemployed. Once again, our politicians fail to recognize the severe structural changes that have occurred in American labor. Their short-sighted analysis of believing something as unconvincing as that the US government might be pampering and enabling those people who’ve been unemployed so long is unbelievable. The long-term unemployed use these benefits to fund things like, food, shelter, gasoline, utilities, etc., not for trips to the Bahamas like many politicians get paid for by lobbyists, under the table of course, because we now have laws outlawing direct payment by our lobbyist friends. Our respected representatives can’t seem to see that the money from unemployment benefits that is spent in the economy, along with the multiplier economic effect, might actually create jobs.
When will our legislators, particularly Republicans, wake up to current economic reality? Trickle down economics never worked, taxing the rich actually would help our economy to beat down some of the national debt, and taxing corporations for the jobs they take off-shore would also generate revenues for the same purpose and maybe make US corporations look to create more jobs here in America. The cost of the Congress’ mistakes to those that cannot find work, will not find work, and are hanging on by a thread is becoming unbearable to too many.
“When men are employed, they are best contented; for on the days they worked they were good-natured and cheerful, and, with the consciousness of having done a good day’s work, they spent the evening jollily; but on our idle days the were mutinous and quarrelsome.”
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)