Economy Still Limping: CPEG March Jobs Report

By Luis Diaz-Perez

A limping economy reflected in feeble jobs numbers and inadequate policy prescriptions – those are the conclusions to be drawn from the Department of Labor’s March jobs report and Federal Reserve Bank Chair Janet Yellen’s March 31 speech in Chicago.

The March jobs situation illustrates the problems of a static economy which added 192,000 jobs, down from February’s 197,000 jobs. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent. Unemployment among African Americans rose over the previous month, from 12 to 12.4 percent, while Latino unemployment decreased slightly from 8.1 to 7.9 percent.

The largest employment increases were registered in the category of Professional Services, 57,000 jobs; Food Services and Drinking Places, 30,000 jobs; Health Care, 19,000 jobs; and Construction, 19,000 jobs.

Civil service, once a mainstay of the employment picture in our big cities, continues to wither. Last month the federal government dropped 9,000 positions, as local governments added about 8,000 workers. Over the past year, federal government employment has fallen by 85,000 jobs.

The civilian labor force – the percentage of working age adults who are employed or looking for work – remains at a standstill. For March 2014, the figure is 63.2 percent, while in March 2013 it was 63.3 percent. The employment-population ratio of 58.9 percent is up slightly over March 2013’s 58.5 percent.

The long-term unemployed – those out of work more than six months – number 3.7 million. They represent 35.8 percent of the United States’ 10.5 million unemployed people who are looking for work. The average amount of time out-of-work Americans spend between jobs is now 35.6 weeks. Since extended jobless benefits were ended four months ago by the refusal of the U.S. House to pass an extension, 2.3 million people have been without this support, along with their 1.2 million dependent children.

If the US economy is understood to require job increases of 150,000 per month to keep pace with population growth, then it is clear the economy is not presently capable of generating the work needed to convert the unemployed into wage earners.  There simply don’t appear to be any indicators on the employment scene suggestive of an economy on the rise.

Under these circumstances, Janet Yellen was in the Chicago Political Economy Group’s hometown to put a shiny gloss on this bleak picture in a talk entitled “What the Federal Reserve Is Doing to Promote a Stronger Job Market.”

Yellen described a slack labor market where significantly more people are willing and capable of filling a job than there are jobs for them to fill. She pointed to the seven million people working part time who would like a full-time job, a figure substantially higher than expected, given the official unemployment rate of 6.7 percent. Also, people are quitting their jobs at a rate below pre-recession levels because they know the next job will be awfully tough to find. Another element of slack is found in the high number of long-term unemployed. Finally, a labor force participation rate persistently below the pre-recession rate of 66 percent is further confirmation of slack.

Like any Fed Chair’s remarks, Yellen’s speech was peppered with messages to the financial sector, which needs constant reassurance that interest rates will remain bargain basement-low and that the central bank’s munificence will continue to flow its way. After being criticized for sending mixed signals after the Fed’s mid-March Open Markets Committee meeting, in Chicago Yellen sought to erase any confusion about the Fed’s position. Thus:

Recent steps by the Fed to reduce the rate of new securities purchases are not a lessening of this commitment, only a judgment that recent progress in the labor market means our aid for the recovery need not grow as quickly. Earlier this month, the Fed reiterated its overall commitment to maintain extraordinary support for the recovery for some time to come.

Those measures have produced a balance sheet made up of bonds and financial assets purchased in financial markets that has grown to $4.2 trillion – all motivated, said the Fed chair, “to spur economic activity and create jobs.” These policies are not only failing to bring about an economic recovery, but could instead be moving us towards another financial crash, whose effects could be even more devastating than our experience since 2008.

Despite Yellen’s assertions, Fed and government policy have yet to adequately respond to the economic crisis in a way that involves job creation. Instead, March was just another month of increasing long-term unemployment, stagnant job growth and a near-zero increase in the civilian labor force.

 

Luis_Diaz.jpgLuis Diaz-Perez is a Chicago writer interested in social justice and Latin American affairs. He is a member of the Chicago Political Economy Group.

 

 

 

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership.

Grassroots Fundraising: Paying for the Revolution (9pm Eastern)

June 23, 2017
· 46 rsvps

Are you new to socialist organizing? Or after many years do you still struggle, raising money from members when you need it but without a steady flow of income or budget to plan ahead? Are you afraid to tackle fundraising because it seems so daunting or you are uncomfortable asking people for money?

In this webinar, you will learn why fundraising is organizing, and how to do it – face to face, through fundraising events, and other ideas.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

Instructor:

  • Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

Training Details:

  1. Workshops are free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have preferably headphones or else speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt talt@igc.org.
  5. If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt schmittaj@gmail.com 608-355-6568.
  6. Participation requires that you register at least 21 hours in advance -- by midnight Thursday for Friday's webinar.

NOTE: This training is scheduled for 9:00pm Eastern Time (8pm Central, 7pm Mountain, 6pm Pacific, 5 pm Alaska, 3 pm Hawaii).

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

June 27, 2017
· 68 rsvps

Join DSA activist Judith Gardiner to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 9 pm ET, 8 pm CT, 7 pm MT, 6 pm PT.

Data Security for DSA Members

June 27, 2017

Ack! I googled myself and didn't like what I found!

WHAT: A DSA Webinar about "Doxing"
WHEN: 9PM EST, 6PM PST

We're proud of our organizing, and chapter work is transparent for both political and practical reasons. However, there are basic precautions you can take in this time of rapid DSA growth to protect your privacy.

Key Wiki is a website that meticulously documents DSA activity and posts it for the world to see. If you're an active DSA member, likely your name is on their website. This is an example of "doxing".

As DSA becomes larger, more visible, and more powerful, we might expect that more websites like this will pop up, and more of our members' information might be posted publicly on the web.

Join a live webinar on Tuesday, June 27 with data security expert Alison Macrina, to learn:

  1. what is doxing? with examples and ways to prevent it
  2. how to keep your passwords strong and your data secure
  3. where to find your personal info on the internet and how to get it removed
  4. social media best practices for DSA organizers
  5. what to do if you've already been doxed

Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/9173276528

Call-in Info: +1 408 638 0968
Meeting ID: 917 327 6528

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 11 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 8 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.