Jobs and the U.S. Economy: Understanding the February 2013 Unemployment Report

So, what’s not to like about the US economy?  The stock market is making all time (nominal) highs, corporate profits at record levels, housing prices rising – well, maybe there’s still the question of jobs: the lack thereof. 

Today’s BLS jobs report is certainly better than many of those in the past year: 236,000 jobs created compared to the 2011 – 2012 averages, both of which were in the 150 - 155,000/month range. That level of job creation is sufficient to absorb new entrants plus 35 – 40,000 unemployed.  The level of job creation in February would provide about 120,000 jobs above the level of new labor market entrants.  However, the downward revision of the new jobs numbers for January 2013 leaves 2013 YTD with only 60,000/month job creation above the level necessary to provide jobs for new labor force entrants. 

Let’s put these numbers in context: there remain over 12 million officially unemployed and another almost 7 million people classified as “not in the labor force” but stating that they want a job.  Even at the rate of job creation for Feb 2013, it would take 158 months – 13 years – to provide jobs for all who seek them.  The experience of past recessions suggests that the actual number of jobs needed is actually greater than 19 million; when/if job creation picks up after a recession, many people who have given up looking for work return to seeking jobs. 

Another way of putting these numbers in context is to remember that there are 2.5 million fewer people employed today than in Dec 2007, the month that marks the beginning of the Great Recession.  Further, since that date, the same time the labor force has grown by almost 2 million and those “not in the labor force” have grown by 12 million.  Or you can just remember that if these 19 million people were standing shoulder to shoulder, they would stretch from Bangor Maine to Los Angele and back – and there would still be 2 million people not in that line.

When we break down the unemployed by gender, ethnicity and race, we find the long term patterns of unequal labor market access continuing.  While the Great Recession saw heavier job losses among males than females, over the past year males have accounted for 75% of total employment growth.  Comparing unemployment by race and ethnicity, the unemployment rate for African Americans is 13.8% and for Hispanics 9.6% vs. an overall unemployment rate of 7.7% and 6.8% for white workers. 

These are the figures.  But we must always remember that, behind the dry numbers, are stories of dreams destroyed, of families under stress that often exceeds the breaking point, of foreclosed homes because there is no money for the mortgages, and of lost potential for us all, both the unemployed and the employed.

It is, therefore fitting that Rep. John Conyers has announced plans to reintroduce his “21st Century Full Employment and Training Act” and that Rep. Ellison plans to reintroduce his bill that levies a small tax on the trading of financial assets with the revenues targeted to job creation.  DSA has endorsed both of these initiatives (see the national web site for literature on these proposals) and we remain convinced that recovery from the financial crisis and the subsequent economic stagnation requires much, much more than too many of our legislators in Washington have even conceived, much less done.  We must constantly push our political and economic elite to move off the dead end of deficits and instead recognize the needs of our people for full time, living wage employment.

Bill Barclay is on the steering committee of Chicago DSA, the DSA National Member Organizer, and with the Chicago Political Economy Group.

Film Discussion: When Abortion Was Illegal

March 26, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Directed by Dorothy Fadiman, When Abortion Was Illegal (1992, nominated for an Academy Award, Best Documentary Short Subject) reveals through first-person accounts the experiences of women seeking abortion before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973. We are one Supreme Court nominee away from a return in many states to back-alley abortions. Join Amanda Williams, Executive Director of the Lilith Fund, to discuss challenges to reproductive justice and abortion access. (Lilith Fund funds abortions for women in need in the Central and South Texas area.) Learn about how to participate in April Bowl-A-Thons to raise funds for low-income women. View the film here for free before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

March 30, 2017
· 36 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

LGBT Activism: A Brief History with Thoughts about the Future

April 01, 2017
· 50 rsvps

Historian John D'Emilio's presentation will do 3 things: Provide a brief explanation of how sexual and gender identities have emerged; provide an overview of the progression of LGBT activism since its origins in the 1950s, highlighting key moments of change; and, finally, suggest what issues, from a democratic socialist perspective, deserve prioritizing now. John co-authored Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, which was quoted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that ruled state sodomy laws unconstitutional. 1 pm ET; 12 pm CT; 11 am MT; 10 am PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Peg Strobel, peg.strobel@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 30 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT. Here's a blog post about PHIT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

April 04, 2017
· 53 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Joseph Schwartz, DSA Vice-Chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement.  9 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Joseph Schwartz, schwartzjoem@gmail.com.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Feminist Working Group

April 12, 2017
· 14 rsvps

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's and LGBTQ issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

April 16, 2017
· 6 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 9 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.