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: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 44 rsvps
The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion. Watch the film prior to the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.

How to Plug in New Members

February 01, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Is your DSA chapter growing quickly and you're trying desperately to find ways to plug new members into your chapter's work? Never fear! On this conference call an experienced DSA organizer will go over the basics of new member outreach and developing a plan for plugging new members into your chapter's work. Most of the call will be devoted to troubleshooting specific issues you're facing, so please brainstorm some issues beforehand that you want to bring up on the call.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 7 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Salt of the Earth

February 05, 2017
· 8 rsvps

Join DSA members Shelby Murphy and Deborah Rosenfelt in discussing Salt of the Earth, a captivating film made in 1954 by blacklisted writers and actors about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Well before the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s, these filmmakers were exploring gender inequality and solidarity. Available on Netflix.

Shelby Murphy is a Latina from Texas and former Young Democratic Socialists co-chair. Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Deborah Rosenfelt researched the making of the film and its aftermath for the reissued screenplay. Here is her blogpost about the film.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

February 15, 2017
· 61 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: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 3 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 check out their short the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 2 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.