It’s Still a Stagnant Recovery: Employment Report for June, 2013

The June unemployment situation, as depicted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its July 5 report, looks like May redux: Unemployment rate stuck at 7.6 percent; number of persons unemployed stuck at 11.8 million; number of persons unemployed for at least 27 weeks stuck at about 4.3 million or 36.7 percrnt of all unemployed persons. Even the increase in the number of persons employed (195,000 vs. 175,000 in May) was far too small to force a change in the long-term trajectory of job creation, which has averaged 182,000 per month over the last year.

This Lesser Depression has, indeed, been devastating, especially for the less educated, for African Americans, and for Latinos. After four full years of economic “recovery” the number of unemployed persons is still 5 million greater than it would be if the unemployment rate had dropped by now to its eve-of-Lesser Depression low of 4.4 percent (May, 2007.) And it should be noted that 4.4 percent unemployment is higher than its historic lows and probably does not represent “full employment.”

Anything close to full recovery is looking less and less likely. Allowing for population growth, which should supply the labor force with about 115,000 new job seekers each month, June’s 195,000 increase in the number of job-holders nets out to about 80,000 more than what is necessary to accommodate the new entrants. At that rate it will take about five more years to bring the official unemployment rate down to 4.4 percent. 

Further, the composition of the jobs-added category gives reason for concern. Manufacturing, which pays relatively well, actually lost jobs in June, whereas the largest gains were registered in the leisure and hospitality industries, in the health care and social assistance industries, and in temping. All of these latter are low-wage work. Taken together, they account for about 56 percent of June’s job growth, consistent with the pattern of replacing good jobs with bad jobs that has characterized the recovery.  Job growth at the very bottom of the wage scale will do little to build aggregate demand for goods and services to levels that would encourage employment-increasing investment by the private sector.

Dreadful as the Lesser Depression has been, the spread of the financial collapse to the real economy only accelerated trends that had already been undermining large segments of the working population for some years. Job creation, especially the creation of jobs with decent remuneration packages and working conditions, had withered for years under the neoliberal assault and its obsession with “lean production” and off-shoring.  Profits in the real economy rose, but largely because labor costs fell. 

In fact, there were fewer and fewer opportunities for profitable investment in decent jobs in the real economy. Investment went increasingly into finance, where profits and lucrative employment rose dramatically, especially on the housing bubble (which did support construction jobs for a time) but less and less of it went into good, permanent jobs that were accessible to the working class. 

Alarmed by these trends, about half a dozen years ago the Chicago Political Economics Group (CPEG) began to focus on the falling percentage of the working-age population that is employed. Because of weak job creation in the private sector, we saw that from 2000 until the downturn of the economy in 2007 the percentage fell by 1.4 percent, from 64.4 to 63 percent. That 1.4 percent translated into almost 3.25 million workers pushed into unemployment even in supposedly “good” times. Since then, an additional 10.6 million workers have suffered the same fate; employment fell after the financial collapse and has increased during the recovery not even as rapidly as the working age population has grown.

CPEG’s research led us to conclude that it made no sense to expect the private sector to reverse course and create enough good jobs to employ the people whom it had been discarding. We saw, and continue to see, a pressing need for a large, sustained public jobs program. (See “A Permanent Jobs Program for the U.S.”, cpegonline.org) That need was apparent before the onset of the Lesser Depression. It is even more apparent now as the failed recovery drags on.

The Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act (HR 1000) now has 36 co-sponsors. Is your representative one of them?    

Sid Hollander is a founding member of the Chicago Political Economy Group and a long-time member of Chicago DSA. He is retired from legislative work at the City of Chicago Department of Human Services and an active member of Chicago-based social justice organizations.

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.