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.

What Is DSA? Training Call

May 30, 2017
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If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
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Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
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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.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

June 13, 2017
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Join Bill Barclay, Chicago DSA co-chair, and Peg Strobel, National Political Committee and Feminist Working Group co-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. 9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 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 Bill Barclay, chocolatehouse@sbcglobal.net.
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Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
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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
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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.