Jobs Growth Veers Off Course - and a Remedy

flickrchicagopullman.jpg
Flickr/Chicago Pullman

By Sidney Hollander

In a shocking rebuke to the capitalist triumphalism of the last year or so, the “slow but steady” jobs growth of the last six months veered sharply off course in August, with net new job creation dropping from an expected 220,000-230,000 to only 142,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Even the tiny downward tick in the unemployment rate, from 6.2% to 6.1%, was caused not by the paltry increase in the number of employed workers (16,000), but by the now-familiar shrinking of the labor force, this time by 268,000.

The long-term decline in the labor force participation rate has been a central concern of CPEG since before the onset of the Lesser Depression.  Then, as now, it speaks directly to the exorbitant human cost of inadequate job creation that dooms millions of people to precarious lives in a world of little or no work in the formal economy.  The Chicago Political Economy Group (CPEG) paper “A Permanent Jobs Program for the U.S.” was drafted as a response to that long-term decline and its consequences.

Labor force participation fell from a high of 67.1% in 2000 to 66.1% in 2007, a seemingly small change that actually corresponded to a shortage of roughly 4 million jobs even before the fiscal crash.  The Lesser Depression, with its massive job destruction, drove the labor force participation rate down much further.  Initially it fell slightly, to 65.7%, at the depth of the recession (when most of the recently unemployed were still looking for work and had not dropped out of the labor force in large numbers.) Since then, however, the rate has fallen steadily during more than five years of “recovery” to 62.8% this August, implying a job shortage of approximately 15 million associated just with those potential workers who are not in the labor force but who would be if the rates that prevailed in the year 2000 prevailed now.  (A more complete discussion can be found in the CPEG analysis of the July Jobs Report.)

The inadequacy of job creation is widely acknowledged.  Some cling to the idea that we continue to experience a slow recovery; others see simple lack of demand or a longer-term failure to invest in the real economy, perhaps because of “secular stagnation,” perhaps because of the long-term exhaustion of good investment opportunities, perhaps because of a rise of rentiership; and still others see a debt overhang that will cripple investment until it is eliminated by a large destruction of capital.

Despite the diversity of explanations for inadequate job creation, there is one straightforward remedy: a government program of direct job creation like that proposed by CPEG more than five years ago.  Although it would almost certainly lead to secondary job creation, even if it did not it would employ many workers who will lack employment opportunities without it or some similar policy intervention that alters the current trajectory.

U.S. Representative John Conyers has introduced a bill that constitutes just such an intervention.  CPEG strongly supports HR 1000, The 21st Century Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act.  It would create and fund jobs and would also help to train some of the workers who would fill them. 

 Sydney_AIG.png Sidney Hollander 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. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

Lessons in Organizing from the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union

January 17, 2017
· 51 rsvps

Join DSA Vice-Chair Chris Riddiough to explore what we can learn from the work of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (1969-77), the largest of the socialist feminist women’s unions of the 1970s, which had a rock band, a graphics collective, the underground abortion collective JANE, and numerous other projects. Check out their website and join the discussion via internet connection.

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 41 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
· 10 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
· 7 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
· 42 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
· 1 rsvp

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.