Reading the Employment Numbers: The Missing Workers

 
Hampton Roads Partnership/Flickr

By Bill Barclay

The July “Employment Situation” report from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has stimulated a range of responses. On the plus side for workers, over 200,000 additional people were employed compared to June. This extended the string of positive job numbers for private sector employers to 52 months, among the longest on record. Over the past 12 months, the U.S. economy has generated a little over 2 million new jobs.

 So, what can we say about who is and who isn’t employed?  And, are there any concerns that remain about the recovery from the “Great Recession?”

The answer to the latter question is, unfortunately, yes. And that yes is connected to who has – and more to who has not – the jobs that have been created over the five plus years since the official end of the Great Recession. 

The table below places the most recent employment numbers in context. The dates are (i) November 2007, the last month before the official onset of the Great Recession;  (ii) June 2009, the official end of the Great Recession; and (iii) the most recent Employment Situation report from the BLS (July 2014).

The total population of the U.S. has grown by almost 6.5 percent, or more than 8 million people, since the onset of the Great Recession. However, the number of people with jobs has barely increased – only 150,000 more people are employed than was the case in November 2007.  There are somewhat more women employed today than in November 2007 and somewhat fewer men employed. However, the big numbers are the people who are “not in the labor force.”  In 11/07 there were 30.2 million men and 48.9 million women classified as “not in the labor force,” or 79.1 million total; in July 2014 these numbers were 36.7 and 55.2 million, respectively, or 91.9 million in total. The civilian population grew by slightly over 15 million between 11/07 and 7/14; over 85 percent of this growth went into the “not in the labor force” category.

 

11/07

6/09

% Change, 11/07 – 6/09

7/14

% Change 11/07 – 7/14

Civilian Pop

232,939,000

235,659,000 

 1.17%

248,023,000

6.48%

Employed Pop

146,203,000

140,196,000

-4.11%

146,352,000

0.10%

Men Employed

78,614,000

73,777,000

-6.15%

77,866,000

-0.95%

Men not in Labor Force

30,204,000

31,532,000

4.40%

36,744,000

16.36%

Women Employed

 68,084,000

66,419,000

-2.45%

68,486,000

0.59%

Women not in Labor Force

48,865,000

49,197,000

0.68%

55,256,000

13.08%

The BLS defines “not in the labor force” as people neither employed nor unemployed, i.e. not holding a job nor looking for one. These can be people in school, taking care of family members – or people who have simply dropped out of the labor force because of lack of job opportunities. The latter can be thought of as “missing workers.”  Missing workers are not necessarily happy to be neither employed nor unemployed. Many would be employed (and others would be actively seeking employment, thus classified as “unemployed”) if the US economy were working for us all. The most recent estimate of the number of “missing workers” – people who, in a well-functioning economy would be in the labor force – is almost 5.9 million people. Over half are people in the 25-54 age range, prime working years.

The lack of income for missing workers is frequently a story of careers cut short, dreams deferred, hopes destroyed. These are personal tragedies that, in an economy organized for people rather than for profits, would not occur. However, even if this does not move you, think about the economic loss that we suffer: the foregone output from 5.9 million missing workers is over $2 trillion.

The private sector has demonstrated that it can generate a modest level of employment growth. However, the result remains one of labor market stagnation and missing workers. Without public action – government job creation – the U.S. economy will continue to fail the fundamental test that all modern economies should meet: to generate living-wage jobs for all willing and able to work.

In early July, the Chicago Political Economy Group joined other groups from around the country in Washington D.C. to demand that Congress respond to the continuing failure of our economy. Of course Rep. John Conyers’ HR 1000, the 21st Century Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act, was a major focus. Equally important, however, we created a National Jobs for All Network. The Network is now planning actions for a fall campaign around the jobs: stay tuned.

  Bill Barclay is on the Steering Committee of Chicago DSA, is a founding member of the Chicago Political Economy Group and serves as DSA National Member Organizer.

 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.

 


Showing 2 reactions


@DemSocialists tweeted this page. 2014-08-05 13:22:59 -0400
Reading the Employment Numbers: The Missing Workers http://www.dsausa.org/the_missing_workers?recruiter_id=9856
Maria Svart, DSA National Director posted about Reading the Employment Numbers: The Missing Workers on Maria Svart, DSA National Director's Facebook page 2014-08-05 13:22:59 -0400
Reading the Employment Numbers: The Missing Workers

Starting a Local Chapter from Scratch (9pm Eastern)

October 04, 2016 · 8 rsvps
Webinar, RSVP required for sign in information

So you are now a member of DSA, but there is no local chapter where you live. You are thinking of starting a local chapter, but you're not quite sure how to do it.

In Starting a Local Chapter from Scratch you will learn:

  • how other locals got started in recent years
  • how to find out who is already a member
  • the importance of a comrade
  • how to recruit new members
  • the importance of a mentor
  • how to become a recognized organizing committee
  • how to become a chartered local
  • what works best to bring new people in.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

Instructor:

  • Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

Training Details:

  1. Workshops are free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have preferably headphones or else speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt talt@igc.org 607-280-7649.
  5. If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt schmittaj@gmail.com 608-355-6568.
  6. You can participate in every webinar or just attend once in a while.
  7. Workshops will generally be on weekends or evenings.
  8. Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance -- by midnight Sunday for Tuesday's webinar.

NOTE: This training is scheduled for 9:00pm Eastern Time (8pm Central, 7pm Mountain, 6pm Pacific, 5pm Alaska, 3 pm Hawaii).

Share

DSA New Member Orientation Call

October 19, 2016 · 22 rsvps
DSA New Member Orientation

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.

Share