very nearly didn't write a Labor Day Essay. For
one thing, I had already put up a link to a brilliant
piece Greg Palast wrote under "Other Voices" on
my website, and while I might be a fairly good
writer (opinions, including my own, vary), I'm
no Greg Palast.
then I saw a speech by Putsch in which he said
"the economy is strong and getting stronger."
Then the rich white trash at the WSJ had an amazing
piece called "The GOP is the party of the little
we're not going to get them out of office if we
just ignore their bare-faced lies, are we?
is trying to position himself as "the jobs President."
What makes this particularly ludicrous is that
he is about to become the first President since
Hoover to see a net loss in jobs over a full term.
One and a half million jobs, give or take.
reason I say "give or take" is because the government
lies its head off about the employment picture
- it started doing that long before Putsch, but
it's gotten worse in the past few years. For one
thing, they only count people who are on unemployment
benefits and actively seeking work. The reason
the Republican Congress didn't extend unemployment
benefits was because it lowers the unemployment
for all you folks out there whose unemployment
checks have stopped coming, and have just lost
their home and are wondering how the hell you're
going to feed your kids, congratulations! Your
sacrifice has lowered the unemployment rate and
allowed Putsch to call himself "the jobs president."
another factor. Along with the net loss of 1.5
million jobs, there's also the fact that the labor
force has grown by 4.3 million since Putsch took
office. That means there's nearly six million
more people looking for jobs now than there was
at the start of 2001.
it's a lot more honest to say there are six million
more people out of work now than there were in
2001. Some jobs president, eh?
way of looking at it is this way: In 2001 there
were 6.8 million unemployed, and 71.3 million
"not in the labor force" - that would be children,
students, retirees, stay-at-homes and the wealthy.
It does NOT include the millions who are in prison
and who, by serving time, serve the government
because their incarceration lowers the unemployment
rate, too. In 2003, the latest year BLS has figures
for, those numbers were 8.7 million & 74.6 million.
That's an increase of 5.2 million. So if that
was just a result of population growth, then the
labor force, which is roughly two thirds of the
total population, should have grown by 10.4 million
or so over the same period.
It only grew by 4.3 million. In fact, less than
that, since I was using 2003 numbers.
employed is a question-begging term. The definitions
that the BLS gives for "employed" versus "unemployed"
are mind-bogglingly lax. From their website http://www.bls.gov/cps/cps_faq.htm#Ques4:
persons consist of:
All persons who did any work for pay or profit
during the survey reference week. * All persons
who did at least 15 hours of unpaid work in a
family-operated enterprise. * All persons who
were temporarily absent from their regular jobs
because of illness, vacation, bad weather, industrial
dispute, or various personal reasons.
All persons who were not classified as employed
during the survey reference week, made specific
active efforts to find a job during the prior
4 weeks, and were available for work. * All persons
who were not working and were waiting to be called
back to a job from which they had been temporarily
you don't even have to get PAID to be employed.
And if you worked a half-hour at minimum wage,
by golly, you're employed! "Bad weather." Wow.
So all those hurricanes that hit Florida this
month must have really helped the unemployment
full-time labor force was 114.3 million in the
first quarter of 2001, and it is 114.1 million
now. If you think that means they didn't lose
as many full time jobs as part-time jobs, reflect
on this: they changed the definition of "full-time."
Full-time workers were defined as those maintaining
an average of 34 hours a week for a quarter. Now
they are defined as "usually working 35 hours
a week or more." That way, anyone who works full-time
for half the year is defined as full-time, period.
Cute, huh? But the number of full time jobs, according
to a different chart: (ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/special.requests/lf/aat37.txt)
is 100.3 million.
aren't going up. Less families can afford the
luxury of a stay-at-home mom or dad than could
three years ago, so that can't be it. In fact,
the BLS table for median hourly income shows an
interesting pattern. Average hourly wage was $8.03
in January 2001, and went up to $8.32 by December
2001. That sounds pretty impressive, except that
in July 2004, it was STILL $8.32 (all numbers
are 1982 dollars). Weekly earnings are even more
stagnant, reflecting the decrease in full time
jobs: $274.64/week in January 2001, $275.63 in
July 2004. Keep in mind that during that same
period, productivity soared by some 10%. A pity
none of that was shared with the workers, eh?
addition, Americans workers still have less paid
time off than any other developed nation, workers
still have virtually no rights and no job security
(except for union workers), and the government
just changed the rules so an estimated 16 million
workers will get cheated out of overtime.
don't worry, be happy. A poll, commissioned by
business for Labor Day, reports that most employees
are content with their jobs. If you read the fine
print, you find that they aren't content with
their pay, or the amount of time they get off,
but they like the work they do.
if the workers are told they are content, then
content they shall be!
Posted: September 7, 2004