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 Labor News: Nothing to Celebrate:

HolidaysThis Labor Day, Don't Party, Organize and Raise Hell!

by: Dave Lindorff

This faux "workers’ holiday" on Monday is not a day for celebrating for American workers.

The official unemployment rate, just released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed unemployment in July to be 9.1%, which is exactly the same as the rate was in June, and which is an increase from the months in the spring. But that’s not even the real picture.

Worse than the official number of unemployed is the BLS’s official number of unemployed together with those who are part-time employed, usually in marginal low-paid jobs, but who want to work full-time. That figure hit 16.2% in July. Things are likely to get worse, though, because the BLS also reported at the same time that in August, no net new jobs were added in the U.S. -- the first time the new jobs figure was zero since 1945.

But even that is only part of the story of the miserable economic situation facing American workers. The BLS doesn’t even count people who have stopped trying to find a job because they’ve tried for so long unsuccessfully that they have realized the effort is pointless. Many of these are people who are now staying home, perhaps helping to raise children. Many others have decided to retire earlier than planned (and earlier than they can afford to). Adding these people to the mix raises the unemployed rate to 17.7%. ...

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The Gallup polling organization, which uses a different methodology to count the unemployed, found the total of unemployed and under-employed in August to be 9.1 and 9.4 percent respectively, or a total of 18.5%. That is up 0.5% from 18.0 percent in Gallup’s July survey.

All of these numbers still don’t tell the real story, though, but a little math can help.

According to the Census bureau, The growing US population adds roughly 2 million new workers each year. That means that the public and private sector have to create a net new 150,000 jobs each month just to keep up with the number of new people entering the work force. In fact, though, we haven’t seen a month with 150,000 new jobs in years, and in fact, over the last decade the U.S. has lost a net 3.4 million jobs.

In all, if you add up the 14.6 million people officially counted as unemployed, the 5.9 million who have given up trying to find a job, and the 8.5 million who are working part-time involuntarily, that gives us 30 million people who are desperate.

Remember, there are 310 million Americans, but many of them are under 18 or are in college or the military, are too disabled to work, or are over 65 and are no longer in the labor force. So that means that actually there are only 153 million in the labor force, so the real unemployment rate is is 19.6 percent, or approximately one in five working-age Americans.

No wonder that Gallup also found that 30 percent of Americans say that they are worried about becoming unemployed themselves. Remember, those worried people are folks who are still working, so they’re on top of the 20 percent who don’t have to worry about losing jobs because they are already out of work.

In other words, 50 percent of us are either out of work or worried about becoming jobless.

Meanwhile, those who are still working, according to the BLS, are getting shorter hours or are having their pay cut, so that those who are working are bringing home smaller paychecks.

This is the true picture facing the American people this Labor Day.

Now hold that picture up to the sorry reality of what our politicians, Republican and Democratic, are doing in Washington and in the various state capitals, which is cutting jobs, and cutting budgets.

Over the last several weeks, I have tried to go out with friends or family to one of the local restaurants we have long enjoyed on those occasional times when we choose to eat out. One day, when a friend came in from Europe, I tried three that I liked -- two Mexican restaurants and one Afghan restaurant. All had been closed down over the past two weeks! Another place, a popular salad restaurant, had closed two weeks earlier. Then late last night, when I went out with my wife after we’d both had a very busy workday, we found a long-established diner that we liked also closed down. That’s five of our favorite spots gone in one month’s time. We found another diner, but found ourselves, at 9:30 in the evening on a Friday night, the only ones at a table.

Something is clearly happening here. What all these folded restaurants had in common is that they were not pretentious. They were basic purveyors of good food at reasonable prices -- somewhere in the $9-12 per meal range. And if you think about it, that is exactly the kind of restaurant that ordinary working class Americans patronize -- people who can’t afford luxuries, and who eat out occasionally when they have to or when they want to take an evening off.

When times are hard, these people, and I include myself among them, don’t eat out as often, which would explain why all these little businesses are suddenly closed.

You can’t have a workforce under this kind of stress and hope keep the economy going.

And all those people who own and/or work in these little businesses that are folding join the burgeoning army of the unemployed.

Clearly this is no time for picnics and parades. This Labor Day should be a time for protests for radical speeches and for militant organizing of that army!


Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-area journalist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net

ThisCantBeHappening.net was founded in 2004 as a blog by Dave Lindorff in a quixotic one-man effort to afflict the powerful. As the site gained recognition and readers, Dave realized that it would take more than one journalist to cause any significant degree of affliction. He approached three long-time colleagues, John Grant, Linn Washington and Charles M. Young, and asked if they would be interested in joining him to form a news collective. All three, sharing Dave's profound frustration with the shallowness and fawning complicity of the establishment corporate media (and with the establishment not-for-profit media, too), signed on with alacrity and a shared desire to raise hell.


[05 September 2011]

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