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Vol. 76/No. 8      February 27, 2012

US stats mask joblessness as
bosses deepen exploitation
(front page)
According to figures released by the Department of Labor, unemployment declined slightly in January. But like many government statistics, they contradict the reality confronting tens of millions of working people. Long-term unemployment is at record levels and young people are less likely to be employed than any time since World War II.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama in his newly released budget calls for tax breaks and subsidies to factory bosses with the promise this will create “American” jobs. In this nationalist framework, the representatives of the exploiting class in the Democratic and Republican parties hope to garner support from workers and their unions in the drive against working people at home and abroad.

In face of the worldwide economic crisis—rooted in a slowdown of production, employment and trade—the bosses only “solution” is to deepen the exploitation of working people.

“The economy is growing stronger. The recovery is speeding up,” said Obama Feb. 3 in response to the government’s announcement that the unemployment rate declined to 8.3 percent in January from 8.5 percent the previous month.

These figures are “dangerously misleading,” noted Mohamed el-Erian in a Washington Post opinion piece the same day. “In fact, our current unemployment crisis is a force for broad and disruptive economic, political and social dislocations.”

The Labor Department simply does not count growing numbers of workers without jobs, shoving them into a “not in labor force” category. A record 1.2 million people dropped out of the labor force in January from the previous month.

One statistic that cannot easily be manipulated is the percentage of the total population that is working. What is called the labor force participation rate stood at 63.7 percent in January—its lowest level in 29 years. So while unemployment supposedly is on the decline, the percentage of the population that has a job is decreasing.

Among those considered not in the labor force for purposes of the government’s calculation of the unemployment rate are “discouraged” workers and those whom the government claims haven’t looked for a job over the past month, counted in the January figures as being 2.8 million workers. Another 8.2 million unable to get full-time work have been forced into part-time hours. Young workers have suffered some of the biggest income declines and are having the greatest difficulty finding full-time work, according to a recent study by the PEW Research Center. The share of young adults 18-24 who are employed has dropped to 54.3 percent, the lowest level since 1948 when the government began keeping these figures.

For young people working full time, their weekly wages declined about 6 percent since 2007, as employers target wages and increasingly use two-tier wages to cut pay for new hires.

In the last quarter of 2011, 31 percent of those unemployed had been jobless for a year or more. Older workers were being hit the hardest with “more than 42 percent of unemployed workers older than 55 … out of work for at least a year,” reported PEW.

Obama’s budget proposal submitted to Congress Feb. 13 includes a variety of tax credits and subsidies to domestic manufacturers, including plans to cut corporate tax rates, details of which will be announced later this month, reported CNNMoney. The president claims these moves will spur bosses to expand hiring—a supposition not supported by actual experience of past government efforts to “stimulate” economic growth, which more than anything led to capitalists’ hoarding of cash and highlighted their reluctance to invest today in the expansion of employment and productive capacity.

In a Feb. 10 New York Times article titled “Why Manufacturing Still Matters,” Laura Tyson, former economic adviser to President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, hailed Obama’s plan as promoting “strong labor productivity” and “competitiveness of the United States,” code words for labor speedup and employers’ inroads against safety.

Pointing to the gains the U.S. rulers have already made along these lines, she wrote, “Between 2000 and 2011, American manufacturing employment declined by about 5.6 million while American manufacturing output … expanded by about 1 percent.”  
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