The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 76/No. 17      April 30, 2012

‘Recovery’= work harder,
longer and for less pay
(front page)
According to Labor Department statistics, the number of workers with jobs declined in March by 31,000, but the official unemployment rate also dropped by 0.1 percent to 8.2 percent. How can this be so? Because the government stopped counting another 164,000 workers.

While declining slightly over the past few months, these figures are indicative of a longer-term capitalist crisis rooted in a worldwide slowdown in production and trade, despite the current uptick in the business cycle.

In manufacturing, 37,000 jobs were added, according to the report. At the same time the average workweek fell, indicating lack of a basis for a longer-term hiring trend.

To shore up their profits, bosses have been ramping up worker “productivity” and cutting wages. Today the average wage for manufacturing is 2 percent below what is paid in the service industry, notes John Mauldin in his Frontline Thoughts newsletter.

Real disposal income rose by only 0.3 percent over the past year, notes fund manager John Hussman in his April 9 weekly report. This “is very much at odds with the job creation figures unless that job creation reflects extraordinarily low-paying jobs.”

About 40 percent of hiring in the past two years has been for the lowest paying jobs, such as those in retail and restaurants, according to a study by Wells Fargo Securities.

Hussman notes that many of the new jobs available since the officially declared end of the recession in June 2009 went to workers aged 55 and above, and usually at much lower wages.

Over this nearly three-year period employment for those over 55 rose by 2.96 million jobs, but total nonfarm payrolls grew by just 1.84 million jobs. This means the bosses eliminated 1.12 million jobs for those younger than 55, Hussman notes. “In short, what we’ve observed in the employment figures in not recovery, but desperation,” he says.

The percentage of the population the government counts as part of the labor force continues to decline, dropping 0.1 percent to 63.8 percent last month. The rate for men has been falling consistently from about 85 percent in the 1950s to about 70 percent today, with a steep plunge after 2007. Women’s participation rose until 1995, but has been gradually declining since 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The official unemployment rate for Blacks is 14 percent, about twice the rate for Caucasians. For Black youth 16- to 19-years-old, the rate is 40.5 percent.

Overall, one-quarter of youth younger than 20 are out of work. For the past three-and-a-half years their jobless rate has remained above 20 percent—a post-World War II record, notes the Christian Science Monitor.

Long-term unemployment remains at record-high levels with little change over the past couple of years. In February, 3.5 percent of the U.S. workforce was unemployed for more than six months.

Speculative bubble

According to the April 9 Wall Street Journal, a “rebound” in the economy is underway, “reflected in the stock market, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average at a four-year high.”

Under the circumstances of slowing production and trade, high stock prices are not a sign of recovery, but yet another indication of instability and crisis in the world capitalist system.

Stock market “investment” is one of a number of forms of speculative activity divorced from production that is being buoyed by government policies. At best this only postpones deeper crises.

Meanwhile, the bosses and their government are acting to solve their crisis the only way they can: by assaulting our living standards, job conditions, unions and dignity. And they seek to use the expanding reserve army of unemployed workers and resulting job competition as a bludgeon to accomplish that goal.  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home