Every month the Bureau of Labor Statistics issues the "official" data on the number of jobs added or lost, and gives us the "headline" unemployment rate. Each month (this year) these magic numbers are used to assess the chances of the presidential candidates. Yadda, yadda, yadda...
Let me explain what's going on here. I should have done this explicitly a long time ago. What is this weird focus on the monthly jobs report all about?
It's about Americans, and especially the Powers That Be, desperately wanting to feel OK about themselves. If only we could get that unemployment rate down to around 4-5%, which used to be considered full employment, we Americans would be OK again. That's why it's such a disappointment when the numbers fall short of our hopeful, inflated expectations. When the numbers fall short, we don't feel OK yet.
In short, the false pretence of the moneyed elites, their willing servants, craven politicians, various and sundry ass-kissers, wretched economists and media fools is to define OK-ness as full employment.
Well, you might say, that's reasonable, isn't it? More people would have jobs. We'd be OK then, right?
No! We would not be OK. If you buy into this pretence, this much-desired change would only cover-up and bury the structural imbalances and gross inequities in American society, which is precisely what the powerful want to do. Here's a short list of things which would not be OK even if we had full employment—
- wages — most of those who have found jobs since 2009 have lost income. They are either working part-time as opposed to full-time, or they have gotten full-time jobs which pay lower wages than they used to get. The trend toward lower pay is irreversible in so far as globalization and "free" trade agreements created downward pressure on wages everywhere, including the United States. If millions of Americans got lousy, low-paying jobs tomorrow, and that was enough to bring the unemployment rate down to 5%, would we be OK? I think not. You may have heard that Apple gave the "genius" service workers who man those glitzy Apple Stores a small wage increase. Those glorified retail clerks had been grossly underpaid before. Now those lucky workers are simply underpaid.
- inequality — Would the creation of millions of lousy jobs tomorrow change the wealth & income inequality picture in America? No. It would only cast that inequality in stone. There would be the haves, the have nots, and otherwise Americans would be pretending that everything is OK. But we would not be OK. For example, the Lords of Finance would still be sucking the people dry in so far as many of them wouldn't be able to make ends meet because their jobs don't pay enough.
- indebtedness — Would the creation of millions of lousy jobs tomorrow change the debt picture in America? No. It would only marginally increase the ability of financially oppressed people to pay money to the banks. Or the government—if all the 20-somethings had lousy low-paying service jobs, would that help them pay off their overwhelming student loan debt? Only marginally. But since everything would be OK, nobody would worry so much about the ongoing creation of debt slaves with little opportunity to better themselves. And what about the 25-30 million "homeowners" who are underwater? (Their mortgage debt exceeds the value of their house.) Would these new jobs help them? Not much, not if only a relatively few people get paid enough to buy a house and start a family.
I can't cover everything today which would not be OK even if we had full employment. It's a long list.
So overstating the importance of the monthly jobs report is another form of self-delusion in the general case, and as far as the elites are concerned, it is a useful fiction. Although the goal of full employment is desirable, it is also the Sweep Our Problems Under The Rug solution.
Jobs are not the real issue. American standards of living are the real issue. If we achieved full employment of the sort discussed here, which seems to be our only option, the acceptance of ever lower standards of living would become even more entrenched than it is right now.
And now I see that it is 8:39 AM, and I have just heard on National Propaganda Radio that we've had another "disappointing" jobs report. Apparently, a mere 80,000 lousy, low-paying jobs were created in June. And the"official" unemployment rate is still 8.2%. We find this in the report—
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was essentially unchanged at 8.2 million. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.
These "involuntary part-time workers" have jobs. They are not among the unemployed. And it's not OK.
There will be another Saturday Oil Report tomorrow. Have a nice weekend.
Bonus Video — Bob Seger's Fire Lake. Why? Why not? Love it.