Quick Links

A few quick links before the weekend:

  • The New York Times had a good piece by Steven Greenhouse on the Worker Defense Project in Austin, which we covered back in our Sept/Oct 2009 annual labor issue, Building a Better Austin from Below, by Carlos Pérez de Alejo.  (Scroll down Carlos’s article to find the video with a hilarious remixed video of Rick Perry seeming unconcerned about the high mortality rate in Texas’s construction industry. Yes, if you were reading D&S three years before the presidential primaries, you would not have been surprised in the least by Perry’s famous deer-in-the-headlights, “Oops!” moment.)
  • Great blog post by Michael Perelman on How Those Greedy Workers’ Pensions Destroy the Economy–Or Not
  • .Did you hear about how Oprah charged a Swiss shop clerk with racism for telling her that she wouldn’t be able to afford the $26K handbag she asked to inspect?  See the Guardian story. A quiz: what’s more disgusting–this instance of racism, or the fact that anyone can afford, or would buy, a $26K handbag?
  • Last but not least, the latest CPEG jobs report, on the BLS July jobs report, by Luis Perez, in full here (good preview for our upcoming feature story by Nicole Aschoff, “Take This McJob and Shove It,” about the wave of activism among low-wage workers):

The BLS labor market bulletin for July reports total non-farm employment increased by 162,000 jobs and the unemployment rate inched down to 7.4 percent (down 0.2 percentage points from 7.6% in June). A closer look at the fine print of the gross statistics reveals that structural problems remain.

The report includes a downward revision of 26,000 from the previously reported May (175,000) and June (195,000) jobs’ totals. Thus the reported 162,000 jobs gain is in fact 13,000 below a 3 month average of 175,000.

Part of the drop in unemployment is accounted for by drop outs from the labor market (the so-called discouraged workers). The labor force participation rate declined 0.1% (from 63.5 to 63.4%), while the portion of the population employed remained at 58.7%. So despite the decline in the unemployment rate the number of workers unable to find work increased and no new jobs were created relative to the size of the working age population.

Moreover 52.5 percent of jobs (85,000 of 162,000) were generated in the low wage sectors of Retail Trade (47,000) and Leisure and Hospitality (38,000). This is likely a factor behind the decline in average weekly earnings. Relative to June, average weekly earnings (Private non-farm industries) were down $3.09 overall. While in Retail Trade and Leisure / hospitality, the sectors accounting for half of all growth, the declines were 90 cents and 83 cents respectively. The number of average weekly hours remained the same for both these sectors, which is to say that within the ‘growth’ industries, workers saw no improvement in their incomes. In addition to the 11.5 million officially unemployed, 8.2 million workers remain ‘persons employed part time for economic reasons’, more accurately the under-employed, people whose hours were cut or for whom full-time employment is unavailable.

These low wage job additions for July are neither one months’ ‘noise’ nor a seasonal summer uptick, but rather in line with the deliberate design of a low wage / part-time neo-liberal economy. The data are further confirmation that 69 months from the December 2008 start of the Lesser Depression, and 51 months from the beginning official “expansion” in June 2009, the private sector is incapable of generating job creation and a recovery. We reiterate again the call for a jobs program. Short of a committed national policy program along these lines we will be treated to recurring monthly bulletins on the ongoing Lesser Depression.

That’s it for now–happy weekend!

–Chris Sturr

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