Jobs, Unemployment, the Economy …. is this the new norm?
This past week’s jobs report announcing a 227,000 monthly jobs gain, with an 8.3% unemployment figure holding steady, has certainly got the Administration and its acolytes cheering. Recovery’s on its way. However, I’m more inclined to believe Gallup’s report which has mid-February’s unemployment at 9.1%. This jobs report reminded me of an msnbc.com article I read about a month ago. That article along with some extra digging I’ve done, leads me to wonder if there’s something radically wrong with this picture. Oh, I know, a job is a job, especially when you’ve been out of work, trust me, I’ve been there. But it’s what kind of jobs that are being created, not only the number. And is the trend of kind, the new norm? As for unemployment, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, (h/t Zero Hedge) estimates that we won’t be returning to the pre-recession Dec 2007 employment picture until 2021.
In February, when the Bureau of Labor & Statistics (BLS) released its jobs report, MSNBC.com featured an article, “Here’s where the jobs will (and won’t) be by 2020” based on the report. The article covered which occupations would experience the most significant gains in employment through 2020. When I read through the list, what struck me was that these jobs are all service-related jobs, and with the exception of one, possibly two, the jobs were all what most people might deem, low to average wage jobs. I dug deeper into this report on the BLS website, and found that of the 30 occupations BLS has listed that in their estimation that will achieve the largest employment growth:
- 5 occupations had a 2010 median annual wage of under $20,000
- 12 occupations between $20-$30k
- 5 occupations between $30-$40k
- 3 occupations between $40-$50k
- 2 occupations between $50-$60k
- 2 occupations between $60-$70k
- 1 occupation over $100k
The bottom line – of the 30 occupations, 22 or 73%, have 2010 annual median wages of under $40,000/year. How can the US remain an economic superpower if instead of revitalizing our manufacturing and industrial base, and training our people in the skills that are required to utilize technology innovations, we become a services-oriented economy. Another website, wantedanalytics.com also published their statistics as to trends in occupational hiring based upon job advertisements in major cities. Currently, a slightly better outlook, but equally as telling and worrisome.
Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, and someone whom I’ve disagreed with on countless occasions, is also sounding the warning bell. In a recent article carried in the UK online publication, The Guardian, Reich warns that the US economic recovery is still feeble, and can still stall out. Consumer spending fuels approximately 70% of economic activity, and that activity has been “anemic.” The depressed housing market is still heavily weighing consumers opening up their pocketbooks. And I can personally speak to that after watching my home’s value decrease 47%, while my property taxes keep rising.
Like millions of Americans who drive, I filled my gas tank yesterday. On Wednesday, the gas was $3.99/gal for regular. Three days later I paid $4.09/gal. As I stood there filling my tank, I looked around at the other people doing the same, the kind of cars they drove, the grimaces, or lack of, on their faces, and other assorted body language. I came away with a collective feeling of resignation. Not that I expected ranting and raving, or people kicking the gas pump, but I wondered whether people are accepting that these prices are “the new norm,” or if I was misreading a simmering undercurrent. Because with moi, the undercurrent is not simmering, it’s boiling.
SO, what say you?