The Complicated Dynamics of American Unemployment

According to MarketWatch,

Employers say they’re having difficulty filling jobs. Jobless Americans say they want to work. So what’s going on?

But a recent poll of 1,000 unemployed workers by CNBC and Morning Consult told a different story. Respondents said the trickle-down effect of job openings had not reached them — at least, not yet. Some 87% said they had not received job offers in the last six months.

Here’s what’s going on

First of all, we have to come to an agreement on what constitutes the unemployed. I’ve written on this before. The government inaccurately shows the current rate at 5.8%, which is wildly wrong-headed and they’ve been at this wildly wrong-headedness for decades.

The actual percentage is far more likely to be in the range of 40% and that’s a hell-of-a-lot of Americans, my friend.

How did they miss the mark by 700%?

In general, the unemployment rate in the United States is obtained by dividing the number of unemployed persons by the number of persons in the labor force (employed or unemployed) and multiplying that figure by 100. Which would be fine, but they don’t know how many are unemployed, nor do they know the size of the total labor force.

So, they’re dividing a number they don’t know by a number they don’t know and multiplying by 100. Sound like a solid basis upon which to start? I thought not.

But the Congress and all its members work with those fabricated numbers to decide whether or not Americans are doing okay in the workplace. Then they bicker back and forth about whose fault it is, throw up their hands and agree to increase the military budget before adjourning for a badly needed trickle-down martini.

Shaken, not stirred. Or is it stirred, not shaken? Anyway, two olives, everybody agrees it’s two olives.

So let’s count up what’s not counted

Your and my government doesn’t count those whose unemployment compensation has expired. They may not have jobs but, thank god, as far as the government is concerned they’re off the books. A person is counted as unemployed if he or she does not have a full-time, part-time, or temporary job, is actively looking for a job, and is currently available to be hired.

How they find these ‘persons’ is not disclosed. Maybe they peek under bridges or employ sniffer-dogs. The unemployed often have a slightly disagreeable not working odor.

A person is understood to be actively looking for a job if he or she has tried to obtain one (e.g., by filling out an employment application, sending a résumé, or having a job interview) within the preceding four weeks. If you simply sweat at the kitchen table, pouring over the want-ads (do they even have those anymore?) or walk the streets looking for help-wanted signs, you don’t count. It’s gotta be an application, résumé or interview. I know, résumé is hard to spell and harder to write if you’re looking for a blue-collar job because it’s French and the French are too intellectual to actually work. Go figure.

I don’t make this shit up. It’s in the government documents (except for the part about the French).

Get this: Persons who are only “marginally attached” to the labor market—those who want and are available for a job and have actively looked for a job within the preceding 12 months but not within the preceding four weeks—are considered neither employed nor unemployed and thus not part of the labor force.

Holy shit, I’m not out of a job, I’m only marginally attached. Well, thank god for that. Margie and the kids will sure be glad to hear it.

And then there’s the whole living-wage thing

I guess employers were thinking that workers would all stream back in grateful droves to the shit-jobs the pandemic sent them home from. But a lot of souls were searched during those long lock-down months and even the most desperate soul wants a shot at a decent wage.

So they’re slow to come back. Fifteen bucks is the new minimum, a least in the working-for-wages guy’s mind. They’re absolutely right, there’s nothing outrageous about earning thirty grand a year when you’re working forty-hour weeks.

So conservatives are throwing scary terms around

It’s what they do. You have to learn the scary language and pass all the tests or they won’t let you be a Republican. Stuff like rampant inflation and too generous welfare and the old disproven theory of higher wages means less jobs. It’s all in the  the conservative bible. But there’s a song about that:

It ain’t necessarily so. No it ain’t necessarily so. The things that you’re liable to read in the bible, it ain’t necessarily so.

Inflation comes from scarcity, but when prices rise because wages rise, it’s a sign of a healthy middle-class returning. Too generous welfare is simply a lie by those who never had to live on it. As for higher wages meaning less jobs, that’s balderdash (a really great word no one uses anymore). Work still has to be done and the economy thrives when bus-boys have enough cash to drop in at Wal-Mart on the way home.

We’re moving inexorably back toward a single-worker family income

And that’s wonderful news for everyone. Child-care is not only expensive, but kids need a parent at home. Don’t count on that parent being a woman. There’s a quietude that spreads across a family when dinners are away from the TV, someone is there to prepare breakfast and weekends are spent in one another’s company.

The Chinese proverb says ‘may you live in interesting times’ and these are certainly interesting times today. Education is changing and so is the definition of work. The world is turning electric and along with renewable energy the costs of manufacturing, as well as staying warm in winter and cool in summer are about to plummet.

What will we do with our fascinating new opportunities?

I haven’t the slightest clue.

The technology curve that has been rising slowly and steadily for the past several decades is now headed straight up. Google, Amazon and Tesla didn’t even exist thirty years ago. Young women are swarming into politics and, no matter the temporary friction, old white men are over in the hierarchies of business and politics.

It seems we’re about to reverse-engineer America

Cities will be greener. With the ability to work from almost anywhere, small towns will regenerate because the small-town life is so rich. Strip-malls are over, thank god. Greener, livelier, better designed and more amenable uses will be found for what we moved away from. I feel the doom-sayers are out of step.

Maybe with a little imagination, the entire planet will relax just a bit.





Image Credit: Associated Press

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