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(Mostly) Useful Government Numbers About Poverty, Jobs, Unemployment

The federal government generates millions of economic numbers in thousands of publications every year. Some of these publications can be useful for those of us who want to lift working-class living standards and build political support for shifting much more income to the working class and away from the ultra-rich households at the top of the income scale. But not all are as useful as they should be. I discuss and evaluate key publications in five areas. Much government information can be used to construct arguments for our side. The Poverty Line: A Failed Number Does the federal government regularly publish estimates of what a reasonably comfortable living standard would be for an average household?

A New Era Of Endless Labor Shortages?

Every so often a publication comes along that more or less perfectly captures the Zeitgeist of world business elites. So it was on the 26th of June when the McKinsey Global Institute issued a new report: “Help Wanted: Charting the Challenge of Tight Labor Markets in Advanced Economies.” The message its few pages of charts and text deliver is dire indeed: “Labor markets in advanced economies today are among the tightest in two decades, not merely a pandemic-induced blip but rather a long-term trend that may continue as workforces age.” This constraining labor market, the report claims, “means forgone economic output,” since employers are not able to “fill their excess job vacancies.”

Please Launch Workers United Against Mass Layoffs

It’s time for a new organization to protect working people from the plague of mass layoffs. Let’s call it, for now, Workers United Against Mass Layoffs. Given the United Autoworkers’ growing prestige, this seems like the ideal moment for the union to lead the fight against needless mass layoffs everywhere and for everyone. The United Autoworkers know all about mass layoffs.  Currently,  GM is laying off 1,314 workers across two plants in Michigan, and another 322 UAW members are losing their jobs at Missouri Central School Bus. They are not alone. 

How US Government Statistics Are Like The Bible

This week on February 2nd, the US Labor Department released its monthly jobs report for January. One of the Department's two surveys showed +353,000 jobs created in January. But a second report shows a drop in total employment in January of -1,070,000 full time and part-time jobs (and an additional -400,000 jobs if one includes unincorporated independent contractors jobs. So, like the Bible, one can find whatever one wants in the government job stats. So why the discrepancies between the two surveys in the monthly jobs report? One reason is that the two surveys have big differences in their methodologies (and underlying assumptions).

Claims Of Mass Workers Shortages And Layoffs; Read Between The Lines

In the midst of the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, in trying to justify the acceleration in global inflation – even before the war in Ukraine – the mainstream media was flooded with news about the so-called ‘Great Resignation’, blaming an apparent shortage of workers for widespread bottlenecks in the production of goods. Today, the same media is talking about large-scale redundancies and layoffs by corporations. The explanations offered for this apparent trend could lead one to draw conclusions that barely scratch the surface in terms of understanding the true root causes of these issues. This impacts not just the general public but also, most worryingly, policymakers who could be led to implement poorly designed policies that produce negative effects on people, their livelihoods and the wider economy.

Month After Unemployment Program Ended Was Worst For Job Growth

The federal unemployment benefit wasn’t the only pandemic aid program the Democrats let end, either. Federal bans on foreclosure and eviction were also allowed to lapse without renewal as well, along with a moratorium on student loan payments. An end to unemployment benefits, with such a large percentage of recipients being long-term unemployed, means that millions more are now exposed to the danger of eviction. Already, 1.4 million Americans said they expect to be evicted in the next two months, with another 2.3 million saying it was "somewhat likely" they would soon lose their homes. Nationwide, an estimated 7.7 million households are behind on rent, meaning as many as 15 million could become unhoused.

It’s A Wage And Workers Rights Shortage

As we approach Labor Day, America’s working people are deep into a protracted general strike. Millions are refusing to go back into low-wage, no-benefits jobs that require they abandon dignity and rights at the workplace door. Their struggle has brewed for 40 years as wages stagnated, benefits vanished and public policy offered working families little reprieve. Employers complain that too few people are returning to work, but America’s “labor shortage” is really a shortage of good wages and workers rights on the job. Recent jobs reports show an uptick in the numbers of workers returning to work, but payroll tallies are still more than 5 million shy of pre-pandemic levels.

Unemployment Cuts Made People Poorer Without Increasing Employment

Six academics, including Arin Dube and Suresh Naidu, released a paper last week estimating the impact of the massive unemployment benefit cuts that occurred in twenty-two states in June. The team was able to use bank transaction data and comparisons to unemployment benefit recipients in states that did not cut benefits to get precise estimates of both the employment and income effects of the policy change.

Workers Are Being Crushed By Unemployment Benefit Shutoffs

The war on jobless aid began on May 4, when Montana governor Greg Gianforte (R) announced that the state would cut off federal unemployment benefits at the end of June. “Montana is open for business again, but I hear from too many employers throughout our state who can’t find workers,” Gianforte said in a statement announcing the end to the benefits. “Nearly every sector in our economy faces a labor shortage.” The governor’s announcement catalyzed a movement among GOP governors across the country, who similarly declared their authority to prevent their residents from receiving benefits under the various federal COVID-related unemployment programs established by Congress last year. “This labor shortage is being created in large part by the supplemental unemployment payments that the federal government provides claimants on top of their state unemployment benefits,” South Carolina governor Henry McMaster (R) wrote to the state’s labor department.

Real Unemployment Is Three Times What They’re Telling Us

Southwest Harbor, Maine – As Congress gets set to debate the Biden Pandemic relief package, one of the favorite Republican lines is the contention that an economic recovery is already well underway. Pouring more money into an accelerating economy is likely to induce seventies style inflation. It is time, they argue, for a little cautionary austerity. However politically efficacious this line may be, rosy portraits of an expanding economy hide the chronic weakness of the US economy and especially the burdens imposed on poor and minority communities. Fear of inflation on the part of Republicans is insincere and ill timed.

Don’t Be Fooled: The Official Unemployment Numbers Are A Lie

The official unemployment rate now stands at 6.7%. But that doesn’t feel right, does it? Unless you live in a gated community, the reality on the ground feels more dire and more destitute. Behind that cheery 6.7% stand millions of uncounted people – uncounted by design. “’Underemployed’ would be the most accurate, but there’s not really a good definition,” A.K. says, responding to my question of how he would identify his employment status. “As a freelancer, we’re put aside to kind of fend for ourselves, even before all this.” He’s a freelance cinematographer and the owner of a production company. Now he’s working a part-time minimum wage job and getting production gigs where he can, a prospect that demands he put his health at risk to show up for in-person gigs.

2020 Ends With Almost Ten Million Fewer Jobs Than Before The Recession

On January 8, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the last jobs report of 2020, which is also the last jobs report we will receive while Trump is president—a presidency that has ushered in tragedies ranging from historic job losses to armed insurrection. The report showed that jobs fell by 140,000 in December—an unequivocal disaster for the state of the economic recovery. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the inadequate federal response, job growth waned throughout the fall and fell outright in December. The year ends with 9.8 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic recession hit in February and 546,000 fewer jobs than at the start of Trump’s presidency in January 2016.

Harvard Workers Left Out In The Cold

Harvard University’s campus has been dormant since last spring, and as COVID-19 cases rise through the winter, it’s unclear when normal classes will resume. The administration recently announced that the majority of the university’s staff would continue to work remotely through June 2021. For the janitorial staff, however, work never ended. Roughly 700 janitorial workers have held onto their jobs through the pandemic, maintaining their full union wages, even though in some cases they are working on a reduced schedule. But for hundreds of subcontracted frontline workers, next year may bring a round of layoffs at the worst possible time.

FDR Knew Exactly How To Solve Today’s Unemployment Crisis

Millions of Americans have joined the ranks of the unemployed, and government relief checks and savings are running out; meanwhile, the country still needs trillions of dollars in infrastructure. Putting the unemployed to work on those infrastructure projects seems an obvious solution, especially given that the $600 or $700 stimulus checks Congress is planning on issuing will do little to address the growing crisis. Various plans for solving the infrastructure crisis involving public-private partnerships have been proposed, but they’ll invariably result in private investors reaping the profits while the public bears the costs and liabilities.

Economic Consequences Of A Second Economic ‘Mitigation’ Bill

As of mid-December 2020 the US economy has begun showing increasing signs of an exceptionally weak 4th quarter, October-December, growth. After having collapsed -10.5% in the March-June 2020 period, followed by a partial ‘rebound’ (not sustained recovery) in the 3rd quarter, July-September 2020, the economy is now slowing rapidly once again. Dismal reports of consumer and especially retail sales in October-November appear driving the slowing growth—in turn driven by rising unemployment claims, a growing number of permanent layoffs by large businesses as the economy structurally changes long term, and, shorter term, by a sharp rise in Covid deaths, infections, and consequent partial shutdown of the services sector of the US economy throughout the US.
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