Category Archives: Jobs

Forty Years Of WOW – The War On Workers – In America

Here’s another dog-bites-man story, an economic tale of today’s America that only a Republican could love or ignore or feign surprise at. TPM’s Brian Beutler points us to a preview of the Economic Policy Institute’s forthcoming publication, “The State of Working America,” and the state is… not good. The preview, “The wedges between productivity and median compensation growth” by Lawrence Mishel, informs us that from 1948 (my birth year) to 2011, while worker productivity has gained 254.3% in a more or less straight-line increase, hourly compensation has gained only 113.1% in the same time period. The hourly compensation curve tracks the productivity curve up to the early 1970s, but then flattens out as wages have stagnated for four decades. See the linked EPI article for those graphs.

Another graph is more interesting. This one shows productivity gains from 1973 to 2011… more or less my working lifetime… about 80.4%, again in a more-or-less straight line… and median hourly compensation, by gender. Median male compensation has increased almost not at all… 0.1%. Overall median hourly compensation has increased only 10.7%… remember, this is in the face of an 80% productivity gain.

Average hourly compensation has grown by 39.2%, vastly more than median hourly compensation gains, which means most of the gains by both women and men have gone to higher-paid workers. Median female compensation has grown by only 33.2%, in other words, nowhere close to the average though well above the both-genders median. (I assume the much higher gains for women are because equal-pay laws have somewhat ameliorated the unconscionable underpayment of women in earlier decades.) Here is the graph:


I said at the beginning that this is a dog-bites-man story. If you are a working-class, working-age American, you scarcely need to be told that you are working harder and more hours while your personal economic situation is simply not improving. Of course there are exceptions, but remember the above graph deals in the median… the most typical numbers… and the average numbers. On the whole, all those productivity gains meant profit gains for your employers. Well and good; there’s nothing immoral about profit… unless it is not shared with the people who make it possible. And those are the workers in America who are just plain not getting a fair deal. We’ve doubled our productivity and gotten squat for our reward. That is wrong.

As someone once said on the ancient 1960s/1970s comedy TV show Laugh-In, “We upped our work production… up yours!” It was funnier before it became a true rendition of the attitude of the 1% toward the 99%.

Obama Caves Again #285714

Obama scheduled a major policy speech to Congress on jobs for Sept. 7. That happens to be the same date as one of the three Republican presidential candidate debates.

John Boehner objected. Obama promptly conceded the date, and rescheduled his major speech to Congress for Sept. 8.

At first, I thought Obama was just a coward, and that may still be true. But his real motivation in sacrificing urgent national policy to Republican presidential politics is much simpler…


Is there any part of that statement you don’t understand?

Unemployed? Don’t Bother Applying

I suppose I’m still too naive, or perhaps I simply haven’t run head-on into this one, via Susie Madrak from HuffPost:

Employers are still discriminating against unemployed people in their online job ads despite an increase of scrutiny on hiring practices, a new report by the National Employment Law Project has found.

HuffPost reported back in June 2010 that a number of job postings on sites such as Craigslist, and explicitly ruled out jobless applicants using the language “must be currently employed,” or “no unemployed candidates will be considered.” According to the new NELP survey of a number of “heavily-trafficked job posting websites,” employers have continued to screen out applicants solely because they are unemployed.

“This pernicious practice adds a tremendous burden for unemployed workers as they look for jobs,” said Christine Owens, executive director of NELP. “For the millions of jobless Americans struggling to climb out of the deepest job hole in many decades, nothing can be more demoralizing than the double-whammy of losing a job and then learning they will not be considered for new positions because they are not currently working.”

A bill prohibiting this practice has been introduced by two Democrats in the House, the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011, but in a Republican-controlled chamber, I wouldn’t bet on it. Hell, if by a miracle it passed the House, I’m not sure I’d bet on the Senate to pass it, or if they did, I’m sure I’d bet against Hopey-Changey signing it.

Krugman: Economic Recovery Need Not Be Slow

… but a fatalistic approach could make it slow. So what approach should we take?

We are not, after all, suffering from supply-side problems. We don’t have high unemployment because workers lack the necessary skills, or are stuck in the wrong industries or in the wrong locations. The hypothesis that we’re mainly suffering structural unemployment has been repeatedly shot down by evidence. This is a demand-side slump; all we need to do is create more demand.

That’s it, in a nutshell. And governments have the tools to create demand even when short-term interest rates are already effectively zero. Krugman offers more on what we could be doing… putting aside the political question… to get people back to work.


Dean Baker: Make Short Work Of Unemployment

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and regular economics columnist at, suggests the German solution to the problem of unemployment:

The model here is Germany. It has used a “short work” policy to keep the unemployment rate down – at very low cost to the government. Its unemployment rate today is 0.5 percentage points lower than it was at the start of the downturn, even though the German economy actually has grown less than the US economy over this period.

There are many different packages that fit the short work scheme, but the basic story would be that rather than having a firm lay off 20% its workers, the government encourages the firm to cut their work time by 20%. The government directly replaces 60% of the lost wages (12% of the total wages); it has the company replace 20% (4% of total wages); and leaves the worker taking home 4% less and working 20% fewer hours.

The cost should be about the same as the unemployment insurance benefit that workers would have received if they were laid off, but the short work policy keeps them employed. This has two major benefits. From the standpoint of employers, they have workers available whose hours can be quickly increased if demand picks up. This saves them the need to find and train new workers.

From the standpoint of workers, this keeps them employed and tied to the workforce. They maintain their skills (Germany also offer training subsidies that can be used in many cases), and they don’t run the risk of becoming unemployable as a result of long-term unemployment. …

I realize this is far too sensible for the ideologues running our government at the moment. But perhaps when the unemployed here grow so numerous that they begin to block the entrances to the gated communities of the obscenely wealthy, some consideration may be given to an approach that actually… you know… works.


Headline Of The Week, Err, Last Week

It’s from Dave Johnson on the Campaign for America’s Future blog:

Republicans Demand Layoffs As Cure For Job Losses

In response to today’s terrible jobs report Republicans are demanding that even more government employees, contractors and others lose their jobs. They also demand that even more construction workers and others receiving government contracts lose their jobs, too. They want to do more of what they did in the Bush years, which led to this mess. If we do what they want to do it will send us into a depression.

What more is there to say. Self-contradiction, thy name is Republican…