May 8, 2017
Officials from both the Republican and Democratic parties hailed the government report that the unemployment rate had dropped to 4.4 per cent in April. “Great news,” said Trump’s Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta. “The momentum in the job market is really impressive,” said Jason Furman, who had been Obama’s chief economist.
Even the New York Times ran an article called, “We’re Getting Awfully Close to Full Employment.”
Full employment? Not at all – and the government’s own statistics show it. A much smaller part of the population has a job today compared to past decades. Today, after eight years of supposed economic recovery, the employed part of the population is as low as it was during the depths of the 1992 and 2001 recessions. And that’s for workers between 25 to 55 years old, or prime working age. If the older part of the workforce is included, it is even worse.
And what about all those “spiffy” new jobs that employers are supposed to be creating? Most of them pay such low wages and benefits, workers are either forced to work lots of overtime, or hold several jobs just to make ends meet.
And many of the jobs companies are offering aren’t even “jobs.” Instead of hiring more workers, companies are contracting out the work to individual workers, pretending that workers are really “entrepreneurs,” or one-person companies. For a company like Uber or Lyft, the advantage is that the contract employee has to bear almost all the costs that used to be covered by the company. So, after the contract employee deducts all these costs, they are lucky to be making the minimum wage. And most of the job growth in this recovery has been in contract, part-time, temporary or very low-paid full-time labor!
So, a growing number of workers don’t make enough money, or can’t get enough hours. They don’t have enough to live on. And they can’t get out from under the shadow of partial or full joblessness.
These horrible conditions are what Republican and Democratic officials, not to speak of the New York Times, call “full employment”!
Certainly, full employment is not only possible but necessary, in order to meet the basic needs of the working population. Millions of new jobs could be created just in order to build all the affordable housing, schools, and health care facilities, not to speak of decent parks and recreational facilities that we lack today. Millions more jobs could be created in order to repair the crumbling basic infrastructure, including roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, etc. And millions more new jobs could be created by properly staffing all the workplaces that are severely short staffed: construction sites, factories, post offices, administrative offices and stores.
Not only could unemployment be wiped out, but workers could work shorter hours.
Why isn’t this being done? Not because of a lack of wealth. This society is extremely rich and getting richer. Every year, the working class produces ever more wealth, and the working class becomes more productive.
No, the main obstacle is the capitalist class. The capitalists make up a tiny part of the society, much less than 1% of the population. But the capitalists – and the capitalists alone – have the power over the economy and the society. And they use that power to increase their own profits and wealth. In this time of crisis and decline, the capitalists steal an ever larger share of the wealth created by the working class. It is the capitalist drive for profit that is creating this growing reservoir of joblessness and near-joblessness.
Workers don’t have to stand for this. It is the working class that produces everything and makes society run. That includes even the luxury products enjoyed by the super-rich. That means the working class has the power to impose its interests on the society, including, first of all, the right for everyone to have a job that allows workers to have a decent life – which means working fewer hours.
But to get that, the workers will have to organize together to fight as a class.