Jun 11, 2018
On June 1, the U.S. Department of Labor engaged in its monthly Festival of Lies to convince us that our job situation is actually good.
According to the Labor Department, 223,000 jobs were added in May to the economy, and the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent, the lowest since the year 2000. This 3.8 percent approaches what the economists call “full employment.” Corporate media outlets and economists trumpeted the figures as showing a strong, or even “gangbusters” economy.
That sounds fantastic!
So, why are so many people we know still struggling to find work?
Because the numbers are basically BS, that’s why. In many ways.
First, it’s acknowledged that these early monthly figures are really inexact, and often get revised extensively – usually toward lower job growth. That 223,000 jobs? It could be off by as much as 115,000!
Second, that “official” unemployment rate is a fraud. It doesn’t take into account all those who have stopped looking for work (“discouraged workers”), or all those forced to work part-time when they would like full-time work, or all workers only marginally attached to the labor force. If all those are included (the “U6” rate), unemployment goes up to 7.6 percent.
If we look at the “Labor force participation rate,” the picture gets even worse. According to that stat, of all possible workers in the U.S. ages 16 and older, only 62.7 percent ARE actually in the workforce. That’s lower than at any time since the 1970s.
That’s a LOT of people who could be working, who aren’t – who are not being counted in the official unemployment rate.
But those people could be put to work because there is certainly a lot of work that needs to be done.
Look at the infrastructure crumbling around us. Roads are in dire need of repair – in Detroit, for example, potholes cause damage to cars on a daily basis. Eleven years after the massive bridge collapse in Minneapolis that killed 13 people, experts say there are still thousands of bridges across the U.S. that need fixing. Aged, corroded water pipes are bursting, flooding streets and buildings and causing sinkholes, and sickening people who depend on them for water. People across the country can give many other examples from their own states, cities and towns.
Look at the electric grids across the country. It has become customary for power companies to blame big, long power outages on “forces of nature” – never mind that, for a long time, these companies have been doing little maintenance work, because they have reduced their maintenance crews drastically. The same is true for schools, whose buildings are in utter disrepair. Not to mention how overcrowded classrooms are, making it impossible for students to learn.
The list goes on and on. All this work that society needs urgently would create jobs for millions of people. If it is not happening, it’s because the economy is organized to maximize profit, not to take care of the needs of the population.
The bosses have never given anything to their workers unless they have been forced to. The ONLY thing that has given workers a raise in pay, or better working conditions, or anything else, has been a tipping of the balance of forces – when workers have organized and fought, collectively, massively, and dragged that wealth out of the bosses’ hands.
That massive, collective fight has been missing in the last few decades. Workers have seen fewer and fewer strikes, of smaller and smaller sizes. No wonder the corporations and their governments have taken more and more from us – even in the supposedly “boom” times like the 1990s ... or today.
But we’ve started to see an increase in fights in recent months – like the teachers’ strikes that shut down schools across six states. Those fights won something. And they show the way forward for the rest of the working class.