The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

The growth of long-term unemployment and involuntary part-time employment

Nov 25, 2002

Whatever the "experts" say about the recession ending, for the working class the recession is worse than it's ever been. Since the start of the recession in early 2001, close to four million workers have been permanently laid off. And since summer of this year the number of those being laid off permanently has increased by about 150,000 workers per month.

More ominously, those who lose their jobs are having a very tough time finding new ones. Companies are just not hiring. The average length of time that it now takes laid off workers to find a job has increased drastically. During the official recession that ended several months ago, workers were laid off on average for 13 weeks, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Now that the recession is supposedly over, the average time it takes to find a new job has actually increased to almost 18 weeks!

Of course, the 18 weeks is only an average. Since last summer, more than 300,000 workers per month have been running out of unemployment benefits, both the regular 26 weeks and the 13 week extension that the politicians tacked on temporarily for election purposes.

Millions more workers seeking full-time work have been forced into working part-time jobs in order to gain some income. Officially, the number of workers in this category has increased by 30% since the recession began. All told, there are now four million workers who are officially "employed" but in a much worse situation than they were before they lost their old jobs.

Of course, the bosses are doing everything they can to exploit the workers' growing hardship and vulnerability. They are demanding that those still employed make greater sacrifices – work harder for longer hours, often for lower pay and benefits – what they call "cutting costs." For the bosses, pushing fewer people to work longer and harder can be mighty profitable. But it also contributes to the growth of unemployment at the same time.

Sooner or later, workers will fight against all the ways that the bosses increase exploitation – layoffs, speed-up and the lengthening work day. And sooner would be better than later.