The latest economic figures indicate that the economy is growing, with a better than expected 207,000 new jobs created last month. The figures suggest that the US now has the lowest unemployment rate since the terrorist attacks of September 2001. But figures can be misleading.
The unemployment rate is largely based on a call of 60,000 US households to determine who is or isn’t employed. What isn’t largely known is that the Bureau of Labor Statistics will count someone employed if they are working as little as a single hour a week. Those collecting unemployment insurance are not accurately counted either as only about 35% of the unemployed are eligible for unemployment insurance.
Helen Ginsberg, a economics professor at Brooklyn College, believes the actual unemployment rate may be much higher. Ginsberg suggests that the actual number may total around 18 million Americans who are unemployed, but who would like to work. Another 4.9 million workers are part-time workers who want full time work, but can’t find it. While as many as 5 million Americans are unemployed, but are not counted at all, since the BLS does not count those who have given up looking for work. Ginsberg suggests the actual unemployment rate is closer to 11.6% to 11.9%.
To make matters worse the economy must produce at least 150,000 new jobs a month just to keep up with the number of new workers entering the workforce. That would indicate that the “better than expected” numbers are only 57,000 net new jobs, the majority of which are in retail and food services, jobs with little security, benefits, advancement, and very low pay.
Meanwhile wages have virtually stopped or declined. Heather Boushey of the Center for Economic and Policy Research said, “the nominal wage growth has virtually stopped; the average hourly wage is up by only $.01 since August 2003.” The rise in cost of living has put a further strain on American workers. Meanwhile, the cost of health and other benefits has continued to increase since 2000.
This in a time where worker productivity has increased, indicating that Americans are working longer and harder for less.
But not everyone is hurting. Corporate CEOs have seen record tax breaks in the last 4 years, and in the last year their average yearly incomes has increased 54%.