The Real Numbers of the Jobs Crisis
Last week, labor officials released more bad news about the American job market. Unemployment is still stuck north of 8 percent. And the private sector barely created enough jobs last month to keep up with population growth.
Predictably, politicians and pundits interpreted these results in whatever way best served the narrative they want to push. Republicans say that months of stagnant job growth prove the president’s economic policies have failed. Democrats say they inherited a crisis and the numbers would be much worse if weren’t for their actions.
What all politicians ignore is that the jobs situation is much worse than the headlines suggest.
The government’s official unemployment number ignores those who are underemployed and those who have simply stopped looking for work out of frustration.
The less well known but more accurate “U-6 measure” accounts for people who are underutilized in the labor market. That figure jumped from 14.5 percent in April to 14.9 percent in June. While the Economic Policy Institute estimates national underemployment is now up to 17 percent, the Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation’s Leo Hindery estimates the figure is more like 17.3 percent.
These statistics deserve a more prominent place in the national conversation. They tell the more accurate — and more depressing — story about the American job market. We need less political posturing and more hard-and-fast policy. Americans can’t wait until after the election for some serious moves by their government. The job market isn’t going to recover on its own. If lawmakers stay stagnant, so will the job market.
Fortunately, some folks like Rev. Jesse Jackson are explicitly rallying behind the notion of putting partisan politics aside and getting jobs legislation passed in the next couple months. The more Americans make their displeasure known about the jobs crisis, the more difficult it will be for legislators to stay on the sidelines.
In 1935, Franklin Delano Roosevelt launched the Works Progress Administration (WPA). It ended up employing 8.5 million Americans through public works projects over an eight year span. Creating a modern-day WPA would immediately boost employment and help make up for the slack left over from the private sector.
The official jobs stats are dire. But the truth is the jobs crisis is even worse than politicians admit. We need concerted government action, now.