In a speech last Wednesday President Obama said, "Over the past 40 months, our businesses have created 7.2 million new jobs. This year, we are off to our strongest private-sector job growth since 1999."
But is that really true? And one also has to wonder...just what kind of jobs have those businesses been creating over the past 40 months? It's not always about the quantity, but the quality as well.
Note that Obama said in the private sector. From February 2010 to June 2013 there were 6.582 million nonfarm payroll jobs gained. Of those jobs, 7.201 million were from the private sector, so in this regard Obama is correct.
As Michael Hudson points out about Obama's claim on job growth, "It is not strong job growth when the jobs being created are mainly service-sector jobs paying the minimum wage or barely above it. This is not growth; it is barely keeping up with the working age population."
We can verify this fact with the Atlanta Fed's jobs calculator. This shows that under the current, awful, terrible conditions, the United States needs 107,096 jobs per month to keep up with population growth. A simple back-of-the-napkin calculation of times 40 shows that to keep up with the population since February 2010, the U.S. needed to gain 4.3 million jobs. The fact is, the United States is still to this day down 2.14 million jobs --- meaning, Obama's payroll brag is quite the statistical spin on a still bad situation for the American worker.
Additionally most of the private sector jobs are refusing to hire Americans --- and this is while profits are at roaring highs. Also, the rate of hiring is lower than it was a year ago.
And what kind of jobs have been created over the last four years?
Michael Grabell of ProPublica, and its editor-in-chief Steve Engelberg, discussed how the temporary work sector has ballooned, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the total job growth since 2009. As noted in this excellent article about the temp sector:
The temp system insulates companies from many employer responsibilities, while pushing worker's pay below minimum wage. Some of the country's biggest retailers have come to rely on (and profit from) this growing work force. (And ProPublica also reports that, on average, temps earn 25 percent less than permanent workers.)
And what other kind of jobs are being created? According to a new study by the National Employment Law Project, opportunities for advancement in the fast-food industry is exceptionally rare. Less then 2 percent for fast-food industry jobs belong to the executives, while more than 89 percent of all jobs in the fast-food industry belong to cooks, cashiers, delivery workers and other non-managerial workers. Fast-food giants like McDonald’s and Yum! Brands (the operator of Taco Bell and KFC) are among the nation's largest low-wage employers. Front-line fast-food jobs --- which include cooks, cashiers, delivery workers and other non-managerial positions --- pay a median hourly wage of $8.94 per hour, and the workers stay in these positions for years at a time with no opportunity for advancement.
The unemployment rate was 10% by December 2009, when there were officially 15.3 million unemployed. Although, at some time it appears that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has since revised this down to 9.9% when they say, "Over the year, these measures were down from 15.2 million and 9.9 percent, respectively". So unemployment peaked at 15.2 million in 2010 but it's now at 11.8 million in 2013 --- for a difference of 3.4 million less people counted as unemployed since the depth of the recession.
So as Obama claims, are we really off to our strongest private-sector job growth since 1999? No actually. Comparing January to June's private payroll growth for 2011 with 1.129 million jobs gained during that period was actually better than 2013 with only 1.070 million private sector jobs gained so far this year.
Also, the number of people receiving unemployment insurance benefits in all programs (unadjusted) has risen from 4,523,206 on June 29th to 4,840,609 as of July 6th. At the current rate of hiring, how long will it take to put 20 million Americans (11.8 million unemployed + 8.2 million who hold part-time jobs, but want full-time work) back to work with regular full time jobs?
And why even bother asking for healthcare coverage, sick days and paid vacations. American workers (that aren't in a labor union) would have to travel back in time to the 1950's to get those type benefits. Funny how those record stock prices, record profits and record CEO salaries haven't been tricking down to the average American worker.
We were told by a presidential candidate last year that corporate America doesn't owe us a thing, and that if we aren't rich or have a job, it's our own fault; and to ask for more would be "Socialism". Although others would call it an equitable share of worker productivity --- a fair piece of the economic pie. But American workers have been left with nothing but the crumbs.
The website Popular Resistance reports on recent actions by low-wage workers that include domestic workers, Google security guards, Walmart workers, baseball concession workers and truckers (The Teamsters).
We have part-time or temporary low-paying jobs that don't offer benefits...that's our job growth. Apple hasn't been building factories in Iowa for union workers. And the better jobs in the tech industry are going to foreigner workers on H-1B visas --- and the worst of the worst jobs are going to undocumented workers that are paid below the federal minimum wage and are enduring all kinds of untold abuses.
This has been our job growth for the past four years. (Actually, since 1979, when all the manufacturing jobs began being offshored to Asia.) And over the past 40 months, over 600,000 of the better jobs that actually pays a "living wage" (the government jobs) have been slashed. If the GOP has their way, we'll all be waiting in line at the DMV for 3 days to renew our driver's license! And there's more to be lost before the end of the year with the "sequester" cuts.
So if corporate America refuses pay decent wages, offer full-time work, and/or offer humane healthcare benefits, we should at least tax them.
James Kwak writes:
"Since the beginning of the current round of perceived deficit problems in the late 1970s, tax revenues have shifted away from income taxes (especially the corporate income tax) and toward payroll taxes --- at a time when real wages have been falling. This trend was accentuated by the 1997 (Clinton-Gingrich) and 2003 (Bush) tax cuts, which reduced capital gains taxes first to 20 percent and then to 15 percent. As capital gains have made up a larger and larger share of income, we have been taxing them less and less, with only a partial correction this year. Our one significant wealth tax --- the estate tax --- was slashed by Bush; even after the latest tax compromise, the exemption is set at $5 million and indexed for inflation, as compared to $1 million (un-indexed) only twelve years ago."
But then again, some would call higher (and more fair) taxation on the ultra-wealthy a "redistribution of the wealth." But what has any tax always been, if not a redistribution of wealth?
Some would say it's not Obama's fault that not enough good-paying jobs have been created because of GOP obstructionism; but Harry Reid has also refused to reform the filibuster to break up the log jam in Congress to get a jobs bill passed and to raise the minimum wage (among many other bills, such as tax reform).
So for the past four years average working Americans have been caught in the middle between both the inept and the radical members of Congress. Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you...as either unemployed, or in a temporary or part-time low-paying job without healthcare and a future.
Meanwhile, the top 1% of the 1% and the major corporations have been making (and hoarding) so much money, they don't even know what do with it!