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Fight for jobs

Published Aug 13, 2009 8:57 PM

What do the July unemployment statistics mean for the working class? Most bourgeois economists expressed undue optimism. They’re optimistic mostly because the rising stock market and jump in banking profits has brought optimism back to the capitalists, who pay the economists’ salaries.

For workers, things have only gotten worse since December 2007, plummeting since last fall. So it would be best not to get too excited over the rosy spin to the news that “only” 247,000 jobs were lost in July instead of the 350,000 expected and that the official unemployment rate dropped from 9.5 to 9.4 percent.

Is this spin supposed to fool workers into thinking that if they don’t have a job, it’s their own fault? It shouldn’t. It’s not the workers’ fault. A well-functioning economic system would provide jobs for everyone. Only that would have to be a socialist system, not a capitalist system that provides periodic unemployment and crisis.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the official unemployment rate, the one we always see, known as U-3, by a flawed method. It makes no adjustments for part-time work or job furloughs and only counts as unemployed those who are actively seeking work. It excludes “discouraged” workers.

That’s why the July rate dipped. Some 422,000 workers—counted as unemployed in June—gave up looking for work in July, according to the BLS. These workers—just as jobless in July as they were in June—are no longer counted as unemployed seeking work. Instead of rising to 9.7 percent, the rate fell to 9.4 percent. The number of unemployed dropped to 14.5 million.

One-third of these 14.5 million unemployed have been jobless 27 weeks or more, the highest recorded in the 61 years of BLS reporting. (New York Times, Aug. 8) These long-term unemployed might soon become discouraged workers. That means the U-3 rate could decline even as the number of jobs sinks.

More somber reports might focus on the decline in the total workforce, the losses of jobs in almost all private areas of the economy, the disproportionate number of African Americans without jobs, the continuing monumental unemployment among youth in general and calamitous unemployment for youth of color.

Or they might highlight the BLS’s more useful U-6 rate, still above 16 percent, which includes discouraged workers and adjusts for part-time work. That means there are more than 25 million unemployed, discouraged or underemployed workers in a workforce of more than

155 million.

Nothing to cheer about. More like something to fight about. On Sept. 20-26 at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, a fightback will take place with a national march for jobs and income, organized by the Bail Out the People Movement. Be there!