Jobs program needed
30 million seek work
Gallup Poll shows gov’t hides real figures
Published Mar 3, 2010 9:29 PM
A Gallup Poll released on Feb. 23 revealed that in January 30 million workers
in the U.S. were either on forced part-time or out of work altogether. This
number, based on a poll of over 20,000 adults over the age of 18 and conducted
from Jan. 2 to Jan. 31, amounts to 20 percent of the workforce.
Conducted by one of the most prestigious and conservative polling institutions
in the capitalist world, the poll used samples taken from all regions of the
country and all age groups.
People ages 18 to 29 have the
highest level of underemployment,
officially at 31 percent.
No wonder this poll was barely mentioned in the big-business press. It shows
that the government is undercounting millions of workers who suffer from the
unemployment/underemployment crisis. It documents, at a minimum, that the
statisticians in the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Bureau of
Economic Research have been dishonest about the true level of unemployment.
This Gallup Poll also shows the racist disparities that have been made worse by
the economic crisis. It reveals African-American and Latino/a underemployment
to be 27 percent and 29 percent respectively, compared to white underemployment
at 17 percent. There was nothing revealed about immigrant workers, but other
studies have shown a drastic increase in underemployment among undocumented
workers in particular, especially those in the construction industry.
According to government agencies, the level of what is called “total
unemployment,” a measurement called U-6, is only 16.5 percent, not the 20
percent revealed in the Gallup Poll.
To make things worse, it is important to know that the official government
number for “total unemployment” includes not only workers who are
unemployed plus those who are forced to work part time when they need a
full-time job, but also those who have dropped out of the workforce because
they have given up looking.
According to AOL News online, “What’s striking about the Gallup
numbers is that the polls didn’t even include people out of work so long
they are no longer counted in the workforce.” In the month of January,
according to the government, 1.1 million workers were officially classified as
Thus the Gallup Poll itself is an undercount if the official government number
of 1.1 million workers who have given up looking for a job is added to the 30
million compiled by Gallup.
4.4 million workers drop out
Yet the government coverup is even wider than would appear from the Gallup
Poll. The Economic Policy Institute, whose former head, Jared Bernstein, is the
chief economist and economic policy adviser to Vice President Joseph Biden,
says: “Since the recession started in December 2007, the labor force
— people who are either working or seeking work — has declined by
700,000 workers, even though the working-age population has increased by 3.7
million. The shrinking labor force is largely a reflection of discouragement
with the labor market; as jobs have become scarce, many job seekers have given
up looking for work.”
Thus, according to the EPI, almost 4.5 million workers have dropped out of the
work force, not the 1.1 million counted by the government. And among those who
have dropped out, a drastically high proportion are youth. The labor force
participation rate for workers age 16-24 has decreased from 59.1 percent to
54.7 percent in the 25 months since the recession started, representing a loss
of 1.3 million young workers. In the Gallup Poll, people ages 18 to 29 had the
highest level of underemployment, at 31 percent.
On the other end of the age scale, people over 55 have increased their
workforce participation because they cannot afford to retire. In their senior
years they wind up working, often forced to compete with youth for low-paying
Under “normal” conditions of capitalist exploitation — i.e.,
in between boom-and-bust crises, when jobs are more available — youth,
and especially Black, Latino/a, Asian and Native youth, have the highest
unemployment and the lowest wages. Now that there is a capitalist crisis, the
crisis for youth has become massive.
The talk of “recovery” for workers of all ages is a myth. The only
recovery is for the bosses, and for the biggest and richest ones at that.
The talk of a decline in layoffs was contradicted at the end of February by the
announcement of a rise in first-time claims for unemployment insurance.
Unemployment claims rise, home sales drop
In its report on jobless claims on Feb. 25, the Labor Department said
first-time claims for unemployment benefits rose 22,000 to a seasonally
adjusted 496,000. Wall Street analysts had expected a drop to 455,000.
The four-week average of jobless claims rose 6,000 to 473,750. The average had
fallen sharply over the summer and fall from its peak last spring of about
650,000. This year, the improvement has stalled. The four-week average has
risen about 30,000 in the past month. It’s now well above the 425,000
level that many economists said would signal net hiring. It is a commentary on
U.S. capitalism that the layoff of 425,000 workers in one week would be
considered a “positive” signal of net hiring.
Furthermore, new-home sales dropped 11.2 percent in January, the largest drop
in more than 50 years. A drop in new home sales spells further layoffs for
One of the causes for the drop is the massive number of foreclosures as
speculators and even some individual home buyers try to get bargain-basement
prices by picking from the millions of foreclosed homes. But even with that,
existing home sales dropped 7.2 percent in January.
More foreclosures are coming by the hundreds of thousands as unemployed workers
cannot afford to keep up their mortgages, and even those who are employed are
“underwater” — i.e., they owe far more than their homes are
worth on the market.
The banks and lenders will not adjust loans, will not suspend payments for the
unemployed, and are ruthlessly trying to squeeze every last nickel out of
homeowners. Millions more foreclosures are in the offing unless the masses of
people unite and demand an end to foreclosures and evictions.
To the 30-million-plus workers with no jobs or part-time jobs, with no health
care plan, no pensions, no benefits, no vacations and the unbearable economic
pressure of trying to stay afloat, the very idea that the economy has been
“recovering” for six months must sound like a cruel joke.
Who will buy the goods?
One question that needs to be asked is what prompted the Gallup organization to
undertake such an extensive poll? The contradictory numbers coming out of
government offices and from the Obama administration have probably made
sections of the ruling class nervous. Investment advisers, corporate economic
forecasters, even economic policy advisers, have a large stake in getting
reliable information about the economy. The ruling class cannot rely on the
government agencies alone, which are bound to understate the seriousness of the
situation for political reasons.
One of the few details made public in the recent Gallup Poll was how much less
money was being spent in the market by underemployed workers, compared to those
employed. The discrepancy between a supposed spending average of $75 a day for
the employed compared to $48 a day for the underemployed, even if exaggerated,
is a hard fact for those authorities to contemplate when considering the
prospects for a capitalist “recovery.”
The public heard little of the poll and most of the information gathered was
kept private, undoubtedly for the eyes of the ruling class and their
But the ruling class is teetering between recovery and renewed capitalist
crisis. Everyone knows that the stabilization of the capitalist economy, the
temporary halt to the downward spiral of the economic and financial crisis, was
predicated upon the massive bailout of the banks and the stimulus to the
The conventional calculations are that anywhere between 1.5 million and 2
million jobs were created or saved by the stimulus package of $787 billion. The
stimulus money is supposed to run out in the middle of 2010. Credit for
first-time home buyers has now been extended to those who have previously
The government and bosses and bankers are waiting to see what happens when the
stimulus money and the incentives run their course. Everyone is holding their
breath hoping that the limited capitalist expansion now underway will keep
But the ruling class has a fundamental contradiction in the present crisis. It
is making a profit recovery based on layoffs and intensifying the exploitation
of the remaining workers. No recovery can be sustained on that basis. Only
renewed crisis can be the outcome of this course.
The working class, the oppressed, the communities, the students and youth, and
all who are being victimized by this capitalist crisis must not hold their
breath and wait for salvation to come from an economic recovery.
The only way out of this crisis for them is to organize and struggle with a
fighting program. At the top of the agenda must be a demand for a government
program that guarantees a job at a living wage with full benefits and the
unhampered right to union representation for every worker who needs one.
The trillions of dollars being given to the banks, the corporations and the
military can support such a program as well as guarantee a free quality
education for all youth, from grade school to college.
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