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Jobless recovery persists

Published Mar 13, 2011 11:17 PM

The big-business press and television are hyping the February job numbers as evidence of a coming turnaround in the recovery for workers. The government announced that 192,000 net new jobs were created last month and that the private sector created 222,000 jobs. Thus the unemployment rate was declared to have gone down from 9 percent to 8.9 percent.

But no matter how much hype is mustered behind these figures — no matter how much the pundits read good news into a miserable situation — the jobless recovery continues without letup.

The Wall Street Journal, of all publications, lifted the lid on the truth concealed in the current statistics.

One key gauge of the labor market’s health — the labor force participation rate, which measures the percentage of adults who have jobs or are seeking them — remained stuck at its lowest point since the mid-1980s.

A low participation rate both saps the economy’s long-term growth potential and can obscure deeper problems in the labor market. If, for example, labor force participation today were at the same level as before the recession, the jobless rate would have been 11.5 percent in February.

In other words, no matter how the government slices and dices the statistics, millions of workers gave up looking for jobs long ago, and the statisticians of the capitalist government have no desire to count them. Thus they are not entered into the calculations of the unemployment rate.

The economy has officially added an average of 136,000 jobs per month since November. According to the Economic Policy Institute, which bases its numbers on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it takes 127,000 per month just to keep up with new entries into the labor force.

Considering there are 13.7 million people officially unemployed — an estimated 8 million underemployed and more than 2 million officially counted as having dropped out — at the present pace of job growth, there will not be a dent in mass unemployment. By one calculation from the liberal think-tank Center for American Progress, it would take until 2033 just to get back to 5 percent unemployment!

While there was much crowing about the pitiful figure of 222,000 jobs added in the private sector, there was no report on how many of them are temporary jobs, low-wage jobs or short-hour jobs. The bosses have adopted a “just-in-time” hiring policy of temporary workers who can be disposed of at any moment.

Furthermore, the media quietly stated that state and local governments laid off 30,000 workers in February. States have cut 82,000 jobs and localities have cut 377,000 jobs since August 2008. And unless the working class can stop the state and local governments, backed by the bankers and bosses, the plan is to escalate layoffs of public sector workers.

At the end of it all, there are around 30 million workers still unemployed, underemployed or who have dropped out and are totally unaccounted for in the government statistics.

Time for a working-class recovery

The capitalist state, the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department and the White House have pumped $10 trillion into the economy, mostly to bail out the auto industry and the banks, which also get loan guarantees.

Bankers’ profits are higher than ever. Corporate profits are up. The capitalists are recovering, but for the tens of millions of workers it is still a jobless recovery.

What is a jobless recovery? It is a recovery of business production and profits while jobs either continue to be lost or whatever gains take place are minimal. Under capitalism historically, business recoveries are supposed to be accompanied by an upsurge in hiring, not job losses or job stagnation.

The first jobless recovery in the U.S. since the Great Depression followed the recession of 1991. This was followed by a second and much worse one after the 2000-2001 downturn. What the U.S. working class is experiencing today is the third consecutive jobless recovery. Only this one is far more severe, far more protracted and shows little sign of abating.

Capitalism has hit an impasse. The more productive it becomes, the fewer workers it needs and the lower wages it pays.

The class struggle of the workers — to keep the ruling class from unloading on them the huge debt crisis incurred by bailing out the millionaires and billionaires — and the fight for jobs are the only way out.

The workers in Wisconsin and all the workers around the country who have rallied to their cause have set in motion a movement which must grow and spread so that it can become the spark that lights the fire of mass fightback to turn the capitalist recovery into a working-class recovery.