The fake news about unemployment

Few workers are cheering the Labor Department’s report that the unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent in April.

Why should they? While the jobless rate now matches the level of May 2007 — just before the latest capitalist economic crisis — it still leaves 7.1 million people “officially” unemployed.

Even the Labor Department admits that 5.3 million people who are counted as employed are forced to work part-time, even though they want and need full-time jobs. Another 1.5 million people “were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Many people with disabilities are not included among the jobless. The 2.2 million members of the working class who are incarcerated are not even considered. Neither are the thousands who collect cans and bottles for a small deposit fee in New York and a few other states.

While the latest jobless rate for whites is 3.8 percent, the figure for Black workers is more than double that, at 7.9 percent. ”Last hired, first fired” is still the racist standard for African Americans.

At the height of capitalist “prosperity,” Black workers and their families are still stuck in a recession. It’s a depression for Black teenagers, whose latest jobless rate is 29.3 percent.

Usually a drop in unemployment is accompanied by a rise in wages. Workers feel more confident in taking better-paying jobs or demanding raises.

Not this time. The average wage increase of 2.5 percent over the past 12 months was almost wiped out by inflation, which rose by 2.4 percent. For workers being paid the miserable federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, inflation meant a pay cut.

All the union-busting attacks, including those against public workers, have had their effect. Over the last 40 years, thousands of union strongholds have been shut down by capitalists taking advantage of automation.

Having millions of unemployed people is a necessity for capitalist profits. Frederick Engels, the co-worker of Karl Marx, called the jobless an “industrial reserve army.”

Capitalists know this well. Samuel Insull — whose Enron-like Midwest utilities empire collapsed during the Great Depression — bragged that “the greatest aid to the efficiency of labor is a long line of men waiting at the gate.” That means women and men desperately seeking a job.

Workers put up with so much abuse because they know the boss can usually hire someone else to replace them.

While millions need a job, millions of employed are forced to work two or more jobs in order to pay the rent. “The condemnation of one part of the working class to enforced idleness by the overwork of the other part, and the converse, becomes a means of enriching the individual capitalists,” wrote Marx in “Capital.”

The labor movement needs to fight for a 30-hour workweek with no cut in pay.

The Soviet Union’s first five-year plan abolished unemployment by 1930. Socialist economic planning made holding a job a right of all Soviet workers.

We need to fight for a socialist revolution that will abolish unemployment and poverty forever.

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