The Madeleine Brand Show for June 1, 2012

Decline looms as jobs report records sinking numbers

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Job seekers wait in line to enter the San Francisco Hire Event job fair on November 9, 2011 in San Francisco, California. The national unemployment rate dipped this past month to 9 percent in October after employers added 80,000 jobs.

Call it disappointing. Anemic. Painful. Our nation of more than three hundred million created just 69,000 jobs last month. KPCC's Steve Proffitt explains the gruesome details from today's job report.

Remember back in January? 200,000 new jobs, the market was rallying, things were looking up. Now, as June begins, we have had three straight months of declining job growth. In April, only 77,000 jobs were created. Most economists say we need to create around 90,000 thousand jobs a month just to keep up with the growth in the working population.

This means we're not even treading water, we're actually sinking.

And that optimism from early in the year has evaporated, which has been reflected in the stock market. Down today, after a pretty brutal May, to the point that today the Dow has given up all the gains it made this year. Add all the trouble in Europe, a slowdown in China, and another report showing American manufacturing is slowing down, and it seems like a good time to go over to Don Draper's office to start drinking.

But while we do get a monthly jobs report telling us how many new jobs were created, or weren't, they are just numbers. We don't know about the quality. Are these good-paying jobs? Or are they low-wage, entry level?

In fact, the Labor Department doesn't really get into that area, beyond broad descriptions of the job sector, like construction, or health care.

According to labor economist Gary Chasen, though, there has been a downward spiral in wages and benefits resulting from global competition and increasing pressure for corporations to increase profits.

John Challenger, employment analyst from Challenger-Gray, notes that unemployment among college educated people is about four percent. Half the national rate. The people who are really getting hurt tend to be lower-skilled, lower educated. They are much more likely to lose jobs, and if they can find one, take a far less well-paying job.

All of this is troubling, not just for the people who are struggling to make ends meet, but for the economy as a whole, and for the prospects of recovery. Because workers who lose their jobs, and get lower paying jobs, become less powerful consumers. And that creates a vicious cycle that creates an ongoing decline in the economy.


blog comments powered by Disqus