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Here's How Good and How Bad American Job Markets Are (Now Donald and Hillary, Pay Attention and Learn

By       Message Frank Stricker       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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In a word, job markets are getting better, but they are not great. Here are basic numbers. There's not much about subgroups. More detail on that is for another piece.

Recent Good News: Median household income was up 5.2% in 2015. Percentage gains higher at the bottom than at the top. More people working helped. Largest single-year increase since record-keeping began. But in real terms, the median was still below 2007 and below the peak of the late 1990s. And of course, pay, household incomes, and wealth shares are massively unequal, and especially for minorities.

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Poverty rates fell from 15% in 2010-2013 to 13.5% in 2015. The lowest ever was 11.1% in 1973. We've come close to that a couple of times in the past, but we won't get there soon. And poverty lines are from the dark ages. A family of four with two kids needed just a dollar more than $24,036 to be non-poor in 2015. Common sense and budget studies say that is nonsense. And it's worse. Of African Americans 22.7% are below the lines and of Hispanics 21.4%.

Real Hourly Wages Down for most of the 1970s and 80s, stagnant for 90s, some increases in the 2000s. But we have just gotten back up to where we were in 1972-1973. So average workers have gained no ground on their counterparts of more than forty years ago. That is huge difference from what happened in 1945-1973.

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Unemployment and Job Creation: Getting Better but a Long Way to Go Unemployment is around 5%. That's better than 10% in the recession. But not close to full employment as many experts want you to believe. Here's why.

a. In September of 2016, we had 5.9 million people who worked part-time but wanted full-time work. That is high, although less than the 9 million level during the Great Recession.

b. In September of 2016, we had 6.1 million people who said they wanted a job but had not searched for one recently. More of these people would have jobs in a stronger economy, and many more people would be looking if they felt they could find a half-way decent position.

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c. Job totals from the survey of several hundred thousand businesses and governments show that we are about 5 million jobs short of where we would be if we had not had such a big recession and weak recovery. In 2013, 2014, and 2015, there was pretty strong demand for labor and we added between 2 and 3 million jobs a year. (This is about what Donald's promise of 25,000,000 new jobs amounts to.) But we need even higher totals for quite a few years if we are to clear up apparent and hidden unemployment and get to Real Full Employment.

d. Here's a final argument about job totals. In the last ten years--2006-2016--job totals increased 6%. That is the worst record of the last sixty years. Here are the increases between starting and ending years for seven ten year periods.

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ProfessorEmeritus of History, Labor and Interdisciplinary Studies, California State University, Dominguez Hills.
Author of Why America Lost the War on Poverty--and How to win it (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2007)

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