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The American Jobs Emergency Requires Action

By       Message Robert B. Reich     Permalink
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This is not a recovery. It's a continuing jobs emergency and it demands action.

We learned this morning that unemployment rose to 9.8 percent in November and employers added only 39,000 jobs. Private employers added 50,000 -- the smallest gain since January. Government employment continued to shrink.

We're heading in the wrong direction. In October, the jobless rate was 9.6 percent, and employers added 172,000 jobs. Private-sector job growth totaled 160,000.

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At this rate unemployment won't return to its pre-recession level for more than a decade, if ever.

Over 15 million Americans were jobless in November. This doesn't include those who are working part-time but would prefer to work full time. Nor does it include a record 1.3 million who are too discouraged even to look for work.

Nor does it take account of the fact that most families are dependent on two breadwinners. So to figure out the true impact on most families, all these numbers have to be doubled.

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Nor does it reflect the fact that the level of unemployment tracks level of education. Only 5 percent of those with college degrees are now unemployed, while more than 20 percent of everyone else is without work.

Maybe that's why Washington doesn't get it. The Washington echo chamber is filled with college degrees.

The Big Money economy on Wall Street and in corporate suites doesn't get it, either. They're doing marvelously well because they're tied to rapidly-growing markets in China, India, and Brazil.

But the Average Worker economy on Main Street continues to wallow.

The Problem

Let's be clear about this. The problem is lack of sufficient demand for workers.

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There are only four sources of demand. The biggest source is American consumers, who comprise about 70 percent of economic activity.

But the vast American middle and working class can't and won't buy enough to get people back to work. They're still under a huge debt load.

Even if and when they pay it off, their buying days are gone. The Great Recession took away their last means of coping with years of stagnant wages -- going deeper into debt by using their homes as collateral. The housing bubble burst, and home prices continue to drop.

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http://robertreich.org/

Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.


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