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May 2014 Jobs Reports: Good News, Bad News

10:36 am in Economy, Financial Crisis, Jobs, Unemployment by dakine01

Unemployment Report

Unemployment Report

According to this article this morning from CNN Money, the official BLS Jobs Report for May, due this Friday morning, will show that the US economy will finally have recovered all the jobs lost in the Great Recession:

Set your sights on this number: 113,000.

That’s how many jobs the U.S. economy needs to hit its break-even point, to finally recover all the jobs lost in the financial crisis.

Get ready, because we’re about to get there this Friday.

That’s when the U.S. Department of Labor will release its May jobs report, and the outlook is rosy. Economists surveyed by CNNMoney expect the U.S. economy added 200,000 jobs in May.

I guess that’s the good news. But as the article also notes, it is a purely symbolic measure:

Breaking even is a key milestone, but was a long time coming. It took just two years to wipe out 8.7 million American jobs, but it took more than four years to recover them all, making this the longest jobs recovery on record since the Department of Labor started tracking the data in 1939.

Plus, the jobs that have returned are not necessarily the same ones we lost, nor are they in the same regions.

Here’s the key – through all these four plus years of job growth to get back to where we were at the start of the Great Recession, we have been falling behind as it takes roughly 90,000 new jobs each month just to keep up with the new people entering the job market each month. If we take it back to the beginning of the Great Recession in December 2007, we are still in the hole on needed jobs by a bit over 7M (6.5 (years) x 12 (months per year) x 90K (jobs per month) = 7,020,000.)

The current month report from ADP continues the good news/bad news. The good news is 179K new jobs in the private sector (though fewer than “economists predicted.”) The bad news (although painted as good news by Reuters):

U.S. companies hired far fewer workers than expected in May, but an acceleration in services sector growth supported views the economy was regaining strength after sagging early this year.

While other data on Wednesday showed the trade deficit hit its widest point in two years in April, a rise in imports to record highs underscored the economy’s resilience.

Why is the increase in service sector jobs bad news? Because service sector jobs tend to be lower wage.

This blog post from the Washington Post’s Wonkblog from 8/31/2012 covers this:

The United States lost about 8.1 million jobs after the recession began in late 2007. The economy has since recovered about 3.3 million of those jobs, starting in early 2010. That, in itself, should alarm policymakers. The labor market is still in a deep, deep hole.

But in some respects, the situation is even bleaker than that. The types of jobs that have come back so far don’t seem to be paying as well as those that were lost.

A new report from the National Employment Law Project finds that low-wage jobs, paying $13.83 per hour or less, have dominated the recovery to date. In many cases, they appear to be replacing higher-paying jobs that were lost in the first place.

That article was not the first time the Post had noticed the low wage aspect of the “recovery” as I noted in this blog post from April 2011.

The CNN article linked at the top of the page also showed a little “moving of the goalposts” in the world of economic and jobs reporting. Buried way down at the bottom of the page were these two paragraphs:

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Life in the Safety Net

8:20 am in Economy, Food, Government, Jobs, Politics, Social Security, Unemployment by dakine01

If you have been reading my posts, you know I am among the long term un/underemployed. I was laid off from my then employer in April 2004. I know most economists place the official start of the Great Recession in December 2007 but given their continual “surprise” at how the economy does not conform to their expectations, the reality is a bit different. When I was laid off, I had spent the past seven to eight years working within IT on various State and Local Government social service projects. Unfortunately for me, many states had started cutting back in this area starting around 2001. Declining tax revenues led to cut-backs to contracts led to further declining revenues, etc.
Picture13
Over the past nine years, I spent my unemployment benefits (I only received 6 months of unemployment benefits since my layoff preceded the official recession and advent of extended benefits.) I spent my savings. I cashed in my 401K and SEP/IRA (the best benefit there was even with paying the early cash-in penalties, I still got to spend more of the funds on myself instead of seeing the balances swirl down the toilet when the market crashed.) In 2007, I landed a part-time, online job that has been a god send.

I finally swallowed my pride in January of 2012 and applied for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as Food Stamps). I was approved for benefits of $200 per month from Florida from February 2012 through June 2012 when I would have to be re-certified. I did not re-certify at that time as I was dealing with my late sister’s estate by June and was able to pay myself a nominal salary. Since then, I have moved from Florida back to my home state of Kentucky. After I wrote this post in early July, documenting my soon to be homelessness, a friend from my hometown of Cynthiana, KY offered me a room in her home for Dan’l (my cat) and me. I am paying a nominal rent, my share of the utilities plus helping around the house. I have since applied for SNAP benefits here in Kentucky. I was initially denied due to lack of information, then approved for $159 per month then after a review after the state had received the remainder of my supporting information, the benefit amount was upgraded to $189 per month starting November 1. I do not know if the cuts to the over all SNAP program will affect my benefits but if there is a cut, so be it. I am fortunate enough to know how to cook and purchase food for myself so I can generally live within the benefit. I most likely would have to cut out the occasional treat of cookies or soda.

At this point, I am just trying to hang on until I reach age 62 next June and can apply for early Social Security. According to the SSA, my benefit for Social Security at age 62 is $1,371, a little above the current average overall benefit of $1,271 (as of September 2013.)

I do not have a car any longer. Maybe next year when I start the social security, between that and my small salary from my online job, I might be able to buy something (and pay the taxes and title and upkeep and maintenance and gas and insurance.) Once I am collecting social security, I will most likely no longer qualify for SNAP benefits and that’s OK as I will have been able to use them to stay alive until I reached the “retirement” point.

Through all of this, I know I am still luckier than most. I have received help from family and friends that has kept a roof over my head. I am relatively healthy having had only a bad case of the flu back in early 2005 that I saw a doctor for, a cut on my hand in December 2005 that required an emergency room visit for four stitches (costing roughly $2,000 out-of-pocket as I am uninsured), and an infected tooth pulled at the dentist’s in January 2013 for $175. The dentist gave me a ‘scrip for free antibiotics to clear the infection before he pulled the tooth.

While I have been fortunate in many ways, I also know I am not alone. There are 900K veterans and 5K active military receiving SNAP benefits alone who will be impacted by the upcoming cut to the benefit level.

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Now isn’t that con-vee-nient?

7:17 am in Economy, Government, Jobs, Politics, Unemployment by dakine01

Oops.

So much for the monthly Jobs Report. One of the effects of the government shutdown (no Fox News, it is NOT a “slimdown“) is no monthly Jobs Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS web site has a “Special Notice”:

This website is currently not being updated due to the suspension of Federal government services. The last update to the site was Monday, September 30. During the shutdown period BLS will not collect data, issue reports, or respond to public inquiries. Updates to the site will start again when the Federal government resumes operations. Revised schedules will be issued as they become available.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Quite convenient for those members of Congress who deem most of us as not worthy of worrying about, yet manage to whine about how they need their pay check to get by – as if the 800K federal employees don’t need theirs!

ADP did release their monthly report on private sector jobs on Wednesday, showing an increase of 166K in the private sector (and of course economists surprised as the number was lower than “expected”). The Wall St Journal looked at the numbers in a bit of detail (you can reach behind the WSJ Paywall by Googling the article title “U.S. Businesses Add 166,000 Jobs, ADP Report Shows”). The numbers that jumped out at me are:

Service-sector jobs increased by 147,000 last month, while the factory sector added a slim 1,000 new positions. Financial services cut 4,000 jobs.

Despite September’s gain, job growth is weakening. Over the three months through September, the economy added an average of 162,000 private jobs per month, down from 220,000 at the start of the year, according to ADP.

Service sector jobs increase by 147K and manufacturing increases by 1K. It’s a McJobs economy!

Business Insider offers us a listing of “what we know” even without the BLS figures. Of course, they base this to a large extent on “market economists’ expectations” (see above link to previous blog post about “Economists surprised”).

Bloomberg tells us that economists will just talk about football:

The absence of jobs data leaves economists and their investor clients without the month’s most important numbers on which to place bets, ranging from friendly office pools to million-dollar wagers on the health of the world’s largest economy.

Meanwhile, Reuters tells us “Workers and employers face off at U.S. Supreme Court:”

(Reuters) – Workplace disputes pepper the docket of cases the U.S. Supreme Court will take up during a nine-month term starting on Monday, with the justices having delivered a string of victories to businesses and employers in their last term.

Organized labor will feature in two of the cases. In one, an employee seeks to limit the power of public-sector unions to collect dues. In the other, an employee aims to limit the ability of private-sector unions to sign up members.

It would constitute a significant blow to the labor movement were the court, split 5-4 between Republican and Democratic presidential appointees, to rule against the unions in both cases, legal experts say.

Since the composition of the SCOTUS has not changed in the past few months, I am not going to hold my breath on workers getting any breaks from this court. In June, Businessweek declared the current court as Corporate America’s Employees of the Month. It is not a stretch, it is not a difficult prediction to say more 5 – 4 decisions, more rulings in favor of our corporate overlords are coming in the next few months.

I bet Lloyd Blankfein will go to sleep at night dreaming of the wage slaves he can continue to abuse.

And because I can:

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August 2013 Jobs Report: “Good” News That Isn’t

11:27 am in Economy, Jobs, Unemployment by dakine01

Well the August Jobs Reports are in, and, as usual, the numbers were not as expected. From Reuters:

Unemployment Report

Unemployment Report

U.S. employers hired fewer workers than expected in August and the jobless rate hit a 4-1/2 year low as Americans gave up the search for work, complicating the Federal Reserve’s decision on whether to scale back its massive monetary stimulus this month.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 169,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said on Friday, falling short of the 180,000 Wall Street had expected and adding to signs that economic growth may have slowed a bit in the third quarter.

CNN points out that the growth for June and July was revised downwards by 74K jobs but they also highlighted (my bold):

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell to 7.3%, but the decline came for the wrong reasons, as 312,000 people dropped out of the labor force. Only 63.2% of Americans now participate in the labor force — meaning they have a job or are looking for one. That’s the lowest rate since August 1978.

Reuters also notes the drop in participation in the workforce in a sidebar article here:

The share of Americans aged 25 to 54 who had jobs or were looking for work dipped to 81 percent in August, the lowest level since 1984, a time when fewer women were in the workforce. In another worrisome sign, the share of these prime-age workers who actually had jobs has stagnated at around 76 percent since early last year, well below its 2003-2007 average of around 79 percent.

Most of the reports in TradMed outlets have also commented on the impact of the (lack of) jobs reports on the Federal Reserve “stimulus” (from McClatchy):

The Fed has been purchasing, at a pace of $85 billion a month, government and mortgage bonds in a bid to drive down lending rates in the economy and force risk taking by investors. They must seek better returns than they have been getting on bonds, thus juicing the stock market and commodities such as crude oil and a range of farm products. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is concluding his term, wants to begin weaning the economy off of this support before his successor takes over.

Of course, this “stimulus” has not really helped the millions of long term un and underemployed, even though a large part of the Federal Reserve “mission” is maximizing employment.

The stock market continues to show its disconnect with most of the economy as it has gone up in response to the jobs report number (via Bloomberg):

U.S. stocks rose to a two-week high as slower-than-forecast jobs growth eased concern about reductions in Federal Reserve stimulus, overshadowing an escalation in tension between America and Russia over Syria.

So, because the Fed may not be able to stop its “stimulus” (read: easy money for the banksters and Wall St), stocks are going up in celebration. Yeah, that makes sense. After all, the casinos always like to show their appreciation for the marks customers.

Bloomberg has an opinion piece up by a Justin Wolfers, who says to concentrate on the revisions. Of course, he also seems to think public sector jobs are not “real” jobs when it comes to the economy:

There is one further detail worth emphasizing. While there were 74,000 jobs revised away this month, more than half were in the public sector, suggesting that we shouldn’t be too hasty in marking down expectations of ongoing private-sector employment growth.

Now, I am one of those who refuses to give up my search for full time employment, preferably in my chosen field of Software Quality Assurance. I am a stubborn SoB and even when I keep receiving discouraging results, I will not fold. I’m sure many people would claim that I am being unrealistic in my desires to find work in my field. But am I any more unrealistic than the CEO of Morgan Stanley who declares:

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Thoughts on Labor Day 2013

3:30 pm in Economy, Jobs, Media, Politics by dakine01

Labor Day Parade

Labor Day Parade, Peoria, IL

Well, well, well. As I look back the last couple of years, it seems I have established a small tradition of writing something about Labor Day. This is the post I wrote in 2011 and this is last year’s post. As I read my words from the last two years, I recognize that very little has changed in some ways yet in others, we have seen some massive changes.

Labor Day 2011 was just before the start of Occupy Wall St. Today, two years later, we are seeing fast food and retail workers staging strikes for higher wages. While many people are able to ignore the demands of these workers, there is coverage in the TradMed, albeit at the local level. This is a positive thing, even as so much of the news cycles are taken up by the rush to war with Syria (and it is a rush to war, no matter how the words and proposed actions may be caveated as “limited.”

Yesterday (Saturday, August 31) the Firedoglake Book Salon was Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, the plight of young adults from working class families. NBC News has been doing a series titled In Plain Sight: Poverty In America which has been covering all aspects of living poor in today’s United States. Yet with all the discussion in some parts of the TradMed on working poor (and as I first wrote a couple of years ago, trying to live on minimum wage is at best an exercise in treading water), we are more likely to find articles like this one from ABC News yesterday with the title Top Labor Day 2013 ‘Made in America’ Sales or this one from International Business Times titled Labor Day Sales 2013: 27 Stores To Score The Best Deals And Discounts This Weekend. The Denver Post today (Sunday, September 1) had this article titled New culture of work, both virtual and traditional, on Labor Day 2013 while the Washington Post had this blog post on the failure of schools to teach anything about the labor movement:

Major textbooks, among other things, often represent labor organizing as inherently violence, and virtually ignore the role organized labor played in winning broad social protections such as child labor laws, Social Security and Medicare.

Scholars say this [is] a result of the unfavorable view the business community and some politicians hold towards unions, an attitude that appears in textbooks that are approved by states in processes that are very political.

So as you sit down to your barbecue or grilled whatever this Labor Day; as you seek out the best deals at the store for whatever Labor Day sales this weekend; remember that the working poor, the laborers if you will, are probably not getting a paid day off. Or maybe they are among the long term un and underemployed who probably are not sitting down to a nice cook out meal to celebrate the “end of summer.”

When the politicians make their Labor Day statements, remember their actions towards labor rather than their words.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
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So what about the rest of your workforce?

6:39 am in Economy, Jobs, Media by dakine01

These last few years, I have occasionally found myself watching the TV show Undercover Boss. From the wiki:

On Tonight's "Undercover Boss" on CBS:  Kendall-Jackson Wineries CEO Rich Tigner

Undercover Boss

Undercover Boss is an Emmy Award-winning television franchise series created by Stephen Lambert and produced in many countries. It originated in 2009 on the British Channel 4.[1] The show’s format features the experiences of senior executives working undercover in their own companies to investigate how their firms really work and to identify how they can be improved, as well as to reward hard-working employees.

Each episode features a high-ranking executive or the owner of a corporation going undercover as an entry-level employee in his or her own company. The executives alter their appearance and assume an alias and fictional back-story. The fictitious explanation given for the accompanying camera crew is that the executives are being filmed as part of a documentary about entry-level workers in a particular industry, or a competition with another individual with the winner getting a job with the company. They spend approximately one to two weeks undercover (one week being the norm in some editions, such as the U.S. version, and two weeks in some other versions, such as the Australian edition), working in various areas of their company’s operations, with a different job and in most cases a different location each day. They are exposed to a series of predicaments with amusing results, and invariably spend time getting to know the people who work in the company, learning about their professional and personal challenges.

My bold

Now, I have laughed at some of the “…series of predicaments with amusing results…” It can be very amusing to see someone who spends the bulk of their time behind a desk trying to wrestle a pallet loader or make a bed or wait on a customer. But there was always something that bothered me about the show and I eventually figured it out. It goes to the pieces of the wiki that I have bolded – “…rewarding hard-working employees” and “…learning about their professional and personal challenges.” The wiki for the US version of the show has a bit that covers much of what bothers me about it, from a review in the Washington Post:

The Washington Post, in a negative review, said that Undercover Boss “is a hollow catharsis for a nation already strung out on the futility of resenting those who occupy CEO suites.”

Further from the Washington Post review:

And in trickle-down style comes a show in which ordinary people get paid exactly nothing to experience the strangest sort of practical joke in their workplace, as if they’re being “Punk’d” by a Successories poster: The head of the company wants to work alongside them, but — get this — they won’t know it’s him. And the sad part is, rather than tell a story about middle-class anger, “Undercover Boss” is drizzled with the feel-good syrup of corporate bunk.

Most of the shows I’ve seen have the “undercover” person meeting front line workers and being shown how the person does the job. As the worker and undercover boss do the task(s), they talk together and we hear the stories of the workers. It may be how the worker is a single mother worrying about how she will pay for her children’s education. It may be the story of how the worker volunteers at a homeless shelter. Whatever the story the worker has to tell, it is usually some variation on heart warming to heart wrenching. At the end of the episode, the workers the “undercover boss” has met are brought to the headquarters where they then meet the boss in his/her real life. Sometimes they recognize the person they knew as a worker, sometimes they don’t but they always seem to be shocked at the news they have been working with a big cheese. Almost invariably, the boss will reward the worker(s) – sometimes it might be a new car to replace the junker the worker has been using to transport food for the food pantry. It might be a scholarship fund or it might be a no interest loan for home repairs. Sometimes the boss creates a new position within the organization for the worker but no matter what special reward is provided, it is always a feel good moment.

But for all the feel good moments within the shows, what about all the other “Hard-working employees” who do not appear on camera dealing with the “undercover boss?” What will the organization do about the “professional and personal challenges” of the hundreds and thousands of other employees who are not privileged? Would it be possible for the businesses, producers, CBS, and other networks showing this TV series to maybe start doing little things like paying living wages, funding defined benefit retirement plans, providing full health care coverage to all employees? Maybe they could work to assure their companies aren’t polluting the environment, maybe fewer feel good moments at the end of a television episode and more moments of businesses recognizing the values of all workers, not just the ones the show’s producers decide can increase a couple of ratings points.

No, I am not going to hold my breath.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
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McJobs: Bad and Getting Worse

1:37 pm in Economy, Jobs, Media, Politics, Unemployment by dakine01

A couple of years ago, you might remember that McDonalds got a lot of publicity out of a one day hiring binge. I wrote about it here with a follow-up about the Washington Post noticing that it was a “McJobs” economic recovery a couple of weeks later. So here we are, two years later and where exactly are we?

At best, we are treading water. At best.

Today, NBC News‘ web site had this article titled ”In tough economy, fast food workers grow old” discussing the reality of older workers working in the fast food world. They had a companion article on fast food jobs as portrayed in the movies over the past couple of years (presumably in an attempt to off-set the negative implications of the original) but the stories in the first article should be heeded:

In many ways, she is a typical fast-food worker: She’s older than you’d expect, has more years of schooling and works in the industry not for entry-level experience, but to try to keep her head above the financial storm that threatens to swamp her.

Due to the lingering effects of the Great Recession, the Hollywood image of the care-free, freckle-faced, teenage hamburger flipper is no longer the norm. Only 16 percent of fast food industry jobs now go to teens, down from 25 percent a decade ago.

And many of the older workers are educated. More than 42 percent of restaurant and fast-food employees over the age of 25 have at least some college education, including 753,000 with a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Jobs: Recovery is at Hand!

Jobs: Recovery is at Hand!

Yes, fast food jobs are not just for teenagers anymore.

I’ve actually noticed a few articles these past few months discussing working poor, low wage jobs, and the on-going unemployment crisis. First up is this from the Washington Post in January on the growing ranks of working poor:

Nearly a third of the nation’s working families earn salaries so low that they struggle to pay for their necessities, according to a new report.

The ranks of the so-called working poor have grown even as the nation has created new jobs for 27 consecutive months and is showing other signs of shaking off the worst effects of the recession.

As I discussed a couple of years ago, minimum wage is not a salary where someone is going to get ahead.

At the end of March, NBC News had an article looking at the growing ranks of poor families in the suburbs:

The number of suburban residents living in poverty rose by nearly 64 percent between 2000 and 2011, to about 16.4 million people, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of 95 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. That’s more than double the rate of growth for urban poverty in those areas.

At the end of this article, there were links to some further articles including, “‘By the grace of God’: How workers survive on $7.25 per hour” and “Media coverage of poverty: Why ‘so little’?” (coverage of a Dan Froomkin essay.)

On April 1 (and not an April Fools Day joke) CNN had an article on the lousy pay at the 10 most common jobs in the US:

Food prep workers are the third most-common job in the U.S., but have the lowest pay, at a mere $18,720 a year for 2012. Cashiers and waiters are also popular professions, but the average pay at these jobs tallies up to less than $21,000 annually. There are 4.3 million retail sales workers out there, making them the most common job, but the position pays only $25,310 for the year.

As a companion to the incredibly shrinking pay checks and the increase in the working poor, there are also the stresses put on workers by the jobs. First up here is this article from NBC News in early January, “Temp employees more likely to succumb to workplace hazards: Read the rest of this entry →

Jobs and Social Security

8:44 am in Economy, Financial Crisis, Jobs, Media, Politics, Social Security, Unemployment by dakine01

Job forms

Unemployment is up a fraction of a percent.

The January Jobs reports are out and for once, there is a modicum of (somewhat) good news. The Labor Department reported 157K new jobs for January 2013 and significantly revised both November and December 2012 numbers upwards:

Employers added 157,000 jobs in January, the Labor Department said, which was right in line with analyst expectations. The best news, though, was that revised estimates put job creation in November and December much higher than earlier estimated; the nation added a whopping 247,000 jobs in November and 196,000 in December, revisions that place those numbers a combined 127,000 jobs above earlier estimates.

The unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent, from 7.8 percent, however, as both the number of people reporting having a job and the number looking for one edged up.

I’m sure we will hear a lot about how the January figures were “…right in line with analyst expectations” given how they are usually “surprised” that their predictions are wrong.

The .1% uptick in the unemployment rate (from 7.8% to 7.9% is not all that much of a surprise – or shouldn’t be – if the economy truly is improving after all these years. The BLS U6 figure for the un/underemployed and marginally attached folks was unchanged at 14.4% (a figure that I believe is low but can’t prove). Bloomberg reported the jobs news as:

Sustained hiring gains will give incomes a lift, buffering American workers from the sting of higher payroll taxes and helping them keep spending. At the same time, bigger employment advances are needed to drive down a jobless rate that Federal Reserve officials say is too high.

We can but hope Bloomberg is correct in this analysis that incomes will be lifted.

This past Wednesday, ADP reported 192K private sector jobs for January (versus 166K reported by BLS – see Bloomberg link).

One of the areas that seems to escape a lot of notice is how the jobs reports impacts the Social Security Trust Fund. Bloomberg touches on this with the mention of higher wages offsetting “…the sting of higher payroll taxes” but still seems to miss how higher employment will provide more funds to keep Social Security running without needing to be “fixed.”

Of course, this in no way will stop people like Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post from offering up his fantasy of cutting Social Security as part of a “sequestration”:

To be effective, a sequester has to hit millions of Americans so hard that, if it took effect, mobs of outraged voters would storm Capitol Hill.

Here’s my modest proposal to do that. Unless congressional negotiators agreed on at least $1 trillion in deficit cuts over a decade — personally, I’d go higher — then the desired amount would be raised in two ways: half from across-the-board income-tax increases and half from across-the-board Social Security cuts. People would see their take-home pay and retiree benefits reduced. There would be no mystery.

…snip…

It won’t happen. Truth in journalism: I have proposed this before. There were no takers. It would astonish me if there were any now. But the point is that there is a path to agreement. The fact that our so-called leaders don’t take it reflects their calculation that disagreeing is better politics.

Thankfully, he has had no takers so he has a sad

Allison Linn at NBC News offers a counter to Samuelson and his gibberish with this report of a survey with results that fly in the face of so much Beltway Conventional Wisdom:

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Today’s Anti-Social Security Propaganda

8:40 am in Economy, Government, Jobs, Media, Politics, Social Security, Unemployment by dakine01

FDR Quote on Social Security

FDR Quote on Social Security

Well, it looks like there is a new push on in the long term destruction of Social Security today. Now, I usually write about the plight of the long term unemployed and underemployed but I am getting close to Social Security eligibility so decided I would discuss the anti Social Security effort today.

I’ll start with Fact Free Fred Hiatt’s Concern Troll op-ed in today’s (Monday, January 28) Washington Post. It seems Mr Hiatt wants to offer his advice to President Obama on “entitlement reform” using the guise of how Democrats and Republicans view the past four years:

To achieve a fiscal compromise, Obama agreed in 2011 negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner to changes in Social Security that would be anathema to liberals, but Boehner walked away from the talks.
…snip…

Both histories are factually correct. That coherent accounts can be written either way ought to suggest to partisans that neither version is quite the slam-dunk they imagine.

At a minimum, it ought to propel the White House to continue acting in the national interest, whichever party that seems to serve. And for a long time, Obama has said the national interest requires both revenue increases and reform of entitlement programs.

Once again, Mr Hiatt and the Post are pushing the myth that Social Security is a part of the overall Federal Budget and needs to be “controlled” to “fix the deficit” when in fact, Social Security loans to the Genera Fund have been propping up the Federal Budget for decades, allowing for the tax cuts over the years.

While I expect this type of nonsense from the Washington Post, today’s Tampa Bay Times had a decidedly misleading headline (“US spends far more on seniors than on kids.”) How is it misleading?

In 2008, all government (local state, and federal) spent $26,255 on average for each person 65 or older, most of which is Social Security and Medicare.

The blurb on children spending:

Conversely, the federal government spends relatively little on children and Medicaid is the largest single item. State and local governments spend much more on children because they pay for schools. But overall, governments spend far more than double on seniors than they do on children 18 and younger.

Finally, at the very bottom of this post, the Times offers a couple of caveats to offset the misleading nature of their headline and opening:

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This is the “new normal”

12:19 pm in Economy, Jobs, Unemployment by dakine01

Roadside 'Jobs' sign stuck in an old couch

Photo: Doug Geisler / Flickr

The ADP Report on private sector jobs came out today and showed an increase of 158K jobs. David Dayen at the FDL News Desk discusses this report and the Bureau of Labor Statistics report that will be issued tomorrow morning (Friday, November 2):

Plug this all in and what have you got? The consensus forecast calls for an increase in 125,000 jobs. That would be an increase from last month’s increase of 114,000, but below the increases in July and August (August and September will get revised in the report). This generally matches what we’re seeing in the ancillary reports, and shouldn’t be a number that would arouse joy or sadness in either Presidential campaign. However, with the volatility of last month’s topline unemployment rate, derived from the household survey, I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw it increase from the current level of 7.8%.

Either way, it’s a preliminary report, and we probably shouldn’t put as much weight on it as we will, especially with the political implications headed into the election.

While the weekly report of initial unemployment claims was lower than expected (economists surprised!), even this moderately good news is not all that great.

The reality for many millions of us among the long term un and underemployed is the good jobs just are not there. At the end of August, Catherine Rampell of the NY Times had an article headlined “Majority of New Jobs Pay Low Wages, Study Finds.” As I noted in this post, it was very similar to an earlier post from April ’11 I had written that was based on a Washington Post article. Both the Times article and the Post article were based on reports from the National Employment Law Project.

Sunday in the NY Times, Steven Greenhouse had this article on how employers in retail and hospitality industries use (and abuse) part time workers:

But in two leading industries — retailing and hospitality — the number of part-timers who would prefer to work full-time has jumped to 3.1 million, or two-and-a-half times the 2006 level, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In retailing alone, nearly 30 percent of part-timers want full-time jobs, up from 10.6 percent in 2006. The agency found that in the retail and wholesale sector, which includes hundreds of thousands of small stores that rely heavily on full-time workers, about 3 in 10 employees work part-time….snip…

A 2011 survey of 436 employees at retailers in New York City, as diverse as luxury establishments on Fifth Avenue and dollar stores in the Bronx, found that half of the city’s retail workers were part-time and only one in 10 part-time workers had a set schedule week to week. One-fifth said they always or often had to be available for call-in shifts, according to the survey, which was overseen by researchers at City University of New York.

…snip…

Mr. Flickinger, the retail consultant, said companies benefited from using many part-timers. “It’s almost like sharecropping — if you have a lot of farmers with small plots of land, they work very hard to produce in that limited amount of land,” he said. “Many part-time workers feel a real competition to work hard during their limited hours because they want to impress managers to give them more hours.”

What? Could someone have actually spoken a truth here? The modern day wage slave, complete with sharecropping as the ideal.

While CNN has an article this morning attempting to paint the rosy glasses scenario on how the jobs are not all part time minimum wage, even they have to acknowledge the reality of the lower wage since 24% of the “new” jobs are in hospitality and retail:

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