Recent employment numbers (Nov, 2017) would seem to suggest that the job market in the U.S. has never been better. According to proponents of the report, the 4.1 total unemployment percentage means that America’s economy is booming and that it’s a worker’s market out there. If you watch any of the major news shows, they’ll mostly tell you that too. Here’s a quick clip of such a show.
Alright America. We Did It !! Shut it all down. Can’t get better than this! Right?…. Right? I mean, watching that clip, why not be exuberant and victorious? Well, because that clip is masking the truth and is wildly misleading. And why is that clip misleading? After all, we are close to full employment, meaning anyone who wants a job can find one. And that’s great, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The truth is, there are a lot of ways to fool the American people, and a jobs report like November’s is one such way.
So, how are these impressive employment numbers fooling people? Well, what’s missing is any context behind those numbers. What those numbers really mean, and why? Here’s some important information regarding the November jobs report. The following tells you how the report counts unemployed and employed people.
“Any individual who has been actively looking for a job within the past four weeks and is capable of taking on a job is considered unemployed. In contrast, you’re considered employed if you have a job. Even if you’re only working temporarily or you’re not working because you’re on maternity leave or you’re sick, you’re still counted as one of the employed people in the labor force.”
So people working temporarily, as well as part-time workers, are both included. Also, people who have given up looking for work are not included as unemployed. That number is around 1.5 million. Another problem with this report is that it doesn’t delve into underemployment as part of the employment numbers. Underemployed people who work part time, but want to work full time are considered fully employed. The number of underemployed people in the U.S. is estimated to be 22 million. Again, these are people who are currently part of that rosy employment number. Do you think these workers would think everything is great in the job market?
Here are more stark signs that the employment numbers grossly exaggerate the current job market’s success. If the job market is so great, why haven’t worker’s wages gone up? (only 0.2% per year, which is negligible growth). Are the jobs being created mostly well paying or at least have stability?(No, they are mostly low paying service sector jobs where hours and even employment can wildly fluctuate. This was seen in the CNN clip)
One of the unfortunate side effects of a good jobs report is that people who can’t find good work may think it’s their fault, and people at large, who only see the “great” employment numbers, but not the meaning behind them, may think people without jobs are lazy or not looking hard enough.
The truth is, most people won’t take a job if they can’t survive on the pay and hours. That makes sense. Why would anyone work just to pay half their bills? Earnest job searchers are disheartened when they discover the truth we’ve known here at The Underemployed Life for years: landing a stable job, with a living wage, has never been harder.