Binyamin Appelbaum on the unemployment rate: "It has declined because people stopped looking [for work], not because they started working." Robert Oak at the Economic Populist agrees with this assessment, as well as many other economists.
That is what the government says, that "discouraged workers" stopped looking for work, and so therefore, millions are no longer counted in the unemployment rate. These are human beings who were swept under the rug and are no longer a statistic. That's pretty pathetic, when someone isn't even counted as a lousy number anymore.
The government is essentially saying that (only) 11.5 million unemployed Americans are STILL looking for 3.8 million jobs --- jobs that may, or may not, be within driving distance of their home --- as though an unemployed engineer is supposed to abandon his underwater home in LA and move to NYC to take a job at Walmart. And if he doesn't, he's either accused of being lazy, lacking jobs skills, being a drug addict or an alcoholic, or wanting to be on the government dole.
Many ill-informed (but otherwise, gainfully employed) Americans still believe that several million Americans had no good reason to stop looking for a job after being rejected over and over again over the course of 2, 3 or 4 years (and sometimes longer). Even if after these "lazy loafers" had already applied everywhere they possibly could, sometimes re-applying at the same places ten times over, only to be rejected over and over again.
Did you ever see the Human Resource people staring at you like you were crazy for even trying (if you had applied in person)? Or have them pathetically smile at you and wish you luck when they knew damn well you never had a chance in hell?
Why do many hard-working Americans still believe that millions of other honest and hard-working unemployed Americans (who are now economically desperate) just threw their hands up in the air and gave up (quit the labor force) for no good reason at all? Why do they still believe that ordinary people had preferred to go on the government dole instead? (Or that not-so-ordinary people are robbing banks just to get health care).
Could it because of multi-millionaires like Bill O'Reilly on Fox News?
And what are those 3.8 million jobs being offered to those 11.5 million (counted) unemployed Americans?
The job market has been increasingly polarized, with high-paid and low-paid occupations growing quickly, while middle-class jobs
have been disappearing. And on top of that, median wages have stagnated over the past decade. Industries with low pay have grown significantly while mid-range industries have withered --- mainly driven by the steep decline in U.S. manufacturing.
Why have the number of middle-class occupations continued to decline? One reason is that labor-saving technological change has, over time, replaced a number of “routine” middle-class jobs like manufacturing, while leaving low-end service jobs and high-end positions largely untouched.
Also, institutional factors like the eroding value of the minimum wage as a labor standard and eroding protections for willing workers that want to form a union have also been important drivers of inequality and disappointing middle-class living standards over the past generation.
And the offshoring of millions of domestic jobs to low-wage countries has also been a very huge factor, as well as the H-1B visa and other guest-worker programs.
But the unemployment rate is lower now because the government doesn't count those who can no longer find a job (not necessarily because the unemployed stopped looking for non-existent jobs); but mostly because no matter what political party is in power, it's a failure for them to publicly admit that they (Congress, the President, and the Fed) are doing a shitty job of creating enough shitty jobs (let alone, creating decent jobs).
So maybe it is THEY (government executives who are on the government dole) who are the lazy ones or lacking jobs skills --- and/or are the drug addicts and alcoholics. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm?
* Regulators overseeing the nation’s largest financial institutions are distrustful of their bosses and afraid to speak out. A survey of roughly 400 Fed employees showed a workforce that is demoralized, an institution where teamwork is nonexistent, where innovation and creativity are discouraged, and where employees feel underutilized. The shaky morale is a legacy of Alan Greenspan’s 19-year term as Fed chairman. Now we have Larry Summers to look forward to --- for no improvement at all. (The White House is not yet vetting Janet Yellen for the Fed Chair.)
A Few of My Own (maybe Naive) Recommendations
1) Going back to the beginning of the Great Recession (December 2007), using data from the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service, have the Bureau of Labor Statistics create a new "U-7" unemployment rate to included all those who are no longer counted in the "U-6" unemployment rate. This would not include those who were forced to take an early Social Security retirement at age 62 or those who were granted a Social Security disability award --- but would include those who no longer report an income through wages to the SSA, or file a federal tax return to the IRS (unless of course, they have since passed away).
2) Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour (indexed to inflation) on all companies (domestic and foreign owned) with more than 1,000 domestic employees (or have $500 million in GROSS domestic revenues), while simultaneously, making it mandatory that all offshored jobs are being performed by foreign workers who also earn the same prevailing wage --- or impose a heavy tariff on their imports back to the U.S. (This will help save the taxpayers on the cost of food stamps).
3) Ensure that all H-1B and other guest-worker employees are paid at least the prevailing "median" wage scales that are currently being paid in the U.S. to American workers --- but only allow such visas if it can be proven beyond any reasonable doubt that these visas are actually needed, and that these foreign guest-workers actually have certain skills that American workers supposedly don't have.
4) Impose a life-time ban on any government worker (including all military officers and politicians) from becoming a corporate lobbyist after leaving government employment.
5) Impose stiffer penalties on "union busters" and fully enforce the law, including criminal charges if company executives and managers are proven to be complicit in any way (meaning actual jail time).
6) Change Obamacare to include all part-time employees for all companies (domestic and foreign owned) with more than 1,000 domestic employees (or have $500 million in GROSS domestic revenues). This will help save the taxpayers on the cost of Medicaid.
7) Find a much better way to nominate directors for the Fed...like maybe a simple public online poll.
* The above list is not all inclusive, nor is it complete --- but it's a good place to start.