FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Unemployment Mumbo Jumbo

The US stock market jumped up today on word that the number of new unemployment applications fell to the lowest level in four years.

Sounds good, right? It’s meant to sound good, but if you look at the number, and if you think about what it really means, it’s not good news at all.

What the US Labor Department reported was that new unemployment claims filed for the week ended Feb. 24 totaled 351,000, which was slightly lower than the 353,000 new claims filed the prior week. “Slightly indeed! a better term for this 0.57% decline is “statistically insignificant!

The idea that such a “drop” in new claims would spark a jump in the Dow or the S&P shows how completely divorced from reality investors really are.

But it is worse than that. The number, remember, is new unemployment claims. That is to say, over a third of a million more Americans were laid off last week. Anyone who sees that as some kind of good news is really stretching to find a silver lining on a pretty dark cloud.

Now I’ll grant you that from one perspective it’s good to see “only” 351,000 new people getting on the nation’s unemployment lines rather than the 589,000 who joined a line in December 2008. But the reason the number is smaller now is not that things have been getting better. It’s that there are fewer people to lay off. Companies and employers have already cut back their workforces to the bone, so for them to find another 351,000 people to sack, as they seem to be doing week after week, suggests they are really struggling.

The official unemployment rate, an artificial politically rigged number deliberately designed to underreport the amount of actual joblessness, is still at a staggering 8.3 percent of the workforce, which represents over 13 million people. And if you count, as the government used to do, those who have been forced to accept only part-time jobs when they want full-time work, and those who have given up actively looking for work not because they don’t want a job but because they have realized that there are no jobs to be had where they live, the rate is over 15%, and nearly half of those people without jobs have been without one for more than 6 months. Many people have exhausted their unemployment benefits, which after extensions, have been running as long as 99 weeks, or nearly two years!

By the way, the same day that the Labor Department reported that 351,000 new unemployment claims had been opened in a week, it was reported that in January US employers added a net 243,000 new jobs. That was in a month! But new unemployment claims in February were running at above 350,000every week for a month following that net increase in jobs.

How you get from there to seeing 351,000 new unemployment claim filings last week as good news is simply beyond me. How you can have a president looking at these numbers say, as President Obama did in his State of the Union address, that “America is back,” is beyond me too.

One way is to trumpet a decline in the size of new unemployment claim filings as a positive. Another is to point to the stock market hitting a new high, when obviously corporate profits have become almost completely untethered from the state of the national economy, and in any case have been achieved precisely by laying off record numbers of American workers and shipping millions of jobs overseas to low-wage countries, while making those workers in the US who still have jobs work harder and longer for the same or lower wages. And a third is to count on ignorant or lazy journalists and editors of the corporate media to follow the lead of the happy talk folks in the White House and the Labor and Commerce Departments and paint bad news as good.

So don’t be suckered by these numbers. The US economy is in the same swamp that it has been in for the past four years, and the American people are still being screwed by a system that is all about shifting wealth from the bottom and the middle up the top 1%.

Dave Lindorff is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. He lives in Philadelphia. 

 

 

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail