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In U.S., Jobs Market Blues
Published on Saturday, December 13, 2003 by CommonDreams
In U.S., Jobs Market Blues
by Seth Sandronsky

Officially, job creation and economic growth are goals of the Bush White House. That might be news for many ordinary Americans of all ages and skin colors.

Their daily experiences with the economy are largely absent in mass media. Usually, such coverage is found in the business section.

U.S. journalism, infected with a focus on sleaze and tease, is far more focused on the personal habits of performers. Thus in important ways, the everyday struggles of working people have become invisible.

Have you been seeking work for the past six months? Then you were one of every four U.S. workers officially out of a job in Nov., essentially unchanged from Oct., according to the Labor Dept.

Have you been so discouraged by failing to find a job that your search has stopped? Then you were one of 457,000 "discouraged workers" in Nov.

Third-quarter economic growth in the U.S. was the highest since 1984. Subsequently, the official rate of joblessness has declined to 5.9 percent in Nov. from 6.0 percent in Oct., with 8.7 million people unable to find paid work both months, not including 2.1 million Americans who are locked up.

In Nov., the jobless rate for whites was 5.2 percent versus that for Latinos of 7.4 percent and 10.2 percent for blacks. Though the total number of whites out of work is the largest, nonwhites are disproportionately at-risk for being jobless.

Consider the plight of African Americans in the manufacturing sector, where every tenth U.S. worker is employed. A NY Times report on July 12 found that, "Unemployment among blacks is rising at a faster pace than in any similar period since the mid-1970s, and the jobs lost have been mostly in manufacturing, where the pay for blacks has historically been higher than in many other fields."

Editorially, however, our daily newspaper of record on Dec. 6 sidestepped the economics of the color line. The paper's editors did note that for Nov. "the 57,000 jobs created in the month were far below expectations, and fell short of the 200,000-plus needed per month, on average, to reduce the unemployment rate substantially."

During the Great Depression, every fourth U.S. worker was out of a job. Such conditions are basically what black teens of both genders face; their unemployment rate was 28.2 percent in Nov.

In the America of the 1930s, many of the jobless and those who held jobs became politically active. Their activism changed the job market and U.S. society.

Then, the political strength of the "Old Left" flowed partly from its attack on the U.S. color line. That factor helped to spur FDR's New Deal of social legislation which bettered many Americans' living and working standards.

Currently, the Bush administration is doing its best to roll back social legislation. Medicare reform nudging the popular program to the private sector is a recent case of the White House's attack on working people.

Another example is the administration's standing by while state and local governments (SLG) deal with a flood of red ink. SLG resistance to their insolvency includes slashing spending for working people, which worsens unemployment.

If there were a free press in America, the silent unemployment crisis in the nation's barrios, ghettos, reservations, rural and urban areas generally would be daily news. One result of this mass media coma for working people?

Democrats and Republicans get a free ride for their weak responses to the nation's jobs dilemma. Why are both parties taking this stance?

Is it due to the role that the jobless play in depressing the wages of those with jobs, and boosting profits for their bosses? It is no secret that large employers give big bucks to each party.

Such questions go beyond a liberal gripe to a radical critique of the market economy based on working people producing a surplus that flows away from them. Just visit your local dollar store for proof.

See the many items on the shelves? Then consider that surplus and joblessness in the world's richest economy.

Is it any wonder the largest U.S. electoral group is non-voters? Against that backdrop, the presidential election campaign is heating up as the "jobless recovery" of growth without much new employment lurches forward.

Seth Sandronsky, a member of Sacramento Area Peace Action and co-editor with Because People Matter, Sacramento's progressive paper. He can be reached at:


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