We live in a strange America now. On the one had we are suffering from nearly lifeless job growth, and yet startup companies are popping up all over the country in cities like New Orleans, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. The latest U.S. Jobs Report breaks down all the numbers.
In any event, we know that in December 2013, only 78,000 jobs were created and that in January 2014, only 113,000 were. This is cannot be good news, although people seem to want to see it as “growth”. For those 63% of Americans who are participating in the labor force, what they notice and contend with are the very low wages with little increase for COLA. As the NY Times states: “But the report also made plain what many Americans feel in their bones: Wages are stuck, and barely rose at all in 2013. They were up 1.9 percent last year or a mere 0.4 percent after accounting for inflation. Not only was that increase even smaller than the one recorded in 2012, it was half the normal rate of wage gains in the two decades before the last recession”.
The jobs that were created tended to be in the Blue Collar sector, construction and mining being two of the largest contributors. The health care industry lost 400 jobs, while the service industry gained about 36,000 even though most of these were from temporary agencies. White Collar jobs seem to be the ones that are harder to find than any other. But the wage issue is huge across both sectors and there does not seem to be much relief in sight for American workers struggling to make ends meet: “We won’t see stronger wage growth until unemployment gets below 6 percent and we begin adding 200,000 jobs a month,” Mr. Harris predicted. Friday’s data from the Labor Department shows an economy performing well below that level, however. The 113,000 jobs that were added in January fell far short of the 180,000 economists had anticipated, and came after a particularly weak December. Despite the decline in the jobless rate, some economists said on Friday that job creation had indeed slowed, in what might be called a winter wobble for the economy — the cold weather equivalent of last year’s summer swoon”.
Right now, unemployment is at 6.6% down just .1 of a percent from last month. At this rate, it seems that the typical worker-bee American will earn dollars whose buying power just is not enough. Is it so surprising that of the 10 million unemployed, so many have simply left the labor market and given up looking? Many more are finding that they have to relocate for work, often-times changing the State they live in or moving cross-country.
Even if one is lucky enough to land a job, it most likely is not enough to pay the bills. The reward for continuing to look for work is to exhaust oneself and at the end of the day not have enough money for basics. The Fed may want to say that the economy is stable and getting back on track. But for the majority of working Americans, it seems unstable and off track. There is so much work that needs to be done in this country’s infrastructure. How hard is it to put American’s to work and pay enough for them to live a decent life?
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