More About False Employment Numbers

Have you noticed how you hear how many jobs were created each month? Yet we still have unemployment. Tens of thousands of jobs created each and every month, yet the unemployment rate does not go down. How does that work?

When job creation numbers are reported, what is not included is how many jobs have been eliminated.

Think about the announcements you hear. 30,000 jobs were created last month! Okay, that would mean that if that trend continued, we would create 360,000 jobs in one year. In less than 3 years, we would have created over 1 million jobs.

Let’s dive deeper. The population of the US is roughly 330 million. The Labor Participation Rate is 63.2%, meaning 208.6 million people are actively working or seeking employment. If the unemployment rate were true, standing now at 3.7%, that means about 7.7 million people are unemployed.

Here’s the problem with those numbers. They don’t change!!!!

In point of fact, according to the Labor Department, total non-farm employment increased by 130,000 in August alone. In June, they claimed that payrolls increased by 224,000. In July, 164,000. In May, 75,000. In April, 263,000. In March, 196,000.

So, according to the US Labor Dept, in six months time the US economy added over 1 million jobs. Yet the unemployment percentage hasn’t budged downward. If there were any accuracy to these numbers, the US would be in negative unemployment in less than 3 years.

Of course, the Labor Dept was reporting similar numbers last year. In October 2018, they claimed 250,000 had been added. In November, 155,000. In December, another 312,000.

Even if job growth were slower than expected, it would still be job growth. If the economy were truly adding hundreds of thousands of jobs per month, unemployment would not exist.

In addition, consider normal attrition. People retire, get sick or die. In such cases, they leave the job market entirely. Thus, replacing them means people from the applicant pool are hired. So that should be reducing the number of unemployed but it doesn’t. The birth rate has been decreasing over time, so it is well known there are fewer young people entering the job market than the number of Boomers leaving the job market.

Of course, I’ve mentioned before that many jobs are part time or temporary. To be considered “employed” can mean working 1 hour per week or less. If an employer takes a full time job and splits it in half to make two part time jobs, it’s magic! They just created a job!

If this many jobs were genuinely being created, real wages would also be rising. Real wages as defined by wages in relation to living expenses. They’re not, except in very limited areas. Wages would be growing because employers would be competing for workers. They’re not. In the limited geographic areas which have seen wage growth, prices soon increase, eliminating any benefit seen by workers. That’s because employers want to maintain higher than reasonable profit margins. That’s capitalism.

I expect that next month we will see a larger than average number of jobs added, thanks to auto manufacturers listing jobs available as they attempt to hire scabs to cross union picket lines. That’s an example of another falsehood. Just because a company posts jobs does not mean anyone was hired to do the jobs.

We really need to insist on different ways of measuring employment and unemployment. The system we have right now is completely dishonest.

True Low Unemployment Would Mean Things We Are NOT Seeing

Corporate media is fond of saying that unemployment is low, which would mean employment is up. I have previously covered the Labor Participation Rate, the Bloomberg report calculating that 600,000 jobs have been lost just since December, unreported and that report came out several months ago. However, even that isn’t necessary because the evidence that employment is as high as claimed does not add up with what we see all around us.

For one thing, if employment were truly up, we would not be having the discussion about immigration at all. We have seen incidents in the past when employment was high. At that time, the US was welcoming immigrants with open arms. Compare to what we see occurring right this minute.

Deporting large numbers of immigrants may have some impact on employment but barely enough to budge percentages or numbers. Consider that the estimate was that there were 11 million illegal immigrants in the US. Not all of those were in any condition or age to be employed. Many are children, as we can clearly see from the children being caged at the border this very minute. Others have been here for years and are too elderly to work. Still more are disabled in some way.

Thus, we can consider that possibly 3 million may have possibly been employed and most of those have worked in low-wage agricultural or similar jobs. In cases where they have occupied jobs with higher pay and skills, deporting them does more damage than good to the economy, as many corporations have moved jobs to South American countries. Those are the DREAMERS, who have gained education and skills which many natives lack. In other words, not only are the immigrants being deported but the jobs they occupied are being deported as well.

Even without the above, if employment was as high as claimed, immigrants would be welcomed to occupy lower levels of employment, allowing more skilled Americans to fill higher positions.

Next, consider that if employment were up, we would not be seeing other signs of a declining economy which we are seeing. Student loan defaults are at record levels. Vehicle loan defaults have been increasing for several years while new vehicle sales are down, causing mass layoffs in the auto industry. New and used home sales are declining. Consumer credit debt is rising rapidly as consumers are forced to use credit to meet basic needs. While we already have the highest level of consumer and corporate debt in world history.

In times of high employment, pay and benefits increase because employers compete for the best, most qualified workers first and then move down the skill/experience ladder from there. Wages do not remain stagnant at any level.

It is well known we are living in a “gig economy”, with a large percentage of jobs being contract or temporary work. I had written that this was coming in 2001, beginning primarily with medical professionals and then spreading to other fields. That is precisely what happened. However, what has changed over time has been a decline in pay and benefits for such positions as they became more common across industries. In fact, that is why it has become more common. Temporary and contract workers were once used to fill positions which were short-staffed and as a result, pay and benefits were above average. They typically led to offers of permanent employment for good workers. Today, these positions are used to avoid the need to hire full time staff. Workers are offered part time and contract positions or nothing at all, while they rarely lead to offers of permanent employment. This does not happen in times of high employment because employers are anxious about being stranded with inadequate staffing. In fact, they would be offering nearly unlimited hours to the best temp/contract workers who have already shown their value.

In times of truly high employment, one can see an initial anomalous dip in the stock market as employment rises due to wages being seen as a cost. Then stocks increase as profit margins rise due to consumer spending due to the employment and wage levels.

Right now we see prices rising in comparison to wages. In times of high employment, prices rise but only secondary to higher wages and employment. Yes, tariffs are playing into inflation but there has not been a time that prices have decreased at any time since the 2008 crash. In fact, rent in general has continued rising unabated since that time.

In times of high employment, employers will eagerly subsidize or even pay for higher education for valuable employees wishing to advance. Today, companies are mandating continued education at employee expense, with or without advancement. Note that some may use the example that employers once paid for travel and attendance to conferences and this has become less common. I find this not anything abnormal with technology advancements which have resulted in video conferencing becoming far more common gradually over time, reducing the need for travel.

When employment is high, increased wages and benefits result in a decrease in out of pocket costs for workers. That leads to increased consumer spending. Increased consumer spending results in a further cycle, maintaining and creating more jobs. Right now we are seeing reduced consumer spending outside of absolute essentials. Tariffs would have some effect to slow the volume of goods being sold but would not by itself result in a depressed consumer market resulting in mass layoffs and loan defaults.

Obviously, capitalists will be capitalists and rent prices will continue rising, as we have seen in this battered economy. That leaves even less disposable income for consumers to spend.

These conditions are only going to get worse due to Trump’s trade war with China. No matter how much he gives farmers in subsidies at our expense, that does nothing for downstream jobs in trucking, packaging and shipping. Tariffs are a tax on the American people which slow consumer spending by volume purchased. When consumers have a limited budget, that budget does not increase because prices do, meaning they spend the same but obtain less. The tariffs do not mean more profit for retailers, so they see reduced sales volume. Less sales volume means less requirement for labor. That means more layoffs but will be less immediately evident because it will not be mass layoffs and instead be widespread and gradual reduction in staff. Then more downstream reductions in trucking, shipping, manufacturing and so on.

When corporate media is telling you anything about how well the economy and job markets are doing (among other things), it is highly advisable to question it very critically.

Real Unemployment Information

So, how about all those new jobs you hear about on the media? Those low unemployment rates?

If you want a realistic look at unemployment, you cannot simply look at the official unemployment numbers. You have to look at that plus the Labor Participation Rate (LPR). This is a number which states a percentage of US residents over the age of 16 are employed or seeking employment.

The Labor Participation Rate is one of the few numbers which the government keeps fairly current. You can find the official rates here, updated monthly. It is current through January 2019 because February is not yet over.

If you open the page, it gives you a graph and table. What this information shows is that labor participation has declined fairly steadily since 2009, with fairly minor variations. In 2009, it reached a peak of 65.8%. The lowest rate in 10 years was 62.7% in 2016. The lowest in 2018 was also 62.7%. The current rate is 63.1%.

So, what do these numbers mean?

I could not find information about ages 16–18 which was reliable. However, percentage of the population under 18 is 22.6%. Actual US population is estimated at 327,167, 434 as of July 2018. That gives a population over 18 of 253,196,634 people. Those are the numbers I will work with, which should be fairly accurate for this purpose. For simplicity, I am using the 2018 population as a constant and am rounding numbers.

So with these numbers, we had an LPR in 2009 in total numbers of 166,603,385. In 2018, we had a low of 158,754,290. In current numbers, we have an LPR of 159,767,076.

So, between 2009, the height of the recession, we have seen a decrease in the LPR of 6,836,309 (January 2019). That many people have dropped out of the job market for one reason or another.

What is striking is that the number of people entering or re-entering the job market has increased since September 2018. The birth rate has been dropping for at least two decades, so this is an indication that retired people are re-entering the job market.

The official number of unemployed per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is currently 6.5 million. But that does not include the number of people who have dropped out of the labor market completely. When we add the 6.5 million to the decreased number stated above, that equals over 12.8 million Americans not employed. So, more than double the 8% unemployment rate being stated.

The BLS also stated that unemployment increased slightly in January.

I have explained before that the median income is complete BS. The way that works is an average, which looks like this: If a CEO makes $990,000 a year and their employee makes $10,000 a year, the total is $1 million. Averaged out, median income becomes $500,000. And that refers only to wages, not income.

Let’s go further with that. If one investor makes $100 million and 99 people are in the LPR with NO income, the median income becomes $1 million, making it appear as though all those people made $1 million each that year.

The US Census Bureau estimates that 12–13% of Americans are currently below the poverty line.

48% of Americans earn less than $30,000 a year. 69% of Americans earn less than $50,000 a year.

I have pointed out previously that the bar for being considered employed is extremely low. If you work 1 hour a week, you are considered employed. So obviously unemployment does not mean you earn a living wage or anywhere near it.

Of course, I have already written about the fact that corporations are laying people of by tens of thousands, nearly all permanently. Ford, GM, GE all announced mass layoffs in Nov and Dec. Harley-Davidson closed one plant and moved the operations to Thailand. Carrier announced layoffs in the US, with a new location in Mexico. Sears/KMart went bankrupt and is unlikely to recover this time. Toys R Us and numerous other retail chains have ceased to exist. There are more to follow as equity retail space loans come due in balloon payments.

Vehicle repossessions are rising. So are defaults on federal student loans, which carry penalties which can impact a consumer’s credit for life, even after IRS seizure of refunds, income and assets. Consumer credit debt is at the highest level in history while income remains stagnant. Home sales are on a downward slide, not just domestically but throughout the western world. The number of Americans without health insurance has increased by 7 million in 2 years.

All of this flies directly in the face of any claims that jobs are being created or that income levels are rising. When the claims are made that income levels are rising, that refers to the median income described above. When they talk about employment, it’s nothing short of a fabrication for political expediency.

The media is not going to report the truth because it would reflect badly on their corporate advertisers. Can’t have an informed audience taking to the streets to protest against their income sources, can we?

The real impetus here is on us, to be accurately informed. To confirm the information we receive rather than believe it blindly without question. To share that accurate information with others. To call out false information as it is presented.