The Jobs Crisis Continues, and Continues to Drag Down this "Recovery"
Two months of exceptionally weak job growth – employers created just 18,000 jobs in June and 25,000 in May, down from 217,000 in April – underscore just how fragile the economy is. Job losses in the public sector have continued to mount. Government employment fell by 87,000 jobs over the past two months, and is down by 659,000 since June 2010. Job growth in the private sector has not been sufficient to take up the slack; the 130,000 jobs created by private employers over the past two months is less than the growth in the working age population and too few to make a dent in the unemployment rate. As state and local governments address shortfalls in tax revenue by slashing services and laying off teachers, clerical workers, police and firefighters, private businesses that depend on spending by these workers and their families have been reluctant to increase hiring.
The news is bad for men, but the situation for women is especially grim. As I wrote in May, working in different occupations than men made women less vulnerable to job losses during the crash but more likely to be penalized during the recovery. The economy began creating jobs in February 2010, but job losses in the public sector have continued to mount. Government jobs have declined by 410,000 since February 2010, with two-thirds of this job loss falling on women. Most troubling as we consider the long-run damage to the economy is the loss of 169,000 jobs in K-12 education over this period. Moreover, men were picking up a disproportionate share of the new jobs created in the recovery, including in such female dominated sectors as private education and health services (the Pew Research Center also released a study on this last week).
Friday’s jobs report confirms the disproportionate effect on women’s jobs. The June jobs report showed that women gained just 9,000 jobs in June as a one-month increase of 30,000 jobs in the private sector was offset by a loss of 21,000 public sector jobs. Over the two-month period of May and June, women have done even worse. They lost 53,000 jobs – 10,000 private sector jobs and 43,000 government jobs. The employment situation for women is likely to continue to deteriorate in July as the new budget year begins that month in nearly all states. A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Prioritiesshows that most states will be implementing deep cuts in important public services including education and health care. These are jobs where women make up a majority of the workforce.
Many observers attributed May’s weak job growth to temporary factors such as the nuclear meltdown in Japan and the spike in gasoline prices and employment growth was expected to rebound in June. The weak June jobs numbers, though, make it clear that the slowdown in job growth is not a temporary blip. Deficit reduction, as everyone except a few economists understands, means less demand for goods and services and less reason for businesses to hire workers. The Boehner and Obama show may be good political theater, but the cuts under discussion as the debt ceiling limit approaches would likely prove disastrous. Expansionary austerity is more than an oxymoron. In the current economic environment, it is a formula for a double-dip recession.
More action by the government on the jobs front is urgently needed – more spending, not less; more direct job creation; more help to cash-strapped states to maintain public education and health care. The June jobs report shows that the number of recently unemployed workers is rising again. The new bills introduced last week by Senator Jack Reed and Representative Rosa DeLauro to promote work sharing as an alternative to layoffs is an important step that can be quickly taken to reduce unemployment. On our current job creation trajectory, job growth in this recession is likely to be worse even than in the Great Depression – it will take us longer to get back to the pre-recession level of employment than it did in the 1930s. Failure to act now to create jobs should not be an option.