11 Reasons Why the Unemployment Crisis Is Even Worse Than You Think
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President Obama recently addressed the nation during a joint session of Congress and the main theme of that address was the need to create jobs, lots of jobs, millions of jobs. The Great Recession has cost US workers millions of jobs and those jobs have not come back as quickly as they disappeared and in many cases those jobs will never return. According to the Economic Policy Institute, “In total, there are 6.9 million fewer jobs today than there were in December 2007.”
That is only a small part of the jobs-hole story, a story that is often ignored, overlooked and oversimplified by mass media.
The media has failed to present the unemployment problem, with all its associated economically devastating consequences, in the manner it deserves. It’s possible that unemployment facts and figures don’t translate well for advertisers, or they are too cumbersome to present in a two-minute segment. Whatever the reason, the mass media seem to avoid unemployment details as they would avoid describing and filming fresh road kill during a dinnertime newscast. While some excellent blogs clearly explain unemployment data, such as Mish’s Economic Trend Analysis, Calculated Risk and Economic Populist, mass media sites are absent.
The unemployment rate remained at 9.1 percent for August. Unemployment to the mass media generally centers on that single point within the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) monthly employment report. There is passing mention of discouraged workers and the underemployed, but the true scale of the jobs crisis is given scant attention considering the magnitude of the problem.
What follows are 11 unemployment details that mass media underreports or ignores completely. This list will not be recalled fondly as a top-10 list of best quarterbacks or favorite vacation retreats would, but it’s where the REAL unemployment crisis is exposed.
- The jobs deficit: That is the total number of jobs lost PLUS jobs that should have been created since the recession began in December 2007; as mentioned above, there are 6.9 million fewer jobs today than at the start of the Great Recession, but that tells only half the tale of the jobs deficit. There is also the matter of creating jobs to keep up with the increase in workforce population. Those new workers include high school and college graduates, and immigrants. The number of jobs that need to be created each month to accommodate new entrants into the workforce ranges from 120,000 - 150,000. Adding together the jobs lost since the recession and the new jobs needed for population growth, the total jobs deficit is estimated to be 11.3 million. A few tax breaks, some targeted workforce retraining and some regulatory relief for businesses are not going to be the forces behind the creation of more than 11 million jobs. A massive effort is required to fill that gaping jobs hole.
- Filling the jobs deficit: According to EPI: “To fill that gap in three years – by mid-2014—while still keeping up with the growth in the working-age population—would require adding around 400,000 jobs every single month. To fill the gap in five years—by mid-2016—would mean adding 280,000 jobs each month. By comparison, over the last three months, the economy added just 35,000 jobs, on average.”
It’s striking that the economy has created only 105,000 jobs during the past three months. When considering only the new entrants to the workforce, such as recent college graduates, that three-month span produced a shortage of 270,000 or more jobs.
- The Birth/Death Model: This is not births and deaths of people, but of businesses. The BLS estimates how many jobs were created or lost by business formations or closings. In August, the BLS estimated that 87,000 jobs were created by new businesses.
This is an often discussed employment barometer at many economy centered blogs, but mass media pays it meager attention. Why is that so? It’s a complicated model that can make the head spin of even the most astute employment expert. But there appears to be agreement that the model has a tendency to misread the economic cycle, as Calculated Risk points out, “A few years ago several people -- myself included -- pointed out that the birth/death model would miss turning points in employment. I thought the model would overstate the number of jobs added as the economy slid into recession (and understate the number of jobs lost monthly during a recession). Sure enough that is what the annual benchmark revision showed during the employment recession.”