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The Chilling Reality Of America’s Worsening Jobs Crisis

Economy Memo Pad

The Chilling Reality Of America’s Worsening Jobs Crisis


At last, some excellent economic news for folks long-mired in the stagnant labor market!

At least, those were the headlines recently trumpeted across the country. “Jobs Spring Back,” exclaimed a typical headline or report that companies added a better than expected 165,000 private-sector jobs in April. Wow — the thunderous, three-year boom of prosperity that has rained riches on Wall Street is finally beginning to shower on our streets, right?

Well, as dry-land farmers can tell you, thunder ain’t rain. Read beneath the joyful headlines hailing April’s uptick in job numbers, and you’ll see the parched truth.

For example, more than a third of working-age Americans are either out of work or have given up on finding a job. Also, last month’s hiring increase was almost entirely for receptionists, waiters, clerks, temp workers, car-rental agents and other low-wage positions with no benefits or upwardly mobile possibilities. On the other hand, manufacturing — generally the source of good, middle-class jobs — did not add workers in April and has cut some 10,000 jobs in the last year.

Especially problematic was the continued rise in underemployment — people wanting full-time work, but having to take part-time and temporary jobs. Underemployment is also pounding college graduates. While they’ve been more successful than non-grads at landing jobs, they’re not getting jobs that fit their career goals or even require the degrees they spent money and time to obtain. Indeed, many of those rental agents and restaurant employees you encounter hold four-year degrees, forcing everyone else to scramble for the few, even lower-paid jobs further down the skill ladder.

Meanwhile, the next graduating class is already beginning to flood into the labor market from colleges and high schools with nowhere to go.

In May, another headline shouted: “Stock Market Soars.” It expressed delight that the Dow Jones Average topped 15,000 for the first time in its history.

Yet this index of Wall Street wealth gives a totally false picture of our nation’s true economic health. Yes, the privileged few are doing extremely well. But the workaday many are struggling — and falling further and further behind as the jobs market sinks steadily from mere recession down into depression.

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower is a nationally syndicated columnist and one of America's most prominent progressive voices. His column carried by more than 75 publications across the country. Prior to becoming a writer, Hightower served as Texas Agricultural Commission from 1982 to 1991.

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  1. Dominick Vila May 15, 2013

    Faced with robust foreign commpetition, American entrepreneurs have been finding ways to reduce operating costs to remain competitive and meet shareholder expectations. Hiring part-time and temporary workers is one of several strategies embraced during the last few decades to achieve that goal. The increased use of robotics, elimination or reduction of benefit packages, and legislation like the one passed last week in the House to give hourly employees the option to get compensatory time off instead of overtime pay are all designed to reduce operating costs.
    That is, indeed, the core of the dilemma we are facing when it comes to employment and the need to remain competitive. Contrary to popular perception, many CEOs understand the benefits of Obamacare, which can shift the burden of corporate provided healthcare to the public sector.

    1. InsideEye May 15, 2013

      Should not NAFTA be abandoned, let jobs stay here. If you want to build Fords in Mexico or elsewhere they should be sold to the home countries, why should we lower our standards ….the aspirations of our grandparents were to come here and succeed and be able to provide at this level after achieving a piece of the American Dream. there is not muchof dream left for native ? Americans. It only took less than a generation to achieve a great living standard. Even myself, no English , 4 degrees paid for by loans and working …at times washing bakery pans…. It can be done and it was fun also. …Seems There was more money left over…only a few years ago !!!!

      1. CPAinNewYork May 15, 2013

        Yes! Abandon NAFTA. That’s a no-brainer for the middle class and the poor. The problem is that the rich and powerful like NAFTA, because it favors them with cheap labor.
        The middle class and poor vastly outnumber the rich, so why don’t they do something to redress the situation? How, you ask? Simple. Take control of the government through the ballot box and beat the hell out of the rich. Seize their assets, Abrogate any treaties that don’t favor the middle class and the poor. Kick those scumbag illegals out of the country or kill them if they don’t go peacefully.
        All of this is doable. Look at the French revolution. There was some adverse reaction, particularly among the crowned heads of Europe, but it was at best temporary. Now, hte crowned heads of Europe don’t count for diddly squat.

      2. plc97477 May 15, 2013

        I would also say bring tariffs on things made in other countries.

    2. Eric LaRue May 15, 2013

      If many CEOs understand the benefits of Obamacare, then that gives us, the common citizens, more incentive to seek out those companies and support them, rather than the CEOs who are making the news for firing employees because Obama got re-elected.

      1. CPAinNewYork May 15, 2013

        I have a better idea: Crush those who oppose any proposed benefits for the middle class and poor.

        1. cats33 May 15, 2013

          That would be Obama. All of his regulations are killing jobs. Suck it up, you voted for it!!!!

          1. CPAinNewYork May 16, 2013

            Are you really that nuts or are you pulling my leg? What has Obama done that will lessen jobs?

          2. cats33 May 17, 2013

            Are you really that nuts? Everything he does is killing jobs. There are only 90.6 million without jobs under Obama. Pitiful

    3. CPAinNewYork May 15, 2013

      Mr. Vila:
      Great post. Very perceptive, but do you have a solution to propose?
      I’ve propopsed solutions, but few agree with them.

      1. Dominick Vila May 15, 2013

        There are ways to reduce operating costs, including lowering the salaries of CEOs and board members, focusing on quality and customer service, lowering the expectations of shareholders and accepting lower dividends, process improvements, automation, etc.

        Those Americans who buy foreign cars do it for two reasons: better prices and because of the perception that a TOYOTA or Honda is more reliable than a Ford or GM product. It doesn’t matter if that is actually a fact, that is the perception and that is why so many Americans buy foreign products. Greater emphasis on quality and customer satisfaction may change the minds of a lot of people. Instilling a sense of patriotism, focused on the impact that buying “Made in the USA” would have on our country may help. Admittedly, it would be a slow process, but it is better than doing nothing.
        Process improvement and automation works fine for corporations, but more often than not it results on job losses. The same goes for our trade agreements. As you pointed out, NAFTA and other trade agreements allow our corporations to realize huge profits, they do little to help the average American worker.
        Another possibility is high tariffs on foreign products, but doing that would elicit immediate retaliations and since we are more dependent on foreign products than foreigners are on American products that would backfire.
        Isolationism has never worked, and it would not work if we tried it now. The key, I believe, is for our young to get the education they need to meet the challenges we are facing. We don’t need more retail or restaurant workers, we don’t need more English majors, and we don’t need more cops. What we need is more medical doctors, chemists, physicists, engineers, computer science major and other professionals with hard science degrees to get the jobs that are currently going to foreign immigrants entering our country with H1b visas.
        The problem is that when we switched from a manufacturing base to a service-oriented base back in the 1970s, our leaders failed to emphasize the need to prepare for that change of direction by getting the education we need to succeed. The result is that our manufacturing plants are long gone, and we are more likely to get an answer from someone in India when we call a Help Desk than someone in Peoria.

        1. CPAinNewYork May 16, 2013

          I love your suggestions for enhancing operating profits. Of course, they cannot be implemented because the government won’t back us up. All publicly held companies must be required to institute tests of senior executives’ performance before they would be allowed to grant pay raises, pay directors salaries, pay executive bonuses and in general, give the company away to the senior executives.

        2. sigrid28 May 18, 2013

          Now I’m feeling kind of grumpy because you are picking on English majors, Dominick. Let’s not forget that English is the lingua franca of the STEM world and all of the research that pushes it forward. Until every one of us no longer needs to or has to study English to advance to the college and university levels where STEM careers begin, we will need more English majors. Furthermore, immigrants to the U.S. have always studied English as a means to assimilation, while immigrants who are already bilingual can and should find work teaching English as a Second Language or improving the sophistication of the nation as a whole by teaching English speakers a foreign language. While English teachers in elementary schools and high schools are not very happy about the Common Core State Standards for English and language arts now being implemented nationwide, this curriculum does stress not only reading and writing but also critical thinking–the basis for advancement in all fields.

    4. CPAinNewYork May 16, 2013

      From the view of the total economy, there is a good way to enhance profit and a bad way to do it,

      The bad way, and the easiest to achieve, because it ostensibly makes top management look good, is to reduce expenses, primarily through labor savings, i.e., laying people off or firing them or moving jobs to foreign locations where salaries are low. The other way, which is the good way, is to increase sales revenue. Lowering expenses is generally a one-time event, but increasing sales is an ongoing event, because it provides potential for future growth. A stock analyst studying a company’s efforts to enhance its bottom line will differentiate between the two approaches in forecasting that company’s long-range prospects.

  2. Eleanore Whitaker May 15, 2013

    One excuse after another from Corporate America for why they can’t hire or create jobs…first it was the outcome of the 2008 presidential election, then it was the economy, then the 2012 election…The government has to do what most European countries do…demand these corporations hire Americans first before they dare to hire offshore. If these corporations can take our tax dollars and then live high on the hog, they have to start returning those profits from whence they came….to the US in which they are based. Without the demand of reciprocity from these corporations, US taxpayers, some of whom are unemployed become nothing more than a charity from which corporations can draw as much funding as they like. Enough is enough. Push your legislators to stop the hiring of foreigners before Americans. America First! Or Else!

    1. CPAinNewYork May 15, 2013

      All we need to do is to take advantage of our numbers and eliminate the rich. Then, we won’t have to listen to their bullshit reasons.

      1. angelsinca May 16, 2013

        It worked for communist China…until they started liking the rich lifestyle.

    2. cats33 May 15, 2013

      If Obama would stop with all of his job killing regulations, there would be jobs. He’s working hard against Americans, you voted for it, suck it up !!!!

    3. cats33 May 16, 2013

      Hey, quit crying!! At least that successful Mormon businessman who creates jobs didn’t win–Big Bird still has his job : ))

    4. angelsinca May 16, 2013

      Agree, but how do you get past Obama’s agenda to relax visa standards for educated foreign workers?

  3. sigrid28 May 15, 2013

    Failure to restore decent jobs and robust hiring is the SCANDAL, not Benghazi, not an over-zealous IRS, not the Fourth Estate under review when news agencies out counter terrorism operatives just to make headlines. CEOs pockets are bursting with dollars saved by hiring part-timers without benefits and no job security whatsoever. Wall Street is booming while on Main Street stores are going out of business or already shuttered. The American Jobs Act sits dormant while levees break and bridges fall. First responders in cities and schools are stretched to the limit, when stimulus would put many back to work and improve our well-being at the same time. The only occupation one third of Americans will have going into the 2014 elections is campaigning to oust from Congress Republican obstructionists determined to destroy economic recovery out of racial animus and rage over loosing the election in 2012. We should see to it that that rage is just a rehearsal for how the GOP, NRA, and extremists on the right will feel after the midterm elections of 2014. Since they will not come to the table, they will have to be brought to their knees.

    1. CPAinNewYork May 15, 2013

      “Come to the table” my ass! Eliminate the rich and powerful and restore the country to the people. While we’re at it, let’s eliminate the illegals, too.

      1. Allan Richardson May 15, 2013

        Nice to see you again! I thought you were a conservative from your earlier posts on other blogs. I agree partially with you: not “eliminate” Lenin-style, of course, but limit their power. Libertarians and conservatives say the Constitution has a Bill of Rights to protect us from the government, not from each other. But one of the purposes of ANY government is to protect us from each other, especially when a given private group or individual becomes powerful enough to act AS a government and tyrannize others.

        That was the basis of the Civil War. The Confederates believed the state governments, acting for a majority of white men, had the right to DENY rights and citizenship to certain people and enslave them. The Union was fighting not only to keep those states inside it, but to protect SOME people (slaves) from having their rights violated by others (the state governments and the majority of white men). The Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts a century later were for the same purpose.

        The federal government needs to be strong ENOUGH to counteract the power of lower level governments AND the economic power of wealthy people who take advantage of their fellow citizens to become even more powerful.

        But I hope you did not mean “eliminate” illegal immigrants literally. Remember, just because a person is in the country illegally, that does not make the PERSON illegal, anymore than a baby conceived by a rape (which is illegal) makes that baby an illegal PERSON. If we ever have a country with fair wages for all and opportunity for all, those immigrants will become an ASSET regardless of how they got here. Punish them, then after they pay their debt, let them be legalized, while we work on not admitting MORE people illegally (and not excluding people from consideration only because of the country they came from).

        The Heritage Foundation report, by the way, goes out 50 years and ASSUMES that immigrants will never be anything but a burden on our society for their whole lives. The only way that would be true is as a self-fulfilling prophecy, if we exclude them from future opportunity BECAUSE of their country of origin.

        1. CPAinNewYork May 16, 2013

          Just to answer your concern: I want to eliminate the illegals by kicking them and their progeny out of the country and then keeping the rest of them out of the country. They are nothing but a financial and societal burden. What little they have to contribute isn’t worth the problems that they create.

          As far as fifty years from now: I think that fifty years from now we’ll derive much more from the descendants of our current citizens than we’d ever get from these interlopers.

          When immigration was at its peak a hundred or so years ago, we didn’t have the welfare burden that we have now. We also had an expanding economy to take up the burden of the newcomers who were willing to work for peanuts. That’s all changed now. Every job that the illegals steal from citizens is irretrievably lost: the money is sent to foreign hellholes like Mexico and Central America and the illegals themselves will be gone back to where they came from.

          1. I Zheet M'Drawz May 16, 2013

            I agree…now when are you going to come over & mow my lawn?
            The illegals aren’t draining the country of anything significant; it’s the H1-B visa workers that are here legally that are destroying our economy or at least the part of it they touch.

          2. CPAinNewYork May 16, 2013

            Your lawn is your problem.

            The H-1B visas are everybody’s problem, but so are the illegals, because eleven million of them working for slave wages and off the books are undermining the ability of the middle class and the poor to earn decent livings.

            The existence of a vibrant middle class is necessary to maintaining a democracy.

    2. Daniel Murphy May 15, 2013

      Very well stated sigrid28, 100% accurate.

    3. cats33 May 16, 2013

      Hey, you were warned, at least that successful Mormon businessman who creates jobs didn’t win. Big Bird still has his job!!!

      1. maisy May 16, 2013

        Fraud,Irs and more to come of this Treasonous Gang! Are you one of them?

        1. cats33 May 17, 2013

          Hell no I’m not one of them!! The whole Administration should be hung for treason!!!

    4. I Zheet M'Drawz May 16, 2013

      And a partridge in a pear tree ♪♯♫

    5. JSquercia May 17, 2013

      Ironically didn’t the Republicans run and win in 2010 on the basis of Jobs, Jobs , JOBS .

      Sadly the problem with voting them out is the sate Republicans swept into office in 2010 used redistricting to gerrymander the election districts so that while the Democrats got a million more votes for their House candidates . The Republicans STILL Control the house . Once we might have hoped for relief from the courts but that too seems out the question given the current Supreme Court and the fact that most of Republican judges were drawn from the Conservative Federalist Society .Add to those facts the fact that the Senate is refusing to move forward on Obama’s Judicial appointments

  4. blyvl May 15, 2013

    And while the American working class is suffering, the Senate is working diligently to pass S.744, their immigration amnesty bill, which would admit at least 30 million more people to compete for jobs in the next 10 years. Either they’re ignorant of what’s happening “on Main Street” or they just don’t care.

    1. CPAinNewYork May 15, 2013

      “They” do care. They’re very anxious to lower wages to the starvation level so that they can make more money.

    2. cats33 May 16, 2013

      Quit crying, you voted for it!!! FOOL!!!

      1. maisy May 16, 2013

        Get Lost Traitor!

        1. cats33 May 17, 2013

          Sorry, I’m a conservative that Obama had the IRS target. It’s you that’s a traitor if you voted for Sambo

  5. latebloomingrandma May 15, 2013

    How many times in the past 3 years have we listened ad nauseum to Speaker Boehner say “Where are the jobs?” This led one to believe that jobs would be first on his agenda as speaker. Then—-absolutely nothing. The President’s jobs bill languishes. Their own jobs bill consisted mostly of undoing the previously passed laws, but nothing new. Now Obamacare is up for its 38th vote to overturn. Kind of reminds me of the Cheney/Bush administration’s waterboarding policy. If the 87th waterboarding didn’t work, maybe the 88th one will! So, the House of doing nothing, waiting and digging and hoping for the big scandal. Now they are all orgasmic with their alleged trifecta. Mitch McConnell is beside himself. He is almost jumping up and down in his balcony with the other muppet. The Republicans are doing their best self-righteous act. It really has nothing to do with the good of the country, but is all about power. The President better get in front of this post haste, or he will get nothing done in the next 3 years. Just what the Repubs want. So they can get back in office and continue our downward spiral and install the plutocracy.

  6. charleo1 May 15, 2013

    If the Republicans in Congress would abandon their political strategy of
    obstruction. And agree to end the sequester cuts, which economists say
    could cost 750,000 jobs, if left in place. And, agree to implement the President’s
    job bill, an additional 2 – 21/2 million more Americans could be headed to work this morning. And, who can say? But, if there was evidence that the political log jam,
    in Washington had finally broken, we could see a ton of investors, now sitting
    on the sidelines, to start making more of those critical private investments, that
    heretofore have been a missing key element, on the way to full economic recovery.
    But that is not likely to happen any time soon. I know it, and you know it. And,
    investors, and those who have given up hope of finding gainful employment, know
    it too. It is both a sad, and unnecessary situation. Because, those obstructionists
    in Washington, and in State Houses around the Country, would not be doing what
    they are doing. Unless, they were pretty darn certain, that their wacko ideas
    were resonating with their base. Ludicrous assertions, like, the government, is incapable of producing one job that doesn’t take more away from the private
    sector, than any value it would add to the economy. They say, as they drive to
    work on an interstate highway system, or take a shower, with water cleaned, and sent to their homes, by a water plant built by the government’s WPA jobs bill,
    more than 80 years ago. They’ll, “log online,” with a computer made possible because of Government investing in research, that produced the first micro-chip,
    of which the government bought every one produced for, the next 10 years.
    Then, used many of them in the Country’s space program. Another government funded project, that placed America on the cutting edge of technology And the private sector jobs flowing from just those two projects, and the trillions added
    over the years to our economy is incalculable. Now, as, Dominick Vila, correctly
    points out, there are other factors that have contributed to the lack of jobs.
    Some we can fix. Like the lack of respect for an honest day’s work, that is
    reflected in a tax code that has billionaires, and corporations, paying far less of
    their incomes in taxes, than the higher rates assigned to regular Americans,
    who earn their incomes, by actually working for a living. Others like automation,
    that allows 100s to do, what once took thousands, is here to stay. But, I think
    first, before we address our fiscal deficits, we need to address our deficits in
    trust, and the deficit of confidence in ourselves. The belief, that there are those
    right, and proper things, we can, and must do collectively, we would never be
    able to accomplish individually.

  7. Daniel Murphy May 15, 2013

    By and large, the struggles we face from an economic standpoint are the result of a weak federal government. Mike Lofgren, the retired Republican (D.C.) operative wrote a blistering article of how the party he long admired has fallen to nothing more than “cult status”. Lofgren is no fan of Democrats, but clearly he puts the focus for our malaise at the doorstep of his own GOP, I urge everyone to look it up. (Good bye to all That, the Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult)

    If we truly want to reclaim our representative government, it’s on us folks. Unless we’re prepared to do the heavy lifting this democratic republic will expire. It can only be healed by going to the root of the problem: money in politics. Every other “solution” is only a ‘finger in the dyke’. If I may paraphrase, not only must we ‘rip Citizen’s United into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds’, it is also critical we mandate ‘all elections be financed at the public trough,’ – NO EXCEPTIONS. If a public official isn’t beholden to corporate financiers he/she retains autonomy and focus for the job. A lobbyist pushing quid pro quo should find themself in a prison cell for a mandatory 10 year sentence with the corporate concern he represents to receive staggering fines as public retribution – as will the representative if it isn’t reported.

    Wall Street and a majority of today’s industry leadership, consider government regulation to be little more than transitory nuisance, just a problem to be managed until the “right guy is at EPA”. It’s time we put the fear of God into the SOB’s salivating to dump more untested chemicals into our everyday lives. Monsanto needs to to be reacquainted with the notion ‘they do indeed have a BOSS’, that is willing to bring the hammer down – hard. Our NLRB has been toothless for years, made this way by carefull Republican circumvention. With a functioning Federal government we can get single payer inacted, and destroy ‘the real death panels created by the CEO’s and actuaries of the health insurance industry’. Removing money from the election process will reap huge benefits for trimming down the defense budget, and use that money to ramp up education and research. In short: taking the profit motive out of politics will restore our representative government to health by encouraging a higher calibre of person seeking office. Extremely bright people with a noble focus and high integrity will replace the slithering cockroaches now inhabiting the hallowed halls of congress. We must put the corporations and banks back on their heals with a metaphoric ‘well placed right cross to the bridge of the nose’.

    It’s time to see the GOP and it’s actions for what they are. Not simply a collection of anti-government,incompetent obstructionist’s; though they certainly are but, as a highly motivated, organized army fully committed to the end of democracy via startling degree of unpatriotic actions designed to bring economic hardship to “We the People”. And through a full blown message campaign of ceaseless contrivance and fervid loyalty to corruption. These are bad people, and they lust to bring down representative government. It’s time to get off the sidelines..this means you and me..us, we: “Democracy is not a vicarious experience” – Bill Bradley.

    1. plc97477 May 15, 2013

      The only thing we the people can do, and don’t hold your breath until the politicians do anything, is make sure that money doesn’t help. We can stop voting for whomever has the most money. We can leave rove standing there with his buddies angry cus with all their money they did not make a difference in the election.

      1. maisy May 15, 2013

        Can’t stand that pudgy Treasonous Lout! Rove…between him and that useless idiot Juan Williams I can’t even watch Fox anymore!

        1. cats33 May 16, 2013

          We don’t need you, there are millions who watch– number 1 for 13 years

  8. SteveD May 15, 2013

    “Our people are trapped in a jobs crisis that is sucking the economic vitality out of our nation, but our leaders refuse even to acknowledge it, much less cope with it.”

    Jim, you are VERY wrong. Our leaders not only do not “cope” with it; they INTENTIONALLY cause it. They have been bribed to widen the income gap by their owners-the super rich. Destroying the middle- and lower-income groups is the best, fastest, easiest method.

    “In fact, corporate chieftains are deliberately exacerbating the crisis by hoarding trillions of dollars that ought to be rushed into job-creating expansions, and politicians keep adding to the casualties by gleefully eliminating the middle-class jobs of hundreds of thousands of teachers, firefighters, police and other valuable public employees.”

    Why would corporations “rush into job-creating expansions,” when they can make more profit by not hiring? Plus, much of those “trillions” are offset by massive private sector DEBT, recall the financial meltdown of 2008 which many are still deleveraging from.

    “America’s middle class is burning to the ground, while Washington fiddles with nonsense and Wall Street feathers its own nest. It’s disgraceful.”

    America’s middle class is complicit in its own conflagration. Ask any of your friends whether the federal deficit should be reduced. Ask the unemployed whether the debt is too high. They will shout, “Yes!”

    Average Americans have begged Congress and the President to REDUCE THE SUPPLY OF DOLLARS (via tax increases and spending cuts) in the economy, thereby demanding their economic suicide and the economic murders of their children.

    1. cats33 May 16, 2013

      Hey, at least that successful Mormon businessman that creates jobs didn’t win. Big Bird still has his job : ))

  9. maisy May 15, 2013

    Of course the TREASON Gangsters have to spin a good story to justify their amnesty bill, which will in fact destroy the country.

  10. mandinka May 15, 2013

    $10Trillion in new debt and no new jobs imagine that are you contending that Barak is over his head???

  11. angelsinca May 16, 2013

    Kudos to Jim Hightower and The Nat’l Memo for FINALLY publishing an article that doesn’t groom democrats while debasing republicans. Just the truth. Thanks.

  12. Charles___Darwin May 16, 2013

    Good job, Obama. Your sycophants may believe in you, but real people know the truth. All choom smoke and mirrors. You could organize a community, but you can’t run a country.

  13. Bill Mohon May 16, 2013

    VERY VERY!!! WELL STATED sigrid2B!


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