Unemployment – Their Numbers, Our Lives

Last week we were told by the politicians and the media spokespeople that we have certain signs that the economy is recovering. Forget about what our paychecks are telling us every week we struggle to get by. Instead, just listen to the politicians promise us that the worst is behind us – and it only gets better from here.

We’ve been told that the official rate of unemployment decreased .4 percentage points, from 9 percent to 8.6 percent. The reason for the decrease, we are told, is that the economy added 125,000 new jobs. So the official story is – unemployment is going down because employment is going up.

This seems hard to believe. For those of us who are unemployed – it sure doesn’t seem like jobs are being added, considering it hasn’t gotten any easier to find work. And at work, the only new jobs are when the bosses tell us to do more work for less pay. For those of us that work in retail and customer service, yeah, we’ve seen some new hires but we all know that most of these jobs will be gone once peak holiday season is over. These should hardly be considered jobs if we can barely survive on them.

The reason this seems hard to believe is because it’s a lie, nothing more than a statistical trick to keep the unemployment numbers lower. Yes, the unemployment numbers can go down because the actual employment numbers go up. But there is another way for the official unemployment numbers to go down – to simply no longer count certain unemployed people as unemployed. This means that even though the actual number of unemployed can be the same or even increase, the official statistic of unemployment can go down. And this is the source of the recent decrease in unemployment.

The government’s method of counting unemployment has a category called “discouraged workers.” These are workers that have been unemployed so long that they’ve become discouraged looking for work. In the government statistics, a person is considered a “discouraged worker” if they have not looked for work in the previous four weeks. So, even though they are just as unemployed as anyone else, they are no longer counted as unemployed.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 315,000 new people were not counted as unemployed this past month because they gave up looking for work. In addition, the number of new unemployment claims actually increased during the four weeks of November.

So, more people are actually unemployed but the government just isn’t counting them. In reality, about 26 million people are unemployed. And it would take ten years of adding 350,000 new jobs every single month to bring employment back to what it was before 2007. But jobs aren’t being added – they are actually being taken away. Also, over half of those that are currently unemployed have been unemployed for more than six months straight. And many workers that are counted as employed are stuck in part-time jobs even though we are looking for full-time work.

The truth is, there is no recovery happening. Most of us who’ve lost our jobs have not been able to find new ones. Those of us with jobs are doing more work and bringing home less pay than at anytime since 1929, when the government began keeping these sorts of statistics. The only recovery the economy has seen is in the form of profits for corporations and banks – who have never been wealthier.

The bosses and the bankers and their politician servants have no recovery for workers. All they have to offer us is more work, less pay, more evictions, more cuts to services – and an overall increase in the poverty of our lives.

To them, workers are just numbers in their economy. We are their profit margins and their labor costs. We go up and down. They can change us around to fit their needs, adding some here, taking away some more there.  To them, we are just  numbers – for us, this is our lives!