(Originally published at http://politicalmoll.com/author/homerjoey/)
The recent decrease in unemployment should be a true sign of the economy bouncing back, right? Reuters reported that in the last week of July there was a drop in the numbers of those applying for unemployment benefits, which may suggest that people are finding jobs. However, the economy is still far from providing for those struggling in minimum wage
jobs who are barely making it.
The report is highlighting the fact that in the last week of July and into the first week of August, those claiming unemployment dropped from 303,000 to 289,000 – that’s 14,000 less people. With the job gains equaling those lost during the recession, many are suggesting our economy is finally recovering. Although this could be good news, it does not necessarily mean our economy is doing better. In many ways it’s still struggling and, in most cases, things are getting worse for the majority of the workforce.
As was the case when the unemployment first dipped down to 6.7% late 2013, most of those who stopped applying could have run out of their unemployment benefits or simply left the job market. This recent report has no reason to be different. Until the last two week of July, the job market had been at a slow crawl. So then, how do we actual calculate when the economy is doing well?
Most economist will look to Wall Street and big businesses to make indications of how the economy is doing. When they’re doing good, it seems to follow that everyone else should be doing good. But as was the case before the
recession when the housing market was crashing and people were defaulting on their loans, economists and businesses were suggesting otherwise.
As the recent recovery has shown, with the amount of available jobs reaching pre-recession numbers, the economy is still stagnate. There are many reasons for this, one of them being the layoff of government jobs that occurred parallel to
the job growth in the private sector. While the private employment in 2013 was reaching close to its pre-recession levels, more and more public and government jobs were being cut, further slowing the recovery.
Many can argue the politics or necessity of needing to layoff government jobs because of the lack of money. This argument seems invalid as we see the Federal Reserve is handing out money at a near 0% interest rate to corporations and banks, while the government pushes austerity measures in the local and public sectors.
The jobs that were added in the private sector didn’t provide much stimulus to the economy. As many reports have noted, the 60% of jobs lost in the Great Recession in 2007-08 were mid-wage jobs ($13.84-$21.14) and only 22% of the jobs gained in the recovery. At the same time 21% of low-wage jobs were lost in the Great Recession ($7.69-13.84) while making up 58% of the job gains. In other words, most jobs that were created after the recession were low or minimum wage jobs, giving the public less spending power to stimulate the economy. And with 75% of adults in minimum wage jobs, it should be no surprise why they are demanding an increase in wages.
At the same time as minimum wage jobs are increasing, the prices of rent, food, and other necessities are becoming more difficult to afford. Productivity has grown while the wages have stagnated or dropped with inflation. More and
more people are finding themselves with jobs that pay less, making it hard for them to afford rent, go to school, or pay for basic necessities. In most cases, people have to work over 80 hours a week at 2 minimum-wage jobs just to afford rent (in some cases as much as 98 hours). As this trend continues, forcing some to live in the streets, states and cities are
pushing for harsher laws to jail people for being homeless.
This should be a huge concern as several economists note that the same business practices that led to the recession in the first place are still being practiced. Rents have jumped since the recovery, and auto loans are being wrapped up in subprime-loans. We’re also seeing Wall Street and those who created the mess walk away with handsome profits, higher than even seen in pre-recession levels. Although many can argue that the banks, Chase and Bank of America being the most recent, have been fined for their behavior, no one has gone to jail and there are no real regulations to prevent Wall Street and the banks to change their behavior.
Although things look dismal now, we can take note that there are certain trends starting to take effect that have the hope of positive change for the economy and the country as a whole. More and more cities continue to push for minimum wage increases. Seattle was the first city to successfully enact a $15 minimum wage over a 5 year period. And cities like San Francisco, Portland, New York, Chicago and others are pushing for a ballot in favor of a $15-an-hour increase. Other cities have raised their minimum wage to $10-an-hour, with cities like San Jose showing a very successful year after its enactment.
The recent ruling over McDonald’s, where the courts held the company liable for abusive management practices, opens
the possibility of workers creating unions in the fast-food industry. Although McDonald’s and other fast-food companies may fight this, if the ruling holds, it can allow unions in fast-food companies to further speed up the process for a more livable wage and better and healthier work environment.
In the end it comes down to the actions of consumers and citizens who want to change the direction of the country and the economy. If we want a more favorable economy that works for everyone instead of the wealthiest, then we should vote against and protest those in office who increase taxes on lower income while they hand out tax breaks to the wealthy. We should demand a capital gains tax. We should push for a federal increase in the minimum wage. We should support unions when they’re fighting to keep their pensions or fair wages. When companies threaten to go oversees, we should look to the community to help the workers in that area to buy the property and factory and turn it into a co-op.
These are all possibilities. and in most cases very successful trends happening throughout the country right now.