Of course, the lame stream media is not going to report that dark cloud that this silver lining surrounds. While 200,000 thousand new jobs really does sound good, that these new jobs are mostly low paying service industry jobs kind of puts a damper on things. (More on this in a moment)
Also lost in the hubbub over the unemployment rate decrease is really how this came about. It really isn’t about how many jobs were created but rather how many people have decided to no longer search for jobs.
A month ago, we joked when we said that for Obama to get the unemployment rate to negative by election time, all he has to do is to crush the labor force participation rate to about 55%. Looks like the good folks BLS heard us: it appears that the people not in the labor force exploded by an unprecedented 1.2 million. No, that’s not a typo: 1.2 million people dropped out of the labor force in one month! So as the labor force increased from 153.9 million to 154.4 million, the non institutional population increased by 242.3 million meaning, those not in the labor force surged from 86.7 million to 87.9 million. Which means that the civilian labor force tumbled to a fresh 30 year low of 63.7% as the BLS is seriously planning on eliminating nearly half of the available labor pool from the unemployment calculation. (Source: Zero Hedge)
If I remember my statistics correctly, to get the unemployment rate to drop one tenth of a percent, monthly job creation has to be somewhere north of 340,000. The unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percent, which should mean about 680,000 jobs were created. Something is not adding up. And my brain is beginning to hurt thinking about it.
As I mentioned above, it looks like many of these new jobs created are of the lower paying service industry type jobs. These are the jobs that pay at or just above minimum wage. Federal minimum wage is currently at $7.25 an hour. While it is true that few employers actually pay minimum wage, especially to adult workers with experience, the wage paid is not all that high. It certainly is not enough to cover household expenses, especially for those who were earning considerably higher before the recession took hold.
Before you think I am going on a rant about how the minimum wage needs to increase to a “living wage” I do want to stomp that idea down. I believe that minimum wage jobs are for entry level positions, for people getting their first-ever job, or for folks who want to supplement the family income. This is more to point out that while unemployment might have seen a decrease, it isn’t all wine and roses.
Let’s say you were earning $45,000 a year before you got laid off. Not a particularly high wage, but decent enough to get the bills paid. After struggling to find work, you finally land that job working at Sears or K-Mart earning $12.00 an hour (this is high end for retail). Your annual income is now just short of $25,000 a year if you are lucky enough to get on full time. I am not including overtime because retail is notorious for highly discouraging overtime for its employees on wages. Retail also isn’t known for hiring full time employees.
So now you have this job and are no longer considered unemployed. BUT, you are now earning $20,000 less than what you were earning a year or two ago. There goes the family life style. Kids removed from soccer programs, phones cut off to a bare minimum, evenings out with the family or your significant other are reduced to nothing, improvements to the home and repairs put off, and other things you had enjoyed before are reduced or eliminated.
When you look at it closer, you see that this is $20,000 less each year that is entering the economy. For the sake of argument let us use the 200,000 jobs created as a baseline. If all of these people hired had the same story as the scenario developed above we are talking about $4,000,000,000 less in the economy than before all the layoffs and job cuts happened. Now I realize this is over simplifying the issue a considerable amount. I am sure there have been people hired at wage levels higher than $12 an hour, but on the flip side there were many people who were earning way more than $45,000 a year who have struggled to find work.
Maybe some people can get excited about the drop in the unemployment rate (like the Obama supporters in the Lame Stream Media) but I can’t. Where are the high paying jobs? They are not being created fast enough to help this economy recover robustly.