The June employment situation is largely consistent with recent trends. It is not remarkable, but those recent trends are better than what we had become used to in the years following the deep losses of the 2007-2009 recession. Employment over the last year has risen 2.5 million, while employment growth for the last three months has averaged about 270,000 jobs, as the economy recovered from the harshest months of the winter. The report today suggests that the 2014 first quarter GDP decline of 2.9% was not a sign of major weakening, but rather the result of the bad weather early in the year.
In the late 1960s I was teaching at a community college in upstate NY and, among the books I assigned to my students, was Betty Freidan’s “The Feminine Mystique.” It usually generated interesting discussions, perhaps the most interesting of which was the gender gap in the response to the question I would ask about expectations for the household division of labor (including child care and other housework) in their future lives. The young women turned out to be better predictors of where the future was going than the young men.
Maybe the young men were thinking about 1900 when 1 in 5 women in the US – and only 1 in 20 married women – were in the wage labor force. Housework, “women’s work” was demanding and time consuming; the average household contained almost 5 people and almost 20% had more than 7 members. Or maybe the young men were just reflecting the reality that, in the 1960s, their mothers were doing 6 hours of housework labor for every 1 expended by fathers. In contrast, perhaps the young women were envisioning a society – like today’s US – when 3 of every 5 women, both overall and for married, work for wages. And they understood that human labor time is not indefinitely expandable.
The month of May saw job growth of 217,000 in the U.S. but no change in the number of people who are unemployed. Perhaps buoyed by the news of job growth, 218,000 unemployed people who had abandoned the search for work re-entered the labor force in May. But what awaits those hopeful job-seekers?
Although we’ve had several months of relatively positive jobs reports, the pace of job growth has been too slow to employ the nearly 10 million officially unemployed workers in any reasonable amount of time. The number workers without jobs for 27 weeks or more did not change in May and still accounts for 35% of the total unemployed. Nor has the labor force participation rate budged past the historically low levels that have defined the Great Recession and its long, dreary ‘recovery.’ Prospects for working people are still grim, especially in the 24 states that have callously refused to expand Medicaid even as their residents struggle to get by.
Ok, 50 straight months of job growth in the private sector – almost unprecedented – and we’re roughly back to where we were in late 2007, just before the official beginning of the “Great Recession.” The top line number for the report on April job creation was 288,000 new jobs and a decline in the unemployment rate to 6.3%. In many economic recoveries in the post-WWII years, this would be good news and worth celebrating. But the Long Depression that began in 2007 is far from over, and I don’t mean just that the number of long term unemployed remains higher than in any other post-recession period or that the labor force participation rate is lower than at any time since the early 1980s, both of which are true. I mean the underlying problem, that the US economy is a failure in achieving the core goal of any modern economy: generating living wage jobs for all willing and able to work.
A financial transaction tax (FTT), also called a “Robin Hood Tax” (RHT), is a very small tax on the trading (buying/selling) of financial assets such as stocks, bonds, currencies and derivatives (futures and options) based on these assets. Essentially a sales tax, such as when we buy/sell shoes or computers.
At a time of unparalleled economic inequality, there has been a renewed interest in such a tax, particularly on large exchanges such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME). CPEG’s Bill Barclay, who previously appeared on Fox Business News to argue for the proposal, recently authored a helpful question and answer piece about what a “Robin Hood Tax” would look like for Illinois. Download the Financial Transaction Tax Q&A.