Radio commentary, July 2, 2009

Gotta keep these opening comments short, since there’s a lot of interview material ahead.

Because Friday is a holiday, we got the June employment report a day earlier than usual, and the news wasn’t very good. So much for last month’s hint of an improving trend. There’s almost nothing encouraging buried in the innards of this month’s report.

June’s headline job loss of 467,000 looks “good” only in comparison to the awful numbers we saw earlier this year and late last. But it’s still quite bad. Losses were widespread through the major econmic sectors, with manufacturing and construction down hard once again, but with major service sectors like retail and finance also taking significan hits. Health care was up, but a lot less than we’re used to seeing from that usually indefatigable sector. Even government lost jobs, though most of that from the layoff of temporary Census workers. I saw one of those a few weeks ago strolling through my neighborhood neighborhood with a handheld device, checking addresses in preparation for mailing out the forms next year.

The yearly loss in overall employment in percentage terms is the worst since 1958; the loss in private services, the worst ever. We’ve lost 6.5 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007, and the employment level is now below the peak reached in 2001. We’ve never seen a recession completely undo the job gains of the previous expansion. But those gains were extremely feeble. Employment growth so far this decade has averaged 0.1% a year; since the end of World War II, we’ve never seen a decade in which growth averaged less than 1.9%. The share of the adult population working, which had gone seriously into reverse last year, is now back to 1984 levels. The unemployment rate rose 0.1 point to 9.5%, a modest increase by recent standards, but it’s now at its highest level since 1983.

Thursday’s morning’s unemployment claims figures, both for people filing for the first time after losing their jobs and for those continuing to draw benefits, were mildly encouraging. But there’s still little serious sign of an end to misery in the job market.

Not on Wall Street, though! Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that big pay packages are back. One happy banker exclaimed that it’s like 2007 all over again. I hope they’re courteous enough to send a thank you card to Barack Obama, without whom this could not have happened.

4 Comments on “Radio commentary, July 2, 2009

  1. Dear Doug,

    During your interview with Panitch about his article in Foreign Policy, he mentioned a “further reading” sidebar they published. But he also indicated they didn’t adopt his suggestions wholesale. I’m wondering if you might be willing to solicit him for the unedited version of his list? I’d be really interested to see that. Perhaps you could share it here at LBO News.

    All the best,


  2. B. Collins: I forwarded your question to Leo. His answer: “As far as I can recall, I recommended Michael Albert’s Parecon (rather than Nove) and Panitch & Konings, American Empire and the Political Economy of Global Finance (rather than Sklar) on the grounds the ones they used were rather out of date.”

  3. What I calculated approximately in April 2008 was this:

    “If [the] trend continued linearly in 2009 (an unusually severe and lengthy recession), the ratio of unemployed to employed would rise to over 11% and the ratio of jobless to employed would rise over 14%. In that case, workers’s worst fears would be realised at the end of 2009, because then the ratio of unemployed to employed workers would be about one to nine workers, and the ratio of jobless to employed would be about one to seven. Around 10% of the labour force would be unemployed then.” (from: )_.

    It looks now like such an extrapolation isn’t too far off the mark, but the more interesting question is how workers are responding to unemployment, how they are thinking about it. That is what we should be focusing on, I think.

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