Why UI isn’t enough

I’m going to be posting a series of commentaries on the current crisis. Here’s a quick first It’s odd to see Democrats like Pelosi and Schumer objecting to Republican schemes to send everyone a check for $1,000, maybe two. Of course, one- or two-off checks for $1,000 won’t pay many of the the bills for very long. But talk of means-testing right now looks mean, cheap, and politically suicidal. Schumer says that rather than write checks, we should expand unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. It would have to be some expansion. Benefits are low,… Read More

No robo

You can hardly look at Twitter without reading something about the impending AI revolution: robots are coming for your job. I’m a skeptic. By that I don’t mean to argue that IT and AI and all the other abbreviations and acronyms aren’t changing our world profoundly. They are. Tech affects everything—work, play, love, politics, art, all of it. But the maximalist version, where robots, equipped with artificial intelligence, are going to replace human workers, is way over done. No doubt they will replace some. But not all. Back in 1987, ancient history… Read More

Rasmus on the attack again

The irrepressible Jack Rasmus, who has never demonstrated any real understanding of how economic statistics are constructed, has a new post claiming that the “real” unemployment rate is more like 10–12% than the officially reported 3.7%. He has a point, even if it’s somewhat overstated. The government’s own broad unemployment rate, U-6, was 7.2% in August, nearly twice the headline rate, though short of the Rasmus rate. (See table A-15 here.) One of the ways the government undercounts the unemployed, says Rasmus, is that the monthly survey “misses a lot of workers… Read More

Responding to Rasmus’s response

Jack Rasmus is out with a response to my critique of his analysis of the April U.S. employment numbers. Enlightening Rasmus looks to be a hopeless case, but since there are may be some onlookers who wonder what’s up, here are a few comments. As with yesterday’s post, his comments are quoted and italicized (though the formatting doesn’t show up on an iPhone unless you choose the desktop version—sorry!). What is significant is that Henwood thinks the CES (Current Employment Survey) is more important and accurate than the CPS (Current Population Survey)…. Read More

Misreading the latest jobs numbers

Z Communications’ resident statistician Jack Rasmus is out with some fresh disinformation about the economic news. It’s been a while since I took his nonsense apart, so this seems like a good opportunity, since his latest looks to be making the rounds. The problems start in the first paragraph (Rasmus is in quoted italics, my comments in Roman.) The just released report on April jobs on first appearance, heavily reported by the media, shows a record low 3.6% unemployment rate and another month of 263,000 new jobs created. But there are two… Read More

Hits to GDP

The hysterical (in the funny sense) report on socialism that the Council of Economic Advisers put out this morning contains this gem of simulation: It may well be that American socialists are envisioning moving our policies to align with those of the Nordic countries in the 1970s, when their policies were more in line with economists’ traditional definition of socialism. We estimate that if the United States were to adopt these policies, its real GDP would decline by at least 19 percent in the long run, or about $11,000 per year for… Read More

Contingency: a last word

Having refuted (here, here, and here) a lot of folk wisdom about increased volatility in the job market, I’d to file a postscript on the meaning of it all. The folk wisdom exaggerates the prevalence of contingent and temporary work, but that doesn’t mean the working class is living in ease and comfort. It’s not. For evidence we can turn to a very orthodox source—the Federal Reserve’s survey of economic well-being (and data appendix). A third of respondents, 33%, report themselves “living comfortably”; 40% are “doing okay,” 19% are “just getting by,” and… Read More

No it’s not a gig economy

Despite the voluble testimony of pundits and bar companions, the world of work is not one of Uber drivers and temp workers. In fact, the share of U.S. employment accounted for by contingent and “alternative” arrangements is lower now than it was in 2005 and 1995. That testimony is derived from several original sources. For example, a much ballyhooed 2014 study commissioned by the Freelancers Union—which is not a materially disinterested party—reported that a third of workers are freelancers. The claim of a 2016 paper by Lawrence Katz and Alan Krueger that… Read More

Bosses getting raises, working stiffs not

Stock markets have been swooning, in no small part because last Friday’s U.S. employment report showed that average hourly earnings (AHE)—the average wage, excluding benefits, received by private sector workers—rose smartly in January. This prompted fears that inflationary pressures are mounting, wages will eat into profits, and the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates more aggressively than had been thought as recently as last Thursday. Or, as the New York Times put it in a headline, with its patented mix of dullness and alarm: What these scaremongers aren’t telling you is that it’s only bosses… Read More

Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the Clintons

Howard Dean, who for a brief period long ago wasn’t a shill for the medical-industrial complex, recommended on Twitter that Trump turn over Puerto Rican rehab operations to the Clinton Foundation. Either Dean doesn’t know the first thing about how the Foundation operated in Haiti, an excellent case study on how they do disaster relief, or he’s more depraved than we realized. Their behavior, in collaboration with Hillary’s State Department, was appalling. Here’s the Haiti section from my widely under-bought, under-read, and under-promoted book My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency. Formatting the footnotes… Read More

Hahaha

Great moments in political analysis: Bill Clinton, November 2016: Bill Clinton branded Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn the “maddest person in the room” in a speech he gave explaining the resurgence of left-wing politics in Europe and America. Documents released by Wikileaks show the former President joked that when Mr Corbyn won his leadership contest, it appeared Labour had just “got a guy off the street” to run the party. Barack Obama, December 2016: President Barack Obama has suggested that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is “disintegrating” because it has lost touch with “fact and reality”…. Read More

Jobs nonsense from ZeroHedge

ZeroHedge is ridiculous and terrible, a fever swamp of conspiracism, far-right paranoia, and permabearishness. Spreading disinformation about the employment statistics might not be their worst sin, but decent naïfs often fall for this sort of thing, so it’s worth a refutation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics applies a statistical model, known as the birth/death model, to its monthly survey of employers—the source of “the U.S. economy created x thousand jobs last month” headline. The survey covers over 600,000 employing establishments, but misses new business formations at first. The b/d model is an… Read More

Job demographics

Paul Krugman asks plaintively “why don’t all jobs matter?” To answer, he enlists the help of Slate’s Jamelle Bouie: Finally, it’s hard to escape the sense that manufacturing and especially mining get special consideration because, as Slate’s Jamelle Bouie points out, their workers are a lot more likely to be male and significantly whiter than the work force as a whole…. Laid-off retail workers and local reporters are just as much victims of economic change as laid-off coal miners. The loss of newspaper jobs, a trend of many years, has been very bad news for… Read More

Varieties of unemployment

This is the first in a series of lbo-news posts about the state of the U.S. job market. On March 10, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the employment report for February showing a robust job market, Donald Trump finally liked the numbers. His press agent, Sean Spicer, quoted him as saying “They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.” Trump himself retweeted Matt Drudge’s gloss on the news that employers added 235,000 jobs in the month as proof that America was already “GREAT AGAIN.” That was… Read More

Federal employment is already frozen

This morning, chief bloviator Donald Trump issued an executive order freezing federal hiring. Such a move probably appeals to those who think that the growth of government is “out of control.” That might be true in some senses—surveillance and the warfare state certainly qualify, but Trump only wants accelerate their growth. But one thing that doesn’t qualify is the subject of the order: federal employment. Graphed below are federal employment in thousands and as a percentage of total employment, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly survey of employers. The absolute number of federal employees at the end of… Read More