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

Sadly, there is no strike wave

In a September 8 post to the Jacobin website, Eric Dirnbach announced that “US workers are striking again.” In the piece, he discloses: That’s why it’s fascinating that in 2018, we’re seeing a dramatic increase in the number of large work stoppages. I count sixteen for the first half of the year, including one lockout, which if this trend continues, puts us on track for thirty-two for the full year. The number of large work stoppages has not been thirty or more since the year 2000. It would be lovely if this were true, but it’s not…. Read More

Contingency: a follow-up

My post on contingent and “alternative” work (and the demographic follow-up) annoyed some people who think the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the source of the data, is missing the point through bad definitions and bad techniques. (As am I, for using it.) According to these critics, asking people whether they expect their jobs to last the year is using the wrong definition of contingency—though it’s not clear what the right one is, since most employed people in the U.S. can be fired for no reason at all at any time. Or the… Read More

Contingency: almost every demographic is down

Someone on Twitter, reacting to my last post on contingent employment, wrote this: “Contingent workers were more than twice as likely as noncontingent workers to be under age 25.” Profitable corporations are putting lots of young people in incredibly exploitative jobs and making it normal. For the young work is a new hell, and it’s not temporary. Workers under the age of 25 are less likely to be contingent than they were 22 years ago. Here’s the detail by demographic group. The share for workers in the 20–25 age group declined more than the… 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

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

Glum job prospects, say officials

On December 8, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its employment projections for the next decade (or 2014–2024 to be precise). They don’t make for happy reading. The Bureau projects GDP growth of 2.2% a year over the decade, well under the 3.6% average that prevailed from 1950–2000, and lower even than the 2.4% average from 2000–2007, a period that contained a recession and the weakest expansion in U.S. history. And they also project that labor force participation (the sum of the employed and those actively looking for work, aka the officially… Read More

Employment laggard: the public sector

Paul Krugman notes that public sector employment has declined under Obama—a sharp contrast with his two predecessors, under whom it grew (with Republican Bush ahead of Democrat Clinton). How does recent experience stack up on a longer view? Very unusually. Graphed below is the behavior of employment—total, private, and public—around business cycle troughs and recoveries. The darker lines are the averages of all the cycles since the end of World War II; the lighter lines, the most recent period, around the June 2009 trough. (Click on the graph for the full-sized version.) As… Read More

The February job market: not bad by recent standards

And now for the major economic news of the week, the U.S. employment report for February. It was another solid affair—the third month in a row of over 200,000 job gains, with plenty of supporting details. I do have some worries about the quality of these new jobs, not to mention their durability, but for now things are looking better than they did even a few months ago. The headline gain of 227,000 came with upward revisions of 61,000 to the back months (41,000 to January and 20,000 to February). Gains were widespread through… Read More