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World Socialist Website - December 10, 2019

"The cruel reality of low-paid, temporary work is an indictment of the nationally based trade unions, which responded to the globalization of production and the decline of American capitalism by integrating themselves into corporate management and imposing layoffs, wage cuts and other concessions."

The November US jobs report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that official unemployment in the US is at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent. The government reported that 266,000 jobs were added by employers in the month of November, which is about 86,000 more than predicted by economists.

The long-term unemployed (those without a job for 27 weeks or more) account for 20.8 percent of the unemployed, unchanged from October.

The manufacturing sector added the highest number of jobs, with 54,000 jobs in November, but the vast majority of these came from the return to work of about 48,000 autoworkers at General Motors who were on strike across the country in September and October. The United Auto Workers ended the strike after imposing a concessions contract.

The contracts imposed at GM and Ford, along with a contract currently being voted on by Fiat Chrysler workers, allow the corporations to permanently hire workers as temporary and part-time, with few to no benefits and low wages.

After manufacturing, the health care sector added the second highest number of jobs, with 45,000. Most jobs added were related to ambulatory health care services (34,000) and hospitals (10,000), areas of low-paid and generally unstable work.

Despite record low unemployment numbers, wages have begun to backslide throughout 2019, a trend which continued in November.

On a longer-term scale, the rising costs of living have gradually outpaced what little income growth existed for workers in the US. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that between 1995 and 2019, education costs in the US have increased nearly 180 percent, housing costs by nearly 150 percent, health care costs by nearly 135 percent, and median income by less than 120 percent.

These figures illustrate the reality that, for all the claims of an economic “recovery,” workers have been forced into low-wage work with little to no opportunity for financial growth. A recent Brookings Institution study reported that an astounding 44 percent of US workers are earning low wages.

Last month, researchers at Cornell University Law School, the Coalition for a Prosperous America, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity released the new US Private Sector Job Quality Index (JQI).

The authors note, “The reporting of employment data by the U.S. government, the media, business economists, as well as by other entities providing analytics, has lacked insight to the quality of America’s employment as most workers interpret it—the basic metric of weekly dollar income that a job generates for a worker.”

The JQI provides a measure of the quality of jobs in the US as opposed to the mere quantity and sector of industry. The JQI is a measure of the ratio of what the report deems “high quality” jobs, those which offer more hours and pay than the national average weekly wage of $755.38, to “low quality” jobs, which offer fewer hours and pay below the national average weekly wage.

The report compares the JQI from 1990 to 2019. It reveals a significant decline in the overall quality of jobs in the US over the past three decades. In 2019, the JQI is 81 according to the report, meaning that for every 100 low-quality jobs, just 81 high-quality jobs exist. ...
Read full report at World Socialist Website