After 5 Years Of ‘Recovery,’ Still Only Half As Many Jobs As Job Seekers

Isaiah J. Poole

Here’s the sobering reality brought home today by the latest monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary by the Labor Department: After five years of economic “recovery,” there are still only half as many jobs as there are people looking for work.

This monthly report gives a total of the number of job openings: a seasonally adjusted 4.7 million job openings in June. But that month, according to a separate monthly employment report, almost 9.5 million people were counted as unemployed.

As Economic Policy Institute economist Heidi Shierholz writes in her analysis of the latest JOLTS report, “Put another way: Job seekers so outnumbered job openings that half of job seekers were not going to find a job in June no matter what they did. In a labor market with strong job opportunities, there would be roughly as many job openings as job seekers.”

This is all being painted with a good-news veneer – “U.S. employers in June advertised the most monthly job openings in 13 years,” trumpeted the Associated Press – and, indeed, a two-to-one radio of job seekers to jobs is better than the three-to-one ratio that prevailed two years ago.

But what this report actually does is underscore the penalty millions of workers are paying for the right-wing sabotaging of the economic recovery and a widespread corporate practice of reducing the percentage of economic gains shared with workers.

Dave Johnson chronicles the sabotaging of the recovery in more detail in his post that offers “Three Updated Charts To Email To Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law.” What the charts show is that once Republicans officially took over the House in 2011 and forced the federal government into an austerity agenda focused on budget-cutting, the rapid growth that was beginning to heal the damage done by the 2008 Great Recession slowed to a crawl.

The result is that five years after the Great Recession was declared officially ended, we are still roughly 6.5 million jobs short of where we would be had conservative policies not crashed the economy. At our current rate of job growth and labor force growth, it would take close to three years to close that gap.

In the meantime, stories like this Reuters report from Monday that “employment growth at the largest U.S. companies has lagged far behind increases in revenue and operating profit since the start of the century” underscore how corporate executives are choosing to hoard the returns of economic growth rather than use them to increase wages and expand opportunities for workers.

When the 100 largest publicly traded companies from 2001 to 2013 can increase their revenue by 71 percent and their profits by 150 percent, but only increase their headcount by 31 percent, we know something is awry – especially when considering that much of that 31 percent increase in headcount appears to have taken place overseas, not in the United States.

Further, as the Reuters report notes, wages are in real terms falling for a significant percentage of workers: “According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the number of people employed in the top ten highest paying job categories fell 4 percent from 2001 to 2013 while their pay rose 28 percent on an inflation-adjusted basis. The number of people employed in the lowest ten paying jobs expanded nearly 15 percent, while their inflation-adjusted wages fell 5.5 percent.”

Republicans would like to force President Obama and the Democrats to own today’s weak economy and job market, but we need to keep the record straight: We’re living the consequences of a right-wing, tea-party hijacking.

We should respond with an immediate plan to accelerate closing the jobs gap. That would include a multibillion-dollar plan to repair and upgrade our transportation and water networks, our schools and other public facilities. It would also include overhauling our tax code so that it rewards corporations that create jobs in the United States and deters corporations from shipping jobs and hiding profits overseas. It’s going to take immediate action on those two fronts to give us the job creation and wage growth that we need.

Comments