Saturday, April 02, 2016

Forest for the trees

I've been reading lots of happy stuff about jobs numbers this week. It's worth bearing in mind that the statistics you see highlighted month to month don't often tell the story of the huge net substantive losses the average American has endured over the past decade.
There’s a bigger shift underway. That’s a key implication of new research that indicates the proportion of American workers who don’t have traditional jobs — who instead work as independent contractors, through temporary services or on-call — has soared in the last decade. They account for vastly more American workers than the likes of Uber alone.

Most remarkably, the number of Americans using these alternate work arrangements rose 9.4 million from 2005 to 2015. That was greater than the rise in overall employment, meaning there was a small net decline in the number of workers with conventional jobs.
Or for that matter, over the past 40 years.
From 1973 to 2014, net productivity rose 72.2 percent, while the hourly pay of typical workers essentially stagnated—increasing only 9.2 percent over 41 years (after adjusting for inflation). This means that although Americans are working more productively than ever, the fruits of their labors have primarily accrued to those at the top and to corporate profits, especially in recent years.
And then there's the Too Damn High rent factor to consider.  
new Pew Charitable Trusts analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2013, low-income Americans spent a median of $6,897 on housing. In 2014, that rose to $9,178 — the biggest jump in housing spending for the 19-year period of data that Pew studied.
Other things have happened.  Even if you are allowed to work full time, no one has a defined benefit pension anymore. The cost of acquiring, just a bachelor's degree, saddles you with debt. For the great majority of people, the overall material situation is bad and getting worse.

But if you're living comfortably enough to sit back and harp on this month's jobs report as evidence that these people need to STFU, then you just don't see the forest for the trees. Or maybe you work for the Clinton campaign. 

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