Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Unemployment and Income Numbers Fail to Illustrate US Worker Struggle

The official (U3) unemployment rate is increasingly becoming irrelevant in explaining the employment picture. Note the gap between U3, U6, and Shadow Stats Unemployment.

Behind the numbers: young unable to enter the market and others unable to reenter the market in a meaningful way. So many stories on our travels of the "flexible workplace": an architect selling luggage at Macy's, a woman having to take a retirement or face layoff, adjunct profs with little pay and no benefits, the state worker downsized and doing the same job for less as a contractor, college grads who cannot find work that can pay off their student loans.

The mainstream media tends to use income rather than wealth as an indicator of equality and economic health. But wealth, the accumulation of assets minus debts, gives us a bleaker picture, as tens of millions of people owe large amounts on their homes, student loans, and consumer loans. In 2007 the average wealth of the bottom 40% US residents was only $2200; imagine what the numbers must be in 2012.

For women and people of color, the decline of wealth is more stark. African American families now only have 5 cents in wealth for every dollar that a white family owns; the median income of African American single women is $100.