Everyone knows that the fiscal and economic crisis in big cities like Philadelphia, in states like Pennsylvania, and throughout the United States is rooted in the disappearance of American jobs. Before last year’s election, all we heard from both political parties was, “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” Since the election, not so much, although the U.S. remains in the deepest and longest jobs crisis since the Great Depression.
We do get monthly jobs reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The most recent on July 5 for the month of June, was described by the New York Times as, “Strong, but not too strong,” and “sufficient to please investors.”
What the BLS actually reported was that the official unemployment rate which increased from 7.5% in April to 7.6% in May, was unchanged at 7.6% in June. The number of officially unemployed Americans was unchanged at 11.8 million, of whom 4.8 million were unemployed for more than 6 months. That didn’t include involuntary part-time workers whose numbers increased by 322,000 up to 8.2 million in June. And that didn’t include 1 million discouraged American workers who have given up looking for work because they have concluded that no work is available for them.
For African-Americans, the unemployment rate increased from 13.2% in April to 13.5% in May to 13.7% in June. White unemployment decreased from 6.7% in April and May down to 6.6% in June.
The unemployment rate for African-American teenagers seeking work was 43.6% in June, compared to 20.4% for white teenagers.
A new book about unwed, low-income fathers in Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey, by Kathryn Edin and Timothy J. Nelson is titled “Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City.” In their study, the authors make clear the connection between the problems of these fathers and their children to the inability of these fathers to find employment.
Angry popular uprisings against elected governments in Egypt, Brazil and Turkey express the demand and rising expectations for jobs and better lives. Democracy is not enough if you don’t have a job and a future. We could use some of that anger here, directed at our elected leaders, too.
Did we do the right thing bailing out big banks from their bad bets, but allowing millions of working Americans to lose their jobs, their homes, their health insurance, and their families? Warren Mosler and the modern monetary theorists at the Center for Full Employment and Price Stability he founded at the University of Missouri-Kansas City think not.
They argue the U.S. government, instead of saving the big banks, should have allowed them to fail, and should have directly created jobs to raise employment up to comfortable levels to restore the economy. And it’s not too late now for the U.S. government to reverse course, abandon the politics of austerity and anxiety over deficits and inflation, and return the U.S. economy to full employment and prosperity.