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The State of the Union
May 15, 2003 7:13 AM   Subscribe

There are 8.8 million people unemployed in the United States. Unemployment is measured annually as the percent of the labor force that cannot find a job. The labor force comprises adults who want to work. Uncounted are those who do not seek employment, or who have become discouraged enough to stop looking.
posted by The Jesse Helms (27 comments total)

 
Haha! That PBS page on South Africa puts our unemployment at about 6%. That's only 30% less than most other estimates. Wishful thinking on their part I hope because I doubt 30% of the population is not seeking employment for whatever reason.
posted by PenDevil at 7:40 AM on May 15, 2003


Color me in the category of 'those who gave up'. I saw it coming, traded down to a used car fully paid for and paid off all credit card debt. When the axe fell I stashed the severance in a money market and am still sipping on it - 2 years later. Ended up returning to my former profession of architectural designer (buildings, not software), fortunately possessing solid CAD skills. I'm one of the luckier casualties; the main lesson learned that money isn't everything. I'm still ISO a meaningful calling, thoroughly disillusioned with hollow corporate antics.
posted by yoga at 7:49 AM on May 15, 2003


thoroughly disillusioned with hollow corporate antics.
commie bastard.
posted by quonsar at 7:52 AM on May 15, 2003


The Jesse Helms - Thanks for bringing this up. I would add, also, the categories of:

1) People in prison. Some would argue with this inclusion, but the social pathologies in the US which drive it's high levels of incarceration (competing with Russia, I believe, for the highest in the industrialized world) are both systemic - intentionally so, some would assert - and mostly correctible.

2) Males who never entered the workforce: up to 10% of all US males, by some estimates.
posted by troutfishing at 7:58 AM on May 15, 2003


People in prison

They have jobs if they want them. Where do you think all those license plates come from?

Uncounted are those who do not seek employment, or who have become discouraged enough to stop looking.

Is this because of some sinister conspiracy? Get a fucking job, quit whining. There are more available jobs in the trucking industry than people collecting unemployment checks. I for one, hate my fucking job, but I go every goddamn day, why? Because they pay me to, I don't have to like it, I can look for something else, but I still have to go every day. Anyone who can't do that can fucking starve.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:19 AM on May 15, 2003


2) Males who never entered the workforce: up to 10% of all US males, by some estimates.

you'd be referring to the legal workforce i assume. plenty of cheddar to be made other ways.

Anyone who can't do that can fucking starve.

shut up and hate your fucking job in silence, don't inflict it on us [kidding].
posted by mitchel at 8:36 AM on May 15, 2003


There are more available jobs in the trucking industry than people collecting unemployment checks.

Really?

First of all, the number of unemployed (here, defined as "those not working, but willing to.) is far higher than the number of those receiving unemployment checks.

Secondly, The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that "Transportation and material moving occupation" jobs fell by 241,000, year over year, and that there 745,000 people who considered themselves part of that industry, and willing to work, who could not find jobs. Unemployment rates in that industry are up, year over year, from 7.3% in April of 2003, to 8.3 percent, in April of 2003. The only industries with a higher unemployment rate involve natural resources, such as farming, fishing and forestry, and they may have a seasonal affect weighing them down.

Admittedly, the worst of this is caused by the airline collapses. However, for your posit to be true -- the number of those currently drawing unemployment is less than the number of trucking job available -- implies that there are over three and a half million open positions in the trucking industry -- an industry currently holding, when combined with all other transportation and cargo industries, less than 9 million jobs.

I'm sorry, the idea that the trucking industry is at least 33% short on labor (and the percentage is far higher, since all those 9 million jobs aren't trucking job) is wrong. Those jobs do not exist in those numbers.
posted by eriko at 8:42 AM on May 15, 2003


Pollomacho - Why does this issue make you so mad?
posted by troutfishing at 8:43 AM on May 15, 2003


Oh, and one more observation - I've noticed in the last year a considerable increase in the number of people who pick through the scrap metal bin at my local transfer station (I do this too, so I notice). I would estimate that the number has more than doubled.

I think of this number as an index, or proxy for increasing poverty. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.
posted by troutfishing at 8:51 AM on May 15, 2003


Sorry mitchel and troutfishing, I did seem to wake up on the grumpy, right-wing side of the bed this morning! I just don't buy it. We're not in the middle of the great depression here. Thousands of immigrants flood into this country each year and somehow find jobs, gee, how do they do that? Its simple, the jobs are there all along its just lazy, fatassed Americans feel themselves somehow above turkey processing or farm labor work and would rather find "meaningful" work (not picking on you yoga, I'm with you). Hey, no shit, we'd all like meaningful work, you think Juan the day laborer in So. Cal. that crawled through the Tijuana sewers to get here would prefer picking fruit? Give him the opportunity to take your air conditioned, office job (at 4 times his current pay) and see if he complains about it as much as we do! The jobs are out there, they exist, streets need repairs and sweeping, houses need building and repair, chickens need plucking, trucks need driving, fruit needs picking, ditches need digging, its just that there is no motivation to do any of that "shit" work if you are going to get paid to sit on your ass all day. What happened to any sense of work ethic in this country (and by this I mean whatever country the reader may be in, because its happening everywhere)? I guess my parents just taught me that tarring roofs for minimum wage (which I have done before) is better than not working (and possibly getting more money), but that same concept doesn't seem to be universal, what so ever.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:59 AM on May 15, 2003


Never trust an unemployment statistic promulgated by people who focus on "productivity." Even the use of the word "productivity" in economics points to someone who is totally indifferent to murderous slavery in favor of profits.

In Victorian days, efficiency was based on the total weight of the products produced. So a factory that produced three more bridge bolts in a month was more "efficient" then a company that quintupled its output of glasses screws. Insane reckoning.

"Unemployment" should not be parsed. It is the number of undisabled working age people who are not working. To declare someone "discouraged" because their unemployment compensation has run out is to say that they have "given up eating" because it is too expensive.

On the "plus" side, many of the "unemployed" are working, just not reporting their earnings to the government. But they don't count.

The bottom line is that so many people no longer fit the mold of what is acceptable employment that the statistic looks catastrophic even in good times. So the statistic is fudged to look artificially good. Instead, the statistical method should be redesigned to take into account societal change.
posted by kablam at 9:08 AM on May 15, 2003


The civilian employment/population ratio for March 2003 was 62.4%. That number has been mostly static for the last year, but more significantly, it is just below the 63.2% level at the 1990 economic peak, and well above the 1983 (57.1%) and 1975 (55.8%) recession troughs. Employment to population hovered in the mid to high 50%s from the end of WWII to the mid 60s and has increased steadily since then...primarily as more women entered the work force.

The economy works in cycles...booms followed by recessions. During recessions unemployment goes up. All the political mumbo-jumbo in the world won't change that.

What exactly was your point?
posted by cyclopz at 9:22 AM on May 15, 2003


I know its uncharacteristically conservative of me to say that those unwilling to work in any capacity deserve no payment, but I just can't justify paying someone for nothing. FDR had works programs, they did may have been made up work (move gravel pile from point a to point b and then back) but it was work. Sure those unable to work (ie the handicapped and children) shouldn't be expected to, but any able bodied adult should have a job and should not get money if they don't. You can stay home if you'd like, your choice, but you'd better have some means of support or you're going to go hungry. Of course this would mean boosting minimum wage to an actual liveable level and creating central job posting locations and it may even mean bringing things like the CCC back, but what kind of lives can people live with no work, no sense of purpose what so ever? I really think we should cut the purse strings on welfare, no free rides anymore.

Yes, I am fully aware that life on the dole is no cake walk despite what Rush Limbaugh and Morton Downey Jr. may say, but as long as there is work to be done there should be people doing it and no one sitting on their ass.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:35 AM on May 15, 2003


Where do you think all those license plates come from?

They don't do much of that any more. UNICOR is the federal program that manages the Federal prison work place and every state has it's own version for their inmates such as California
This is a huge work force that is cheap labor that effectively takes jobs from the rest of us.
Don't know if they have a company song they must sing each day.
posted by mss at 10:08 AM on May 15, 2003


I know its uncharacteristically conservative of me to say that those unwilling to work in any capacity deserve no payment, but I just can't justify paying someone for nothing.

Well, one way to justify it would be to see a small part of your taxes as going towards 'unemployment insurance,' rather than the more demonized terms. That infrastructure will be useful and available to you should you lose your job, for whatever reason, even if you have too much pride to take advantage of it. If there is anything good to be said about the right-wing rhetoric on welfare, it's that it has probably made many people avoid collecting benefits as a point of honor. Of course, they've also done massive damage to the system, so it all evens out in the end. Except that our poor are still screwed.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:24 AM on May 15, 2003


I was unemployed for nearly two years, and tried to get a supposedly easy-to-get clerical job with the state (at one third of my previous income). I did well on their clerical tests and had eight interviews, but got no job.

Desperate, I tried fast food places - McDonald's, Jack in the Box, Schlotzky's, Pizza Hut, as well as Blockbuster. Not a one of them so much as called me.

I finally landed a seasonal tax examiner job with the IRS, but it ends next Friday, so I have to hit the bricks again.

I'm going to try like mad to find anything I can, but I'm just terrified of not making it. What am I supposed to do when I try everything I think of and no one wants to hire me? I have skills, experience, and a willingness to work, but none of these things can magically land me a job when no one's hiring.

The state clerical jobs I'm going to try again to get pay about $9.47 an hour. I might be able to scrape by on that for awhile, but I won't be able to make child support payments for my daughter starting next year. Guess they'll just have to throw me in jail.
posted by beth at 10:31 AM on May 15, 2003


"Hang in there, help is on the way!" - GWB, 2000 campaign
posted by nofundy at 10:57 AM on May 15, 2003


beth: You're just a slacker. You obviously missed your mandatory 'magic job-creating pixie dust' seminar, therefore anything that happens to you is obviously your own fault.

(I'm just saving pollomacho the trouble of posting again here.)
posted by Cerebus at 11:21 AM on May 15, 2003


beth -- don't know what your background is in, but I would imagine McDonald's never called you because they considered you overqualified. I've been in situations before where employers have flat out told me I didn't get the job because I was overqualified and they didn't want someone taking the job, getting bored, and leaving in 2 months. Unfortunately, these places do not see your reality, which is you just want to work and there are no available jobs in your field in your geographic area. Plus I would think a place like Blockbuster would think there was something wrong with a person who was not a teenager but still wanted a job there, unless it was for management, and then the manager would not want to hire you for fear of you one day taking his job away from him/her.
posted by archimago at 11:26 AM on May 15, 2003


beth-
You have probably heard the single worst word in the English language: overqualified. My long unemployment may be ending soon, but the worst part of it, for me, was that it seems impossible to just get "some shitty job" if you have a degree and some skills. Every fast-food place and coffee shop in town told me that I was overq'd. I am, however, perfectly qualified to shoot up the unemployment office (just kidding, Mr. Ashcroft).
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:34 AM on May 15, 2003


No, things are not running well at present, they need a lot of help. Wages are not enough to get by in many cases, that's bad, , very bad, especially when you can get on better with no job than with one, that's no encouragement to work. Jobs, especially good jobs, take time to find and an insurance buffer is a good idea, but it can't last forever. People have to come off the dole and get back to work, any work, even ditch digging if need be, and yes, thanks, I've been unemployed too and found crap work to get by, as a mater of fact, any of you ever put your college degrees to work in a lumber yard or a roof repair crew or waiting tables or spotting drywall or wiping mentally retarded septuagenarian's backsides? I've even had to give up my home, my friends and my life in order to find work in a new town. The available jobs may suck, horribly, but its better than nothing.

Beth, I'm sorry you've had such trouble (despite how some may try to characterize me, I really am). I won't try to advise you or certainly try and comment on your situation, except to say good luck and I know there is something out there for you somewhere. Its like finding a significant other, you might feel like you've met everyone, tried everything, been on a million first dates and yet you still stay home on Friday night, but there is someone out there somewhere. Right now, my job is the equivalent of dating a 600 lb. ugly woman with a foot odor problem, but I'm looking and hopefully I can find something with a little more chemistry.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:42 AM on May 15, 2003


I tried wiping the backsides of elders with dementia, and I couldn't stand it so I didn't last a week.

(It wasn't the mess that killed me, it was having to put people through great pain in just turning them, as well as never having enough time to get all my duties done. I just don't have the stomach to actively contribute to people's misery like that.)

Sorry for the digression, but you *did* ask. I tried it and found that starvation is better.
posted by beth at 11:56 AM on May 15, 2003


Sorry for the digression, but you *did* ask. I tried it and found that starvation is better.

I had the same experience with for-profit probation, except that these people, being non-emfeebled for the most part, were more convincing when they threatened to kill me. I would rather visit harm upon my lifestyle than do something that I find unethical. And you thought that you were digressing.

Also, to all unemployed (USian) Mefites (with degrees, unfortunately): give ETS online grading a shot. They are a strange buearacracy, no doubt, but you can telecommute and make from $14.50 to $18.75 an hour. It is great for "between jobs," and has quite literally saved my ass (which I may have to peddle, due to its lucrative beauty) two or three times.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:25 PM on May 15, 2003


I worked my way up to manager at that job, sort of like winning a short dick contest. King of the booty wipers! My home was for mentally retarded, schizophrenic, old folks. Its true what they say about trouble during full moons.

I know its off topic and terribly un-PC but my friends referred to me as a "tard guard" sometimes in jobs like that your humor is the only thing that gets you through another day.

I would rather visit harm upon my lifestyle than do something that I find unethical.

Now that situation is another one I can understand. That really sucks. Food or soul? Not a great choice.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:32 PM on May 15, 2003


Problem is, if work doesn't get you medical care, housing, food, and transportation, most folks will eventually have to resort to something that isn't work to satisfy these needs. I'm with you, Pollomacho, that it's time to put together some sort of a WPA program again ... something for people who are either out-of-luck or in the process of searching for the "high skilled job."

Americorps was supposed to serve this function for young people, but it needs modification. Adults over 25 need a little more than what the Americorps plan of scholarship / food-stamp-level existence provides -- we need volunteer jobs that come with housing, a decent medical plan, and a stipend that goes back to the relatives / spouse every month ... the things that the CCC [or the military] used to provide for young men.
posted by sheauga at 6:25 PM on May 15, 2003


I'm one of the luckier casualties; the main lesson learned that money isn't everything. I'm still ISO a meaningful calling, thoroughly disillusioned with hollow corporate antics.

I left the hollow corporate wankorama 2 years ago, found my low-paid but highly rewarding calling, but I'm starting to lean back towards the 'money may not be everything, but I want me some more of that shit' pole again already.

any of you ever put your college degrees to work in a lumber yard or a roof repair crew or waiting tables or spotting drywall or wiping mentally retarded septuagenarian's backsides?

Yes, many times. So?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:36 AM on May 16, 2003


Here, I'll give away a money-making opportunity to y'all:

Hit the web and find a supplier for lip-gloss tubes. Find a supplier for glycerin; a single barrel will probably do you. Get yourself a big-ass propane-powered stove-style burner and a big-ass canning pot.

Mix up the glycerin, some good water, and whatever dyes and smells you wish to have.

Pour into lip-gloss tubes. Hint: you don't need to fill the tubes! A little of this will go a long way.

Label the tubes "Defrogger" with some funky frog logo and shit. Figure out some way to attach a loop cord to the thing so it can hang around your neck.

Sell these for about five bucks a pop at ski slopes. They cost about five cents to make, so your profit here is pretty fucking enormous.

Usage instructions: smear a tiny amount of glycerine on your ski goggle (inside lense). Buff out with the satchel your goggles came with. Your goggles will not fog up for hours now. Days, even.

You'll need to sell approximately 20 000 of these to break the six-figure income level. There are more than 50 million alpine skiers in the USA, so you're only aiming to tap about 0.04% of that market.

(Alternative format: get a little frog mold -- I've got one I'll send to you, if you want it -- and use a plastic-lined soft-fabric bag instead of the lipstick tube. The "defrogger" name is even better this way. Needs to be a waterproof bag because otherwise the little glycerin frog is gonna melt from moisture.)
posted by five fresh fish at 10:15 AM on May 16, 2003


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