The jobless recovery

A lost decade for workers?

AFTER AN extended period of deep economic crisis—triggered by one of the biggest financial crashes in history—Wall Street bankers are poised to have a banner year. Overall, Wall Street firms are on track to pay out $140 billion in bonuses in 2009, according to a Wall Street Journal survey of twenty-three banks, investment firms, hedge funds, and other institutions—$10 billion more than in 2007, the year before the financial meltdown and the high point of Wall Street’s boom.

The recovery of the financial sector, whose wild speculative frenzy caused the panic in the first place, is largely the product of more than $12 trillion in cheap loans, cash infusions, and other guarantees the government has provided to them. In short, the bankers’ recovery comes on the basis of a massive transfer of wealth from the working class to the wealthiest sectors of society. The government handouts, moreover, have not led to a revival of lending—bank loans fell by $210 billion in the third quarter—but to more speculation in various securities.

During the last quarter, almost all of Goldman Sachs’s revenue—$10 billion out of $10.8 billion—came from trading and fees from customers. Goldman used its cushion of government support—$70 billion through direct cash, guarantees, and access to cheap lending facilities provided by the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation—and plowed that money into the stock market.

Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard professor and chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee the Wall Street bailout, commented:

So let me understand this. They can take taxpayer money and go out and make investments—gambles. These are not loans. This is not from lending activity, which is what I thought the banks were in the business of doing. Instead, they can go out and make short-term profits in investing and be rich, and that’s the healing of the financial system? I’m sorry, I don’t think so.”1

We are seeing indications of a modest recovery—U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.8 percent annualized in the third quarter. However, workers are seeing few signs of it. Corporations that turned profits in the third quarter did so through cost cutting and speedups—making fewer workers work harder—not investment. Aluminum giant Alcoa turned a $77 million quarterly profit by cutting research and development spending to $39 million, down 36 percent from a year earlier. Overall, net private investment fell to 0.1 percent of GDP in the second quarter of 2009, the lowest level since at least 1947. Meanwhile, labor costs fell at a 5.2 percent rate in the third quarter, capping the biggest twelve-month drop since records began in 1948. Productivity surged 9.5 percent in the third quarter, the fastest pace in six years.

This is shaping up to be the worst jobless recovery in postwar history.

In November, the official unemployment rate in the United States was at 10 percent2—a modest decrease from the 10.2 percent figure in October. The rate remains at the highest levels since 1982 and equates to 15.4 million unemployed workers, the most ever recorded. Broader measures of unemployment and underemployment reveal an even more harrowing picture. By many measures this recession is breaking all records in the carnage it is creating in the American working class.

As economist Allen Sinai told the Wall Street Journal, “Never before has business shed so many workers so fast, so many people failed to find work who are looking for work and so many dropped out of the labor force as in the current circumstance.”Another economist, Carl Van Horn, put it even more bluntly: “Millions of unemployed Americans are suffering economic and personal catastrophes…. This is not your ordinary dip in the business cycle. Americans believe that this is the Katrina of recessions. Folks are on their rooftops without a boat. The water is rising, and many see no way out.”4

Not only are millions jobless, but they have been unable to find work for unprecedented lengths of time. And more than 60 percent of workers who are actively seeking work do not even qualify for unemployment benefits.5

The ones who have benefits are rapidly using them up, and even those with extended benefits are not faring well. The stock market crash in 2008 wiped out the savings of those workers who had any. Millions of others had no savings to begin with and were meeting their expenses through credit card and mortgage debt. As a result, millions are filing for bankruptcy, losing their homes, and going hungry. And because health insurance is tied to employment, the ranks of the uninsured are expanding.

In the past two recessions, it took far longer for jobs to recover to their pre-crisis level than it did for the economy as a whole. This time, the situation could be even worse. It may take years to repair the damage wrought in the last twenty-four months.

Inside the numbers
Today’s unemployment picture is only rivaled by what occurred in the 1980s, but in many ways it makes for the worst situation since the Great Depression. Overall, the economy has shed about 8.1 millions jobs since the peak of the economic cycle in December 2007.6 The number of people employed has dropped by 5.2 percent since the recession began, making it the largest contraction in the labor force of any post–Second World War recession. Moreover, the private sector actually employs fewer people today than it did at the low point of the last recession, November 2001. It’s the first time that’s happened during a business cycle since 1980–82.7 The percentage of Americans employed, at 58.5 percent (down from 62.7 percent in December 2007), is at its lowest level in twenty-five years.8

Historically, the unemployment rate in the United States has fluctuated along with the economic cycles. The most recent low point occurred in April 2000—at 3.84 percent. That was the culmination of an eighteen-year trend generally downward from the postwar peak of 10.85 percent hit in December 1982. The unemployment rate in the recovery from late 2001 through 2007 never reached those lows, hitting a bottom of 4.4 percent in early 2007. Since then, the jobless rate has been trending upward, with losses jumping dramatically in October 2008 and continuing through the present day.

The employment situation is worse for people of color and for younger workers. The official, not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Black women is at 11.7 percent and for Latino women is 10.6 percent. The unemployment rate for Latino men is 11.6 percent and for Black men is 16.9 percent. It’s also devastating for young workers. The unemployment rate for white teens is 23 percent, for Latino teens is 34.7 percent, and for Black teens is a whopping 48.4 percent. By comparison, estimates are that official unemployment reached a peak of about 25 percent during the Great Depression.

The disparity between races has grown since the recession began. According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute earlier this year, the unemployment rate for whites increased by 4.9 percentage points from the start of the recession, and by 6.7 percentage points for African Americans.9

However, as bad as all of that sounds, these figures likely understate the true employment situation. The problem is that what these statistics measure hides the true state of joblessness in the economy.

Anyone who works at all—even if it’s as little as one hour—is counted as “employed” in the government rolls. This is true even if the person wants a full time job and cannot find one. In addition, workers who want jobs but have been unable to find them for long stretches are dropped from the labor force and not counted in the statistics. By this math, in the current recession, the labor force has decreased by an additional 1,001,000 workers. If they were factored back into the equation, the unemployment rate today would actually be 10.6 percent.10

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—the official arbiter of the nation’s unemployment rate—to some degree recognizes this and publishes several other less-heralded “alternate measures of unemployment.”11 According to the BLS’s broadest measure—which accounts for people employed in part-time jobs who want full-time work and for workers who want jobs, but have become “discouraged” and stopped looking—the unemployment rate stands at 17.3 percent, or about 27 million people. However, John Williams’ Shadow Government Statistics Web site adjusts for a subset of “discouraged workers” that the government stopped counting in 1994 and estimates the true underemployment rate to be more than 22 percent.12

Lastly, there is the issue of phantom job creation. The BLS employs what is called the “birth/death” model each month. The bureau reasons that its payroll survey has no way to reach new firms being born. These are incorporated into its sample on a lag. Therefore, based on historical growth patterns, it assumes a certain number of jobs being created by new firms each month. This is one of the most contentious parts of the numbers as reported—especially in the past twelve months. Indeed, in October the BLS calculated that the birth/death model had overestimated the number of jobs by more than 800,000. This will push the number of jobs destroyed in the recession from the official number of 7.3 million to 8.1 million.

Beyond the jobs
The job numbers are bad enough, but they don’t give us a clear enough picture of the scale of the crisis for the working class. Take hunger. The number of “food insecure” households makes up 14.6 percent of all U.S. households—the highest rate since the U.S. Department of Agriculture began monitoring the issue in 1995—and accounts for 49 million people.13 Among that group, 17.2 million people had “very low food security,” in which food intake was reduced to the point where some said they didn’t eat at all on some days.14

The United States is currently providing supplemental nutrition benefits to thirty-six million people, or 12 percent of the American population.15 Overall there are 239 counties in the United States where at least one-quarter of the population receive food stamps.16 In more than 750 counties, at least one in three Blacks is receiving assistance, and in more than 800 counties the food stamp program helps feed one in three children.17 The percentage of the population receiving food stamps is up from 9.3 percent last year and 6.7 percent a decade ago.18 What’s more remarkable about those numbers is that only two-thirds of those eligible for food stamps get them.19

The stark picture is also emerging at the tail end of a thirty-year cycle in which most workers lost ground even during the supposedly good years. Real hourly wages for the bottom 50 percent of male workers are lower today than they were in 1973,20 representing a massive shift in wealth toward the wealthiest. On the other hand, the share of national income held by the richest 1 percent doubled, from 9 percent in 1979 to 18 percent in 2005. The transfer accelerated during the last boom. Writes economist Jared Bernstein, between 2003 and 2005, “an amazing $400 billion in pre-tax dollars was shifted from the bottom 95 percent of households to those in the top 5 percent.”21

The jobs desert also means that those desperate to make ends meet are turning to more illicit ways to survive. According to Algernon Austin, a sociologist and director of the Race, Ethnicity, and Economy program at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), “Increased involvement in the underground economy, criminal activity, increased poverty, homelessness and teen pregnancy are the things I worry about if we continue to see more years of high unemployment.”22 As one unemployed twenty-four-year-old African American man told the Washington Post, “It has you wanting to go out and find other ways to make money…. [Lack of jobs is why] people go out hustling and doing what they can to get by. …Give me a chance to show that I can work. Just give me a chance.”23

In stark contrast to the party on Wall Street is the grim desperation of Detroit. The city had been hit hard for years before the last crisis put it right over the edge. As the Observer recently reported:

Now almost a third of Detroit—covering a swath of land the size of San Francisco —has been abandoned. Tall grasses, shrubs and urban farms have sprung up in what were once stalwart working-class suburbs. Even downtown, one ruined skyscraper sprouts a pair of trees growing from the rubble. The city has a shocking jobless rate of 29%. The average house price in Detroit is only $7,500, with many homes available for only a few hundred dollars….

Recently a semi-riot broke out when the city government offered help in paying utility bills. Need was so great that thousands of people turned up for a few application forms. In the end police had to control the crowd, which included the sick and the elderly, some in wheelchairs. At the same time national headlines were created after bodies began piling up at the city’s mortuary.24

A prolonged stretch of deep unemployment threatens to replicate this picture in cities across the country, especially Rust Belt cities that didn’t fare particularly well during the last two booms. Another result of the carnage is the staggering number of personal bankruptcies, which are up 34 percent in 2009 from the year prior.25 Overall, it is estimated that 1.4 million people will file for bankruptcy in 2009. That is on top of the 3 million new foreclosures that took place in 2009.

For those who have lost jobs, finding new ones is a daunting prospect. The number of openings is anemic—even by recession standards. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s blog: “The ratio of the number of unemployed to the number of job openings was greater than 6 in August. In contrast, that ratio was under 1.5 in 2007 and previously peaked at 2.8 in mid-2003, suggesting that finding a job right now is extremely difficult.”26

There have been countless cases in the last twenty-four months where hundreds of people showed up for a single job or thousands turned out for job fairs. More than 2,000 attended a job fair in February in New Orleans where only a few hundred positions were available.27 In March, 700 applicants in Ohio turned out for a single school janitor position paying $16 an hour.28 A regional job fair offering 1,000 positions in suburban Cleveland had more than 6,500 applicants attend, with 1,500 others turned away. The huge crowds overwhelmed the hotel parking lot where the event was being held, forcing people to abandon their cars and walk almost two miles to attend. There, they had to wait outside and in hallways as the room where the event was being held could only hold 500 people at a time. A grocery store looking to hire twenty-five people got desperate résumés from people vastly overqualified for the service-level jobs. As the chain’s human resource manager described it, “A lot of them are saying, ‘I don’t care. I need to have something that pays the bills.’”29 Some U.S. citizens have turned to hanging out on street corners and parking lots to grab the kind of day-labor jobs that for years have been typically relegated to undocumented immigrants.30

A sampling of dozens of quotes gathered in interviews with the jobless in a recent Rutgers University report reveals the palpable desperation among the jobless:

There used to be pages of jobs every day and—in my industry—two columns in the paper. Now there are days where the entire list of available jobs in this city you can count on both hands!

When I went to a job fair, the [state] had canceled it because there were no companies hiring! This is a depression, not a recession.

I have tried to diversify, use my skills in other areas—and the longer the time passes, the more employers do not want to take the time to even look at my resume.... I fear for my family and my future. We are about to be evicted, and bills are piling. We have sold everything we possibly can to maintain, and are going under with little hope of anything.31

Most troubling to some economists is that, when compared to past downturns, recent job losses have been disproportionately high at small businesses.32 Firms with fewer than fifty employees typically account for about one-third of employment gains during expansions. Yet such firms have accounted for 45 percent of job losses in the current recession. Moreover, since such firms are more likely to depend on bank loans, which remain scarce, they are unlikely to rebound quickly and thus will not be a strong jobs generator unless banks loosen their vice grip on lending.33

Even more ominous are the reasons why individuals are unemployed. During typical recessions, many firms lay off workers and then bring them back during recoveries—temporary layoffs. Workers who are unemployed can also be labeled as people who quit their jobs, have reentered the job force and have yet to find a job, are entering the work force for the first time, or have been “permanently separated” from their previous employer. In the last six recessions, the “permanently separated” category never exceeded 45 percent of the unemployed. But in the current recession, 56 percent of the unemployed were in that category as of September.34

Those who are unemployed have also been out of work for record amounts of time. The average unemployed worker has been out of work for 26.9 weeks, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by far the longest stretch on record.35 Overall, one-third of all jobless workers have been without work twenty-seven weeks or longer.36

The millions out of work for so long face the prospect of losing unemployment benefits. Congress has extended benefits several times. Most recently, benefits were extended by fourteen weeks nationally and by six additional weeks in states where the unemployment rate was 8.5 percent or higher.

Of course, jobless benefits are notoriously weak—amounting on average to just 38 percent of a worker’s former wages. Moreover, many employers have taken advantage of porous state laws to avoid paying jobless benefits at all. Still, many are poised to fall from the rolls in early 2010. Unless government action is taken, about one million workers will become ineligible in January, and by March the number without federal jobless benefits will grow to nearly three million workers.37

The job-loss recovery?
If recent history is any guide, the job picture will be very slow to recover. The current downturn is the ninth major contraction in the labor force since the Second World War. In the first five, it took twenty-four months or less for the number of employed people to fully return to its peak after contracting. However, in the last three—contractions that began in 1981, 1990, and 2001—recoveries took twenty-nine, thirty-three, and forty-nine months, respectively. After the 1990 recession, job growth did not resume until eleven months after the economy began growing. After the 2001 recession, the equivalent figure was nineteen months.

Jobs are expected to bounce back even more slowly in this recovery. “It’s not even a jobless recovery; it’s a recovery with more job losses. The idea of having essentially no net job creation after a remarkably severe recession is a real pathology for the U.S. economy,” noted UCLA economist Lee Ohanian.38

The number of jobs destroyed this time around far exceeds that of recent recessions. In the 1981 cycle, the job force fell by 2.8 million jobs; in 1990 it was 1.6 million jobs, and in 2001 it was 2.7 million jobs. This time around, more jobs have been destroyed than in the past three recessions combined. The recession may have officially ended this year, but the job losses are continuing to pile up at a pace exceeding 250,000 per month in recent months, and now down to about 150,000. Losses that would have induced panics in prior years are suddenly the norm and have been greeted with relief by politicians after the jarring months in late 2008 and 2009 when job losses were averaging nearly 650,000 per month.

There’s also the fact that job creation in the last growth cycle never picked up much traction. The economic expansion between November 2001 and December 2007 experienced weak private-sector employment growth, with less than one-half as many jobs created than were during the previous two expansions.39 In that time frame, the U.S. economy added 6.2 million jobs—just over one million jobs per year.

To get back to the unemployment rates in the 4 percent region experienced in the late 1990s, 10.7 million jobs would need to be created.40 And job losses haven’t stopped yet. When all is said and done, some economists believe that at least 11 million jobs will need to be created just to get back to 2007 levels, and more will have to be created to get back to the levels of the previous expansion.

As explained earlier, there are two key reasons for the weak job market. First, companies are boosting their bottom line not through investments in new capacity but through cost cutting. Second, as part of this, they are compelling workers to work faster rather than hiring more workers. On top of this, there remains a good amount of slack in the labor force. The average workweek has dropped to thirty-three hours. Traditionally, employers increase hours for existing workers before hiring new ones. The employers are in a position for some time to boost production by increasing the hours of those working rather than by hiring new workers.

Because of all of that, it might take a decade or longer for jobs to recover to their pre-crisis levels. Projections from a panel of economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal don’t expect unemployment to fall below 6 percent until 2013 and to fall below 5 percent until 2014 or 2015.41 And those views might actually be hopelessly optimistic.

A study by Rutgers University economist Joseph Seneca estimates that the United States won’t return to a 5 percent unemployment rate until late 2017. And to do that, the economy would have to add 2.15 million private sector jobs a year for more than seven straight years to eliminate the job deficit—a rate of job growth nearly double what occurred in the 2001–07 economic expansion.42 It would also require an expansion that lasts twice as long as the average post–Second World War expansion. We may have entered a new period of sustained, relatively high levels of unemployment.

What next?
The attitude in Washington seems to be to let the private sector do the work of creating jobs. The evidence, however, shows that waiting for the economy to self-correct and for private sector jobs to start materializing will merely prolong the agony. Between August 1999 and August 2009, employment in the private sector fell by 1.3 million jobs—the first time since the Great Depression that the United States had an absolute loss of jobs during the course of a decade.43 In contrast, in the 20 years prior, the private sector gained 35.5 million jobs.44

The word “stimulus” has become almost verboten. Obama himself brushed off the high unemployment numbers recently, saying, “I have a strong inclination not to do” a second stimulus package. “I think that most folks believe that we’ve now turned the corner where we might actually start seeing some positive economic growth in months to come. As you know, jobs tend to be a lagging indicator; they come last.”45

In early December, the Obama administration did hold a “jobs summit” where, most prominently, there was talk of extending tax credits to businesses for creating jobs. A second idea was a “cash for caulkers” program to provide incentives for homeowners and businesses to make buildings more energy efficient. A third idea was to provide small- and mid-size banks with new capital, which in turn could be lent to small businesses. Fourth, economists raised the idea of boosting infrastructure spending and providing direct aid to states to help prevent cuts at that level, but the idea faces resistance. A fifth idea was around the vague notion of “expanding exports”—a conversation draped in protectionism and without much firm detail of how it would be attained without subsidies to U.S. industries or slapping tariffs on imports. There is talk of taking leftover and repaid funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program and rerouting the money toward some of these plans.

Many of the administration’s suggestions revolve around finding ways to hand more cash to businesses or what amounts to the same thing, reducing their taxes. This narrow framework, driven by the interests of business and not labor, is an outrage. In the past couple of decades, the government, no matter which party was in office, has delivered, to quote one angry columnist, “an orgy of tax giveaways and corporate welfare” to the rich. The latest crisis, which sprang from these parasites’ excess, led to an even greater orgy of tax giveaways in order to haul them back from the brink. Now we are told that they must be handed more cash so that they will create jobs.

But there is no guarantee that businesses will not continue to do what they have been doing—taking government handouts and using them to speculate while they cut cost and squeeze workers harder. “Things have stabilized, but we’re trying to be extremely cautious and not anticipate the recovery before it occurs,” said William Zollars, chief executive of YRC Worldwide Inc., one of the country’s biggest trucking companies. “Like every other company in America, we’re looking to cut back as much as possible.”46 There is still a great deal of unused capacity, and there are still piles of personal and corporate debt. Reliance on a revival of consumer spending, therefore, to boost the economy is also likely to fail to create jobs.

The EPI has authored a comprehensive list of suggestions on what aid from Washington could and should look like.47 The policy points would include extending unemployment benefits, providing fiscal relief to states with budget deficits to prevent cutting of programs and services, direct creation of public service jobs, instituting tax credits rewarding businesses for creating jobs, and investing heavily in infrastructure.48 According to EPI’s Heidi Schierholz, “I think we really need to start thinking very seriously about direct job-creation programs in areas that will have high unemployment in years to come, as well as a jobs-creation tax credit—a wage subsidy for business that hire new workers.”49

From a working-class perspective, the sort of policies that should be paramount would be direct job creation and meeting social needs. There needs to be a bailout for the working class.

Tax credits, such as the ones discussed in the jobs summit and by the EPI, would not only be an indirect measure for creating jobs but would be yet another form of corporate welfare to add to what business has already received from the government. Moreover, it is hard to envision private sector companies hiring just because a tax credit is in place if there remains no underlying demand for the goods companies are producing. General Motors is not going to produce more cars and hire workers to get a tax credit. Corporations will only invest when they see the potential to restore profits. That is the logic of capitalism, and it demonstrates why solutions to the unemployment crisis have to look beyond the issue of restoring profitability.

A real alternative in creating jobs should not be about profit, but about putting people to work and creating things that benefit society, such as improved infrastructure—a modern Works Progress Administration (WPA). People should be put to work to build socially necessary things such as hospitals, schools, cultural and child care centers, sturdy bridges, cheap and clean transportation, and the like.

The lessons of the Great Depression and other periods of mass joblessness tell us that these sorts of reforms don’t get handed down from Washington without a fight. The Great Depression sparked the rise of unemployed councils, led in part by the Communist Party, which organized protests as early as 1930 to press for more aid from employers, relief agencies, and the state, and to fight evictions. The councils organized a “National Hunger March” on Washington in 1931 with the following demands: federal unemployment insurance at full wages for all unemployed and underemployed workers without regard to age, sex, race, political affiliation, or citizenship status; and city and state funding to clothe, house, and feed the unemployed, who would be responsible for administering their own funds.

Such struggles, followed by mass strikes starting in 1934, led to the creation of the Social Security Act, the WPA, and Civilian Works Administration under President Roosevelt. At the peak of these programs in 1936, the federal government employed 3.7 million emergency workers, helping reduce the number of unemployed from 11.5 million in 1932 to 5.3 million.50 WPA projects included the construction of public buildings and roads, and the creation of large media, art, drama, and literacy projects. The quality of construction was so good that most communities in the United States still have buildings, bridges, parks, and schools built by WPA workers.

The government’s emphasis today remains on stimulating the private sector. A different agenda needs to be put forward aimed at raising workers’ living standards and meeting much-needed demand for social services and infrastructure.

This struggle for economic justice is still in its nascent stages. There have been scattered efforts around the country to fight foreclosures and the struggle is heating up against budget cuts in California and elsewhere. This fall, labor activists protested a bankers’ conference in Chicago. And activists in New York City came together in mid-November for a Living Wage Jobs for All Conference.51 These are just threads. We are still not at the point where most workers feel confident to fight back. The historic weakness of the labor movement, combined with high levels of unemployment, makes it difficult for workers to organize and resist. The pace at which workers build that confidence cannot be predicted, but the crisis of capitalism is throwing millions into anger and despair, and at the very least that compels workers to ask the question: Why do bosses get bailed out, and not us?

Capitalism offers daily evidence of its own failures for all but a tiny minority. There is much work that needs to be done, however, if activists are to build the kind of movement that can fight for the redirection of wealth from Wall Street toward those who actually produce it.


  1. Elizabeth Warren video interview online, “‘Astonishing’ that big banks are taking taxpayer money, writing the rules,” October 16, 2009.
  2. Source for all unemployment data throughout the story is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All figures, except where otherwise noted, are seasonally adjusted rates.
  3. Phil Izzo, “Scarred job market expected to weigh on economy,” Wall Street Journal, Oct. 8, 2009.
  4. “The Anguish of Unemployment” John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Sept. 30, 2009.
  5. Barbara Hagenbaugh, “Many of the jobless get no unemployed benefits,” USA Today, April 4, 2009.
  6. Heidi Schierholz, “At 10.2 percent, October’s unemployment is a wakeup call,” Economic Policy Institute, November 6, 2009.
  7. Rich Miller, “Unemployment confronts Obama rhetoric with chronic joblessness,” Bloomberg, September 28, 2009.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Heidi Shierholz, “Signs of healing in the labor market, though unemployment remains in double digits,” Economic Policy Institute, December 4, 2009.
  10. Schierholz, “At 10.2 percent, October’s unemployment is a wakeup call.”
  11. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: Unemployment 1: Percentage of labor force unemployed fifteen weeks or longer. Unemployment 2: Percentage of labor force that lost jobs or completed temporary work. Unemployment 3: Official unemployment rate per International Labor Organization definition. Unemployment 4: Unemployment 3 plus “discouraged workers,” or those who have stopped looking for work because current economic conditions make them believe that no work is available for them. Unemployment 5: Unemployment 4 plus other “marginally attached workers,” or those who “would like” and are able to work, but have not looked for work recently. Unemployment 6: Unemployment 5 plus part time workers who want to work full time, but cannot due to economic reasons.
  12. Williams, Shadow Government Statistics.
  13. Tony Pugh, “Recession causes more families to go without food,” McClatchy Newspapers, November 16, 2009.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Jason DeParle and Robert Gebeloff, “Food stamp use soars, and stigma fades,” New York Times, Nov. 29, 2009. The aid works out to 28 percent of Blacks, 15 percent of Latinos, and 8 percent of whites. Benefits average $130 per month.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Kathryn Edwards and Anna Turner, “Hungry on Thanksgiving,” Economic Policy Institute, November 24, 2009.
  19. Karen E. Cunnyngham, Laura A Castner, and Allen L. Schirm, “Reaching those in need: State food participation rates in 2006,” Mathematica Policy Research Inc., November 2008.
  20. “Change in real hourly wages for men by wage percentile, 1973–2005,”
  21. Nicole Colson, “Robbing the poor to give to the filthy rich,” Socialist Worker, January 11, 2008.
  22. V. Dion Haynes, “Blacks hit hard by economy’s punch,” Washington Post, November 24, 2009.
  23. Quoted in Ibid.
  24. Paul Harris, “How Detroit, the Motor City, turned into a ghost town,” Observer, November 1, 2009.
  25. Sarah Randag, “Bankruptcies up 34 percent; Lawyers observe health care cost impact,” ABA Journal, November 25, 2009.
  26. David Altig, “A look at another job market number,” October 14, 2009,
  27. “Thousands turn out for job fair at Delgado,”, April 22, 2009.
  28. “School gets 700 applicants for janitorial job,” Associated Press, March 7, 2009.
  29. Kathie Kroll, “Job fair in Independence attracts thousands, ties up traffic,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 10, 2009.
  30. Emily Bazar, “Unemployed U.S.-born workers seek day-labor jobs,” USA Today, December 1, 2009.
  31. “The anguish of unemployment,” John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, September 30, 2009.
  32. David Altig, “Prospects for a small business-fueled employment recovery,”, Oct. 6, 2009.
  33. David Altig, “The growing case for a jobless recovery,” October 21, 2009.
  34. Ibid.
  35. “UEMPMEAN, Average (Mean) Duration of Unemployment,” Economic Research, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis,
  36. Miller, “Unemployment confronts Obama rhetoric with chronic joblessness.”
  37. “1 million workers will lose jobless benefits in January if Congress fails to reauthorize ARRA,” National Employment Law Project, November 19, 2009.
  38. Carolyn Lochhead, “Experts see rebounding economy shedding jobs,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 25, 2009.
  39. Barry Ritholz, “Post-recession arithmetic,” The Big Picture, October 1, 2009.
  40. Lee Sustar interview with Heidi Schierholz, “A decade of losses for working families,” Socialist Worker, October 23, 2009.
  41. Phil Izzo, “Scarred job market expected to weigh on economy,” Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2009.
  42. James W. Hughes and Joseph J. Seneca, “America’s new post–recession employment Aaithmetic,” Advance & Rutgers Report, September 30, 2009.
  43. Ritholz, “Post-recession arithmetic.”
  44. Ibid.
  45. John Harwood, “Obama rejects Afghanistan-Vietnam comparison,” New York Times, September 15, 2009.
  46. Ibid.
  47. “Policies to create jobs,” Economic Policy Institute, October 20, 2009,
  48. Ross Eisenbrey, “The plan to end the jobs crisis—The economy requires a comprehensive response for a full recovery,” Economic Policy Institute, Oct. 20, 2009.
  49. Sustar interview with Heidi Schierholz.
  50. “Labor force, employment, and unemployment: 1890–1990,” Historical Statistics of the United States: Millennial Edition Online, TABLE Ba470–477, Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  51. National Conference to Create Living-Wage Jobs For All,


Issue #103

Winter 2016-17

"A sense of hope and the possibility for solidarity"

Interview with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Issue contents

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