Taking a look at the April 2016 unemployment numbers
The just-released unemployment figures have made the news and I thought we’d revisit the meaning of the jobs report once again. For starters, let’s acknowledge that the BLS numbers are what the government wants you to know — but they don’t necessarily reflect the entire jobs situation.
The economy added only 160,000 in April. Over the past year, the economy has added an average of 232,000 jobs per month. Bear in mind that an average of 150,000 new workers join the labor forces monthly. This means the April number isn’t really a gain so much as a break-even.
The unemployment rate is still at 5% with 7.9 million officially unemployed. Of these 2.1 million, or 25.7%, are long-term unemployed. An additional 6 million workers work part-time jobs because they cannot find a full-time job. Another 1.7 million are referred to as “marginally attached” to the labor force. This means that more than 15 million people are either unemployed or underemployed.
Unemployment rates are higher of course for African American (8.8%) and Latinx (6.1%) people while the percentages for women (4.5%) and whites (4.3%) was lower than the official rate. Youth unemployment is officially 16% but the actual unemployment rate for Black youth is much higher at about 51%.
42% of all US workers make less than $15 per hour. Low wage work is done disproportionately by Black (54.1%), Latinx (59.5%), and women (48.1%) workers.
The jobs situation, while it has improved somewhat from the depths of the recessionary downturn, is still acute. The fact that 15 million people are either unemployed or underemployed should be seen as an emergency situation. What is desperately needed is a public works jobs programs to create millions of jobs at top union wages, along with a national healthcare system and other reforms to address the economic crisis faced by working people.
Of course, these types of gains won’t be won easily. Neither of the two capitalist parties will be willing to go against their Wall Street friends. Like any progress made by workers and the oppressed, these reforms will have to be won through independent mass struggles.