touchdown on an international flight on a U.S. air line a couple
of weeks ago, the cabin crew had a special announcement: “For
one of us this will be the last trip,” said the attendant. “As
you know the company has been furloughing a number of employees.
One of us, Luis, will not be returning. Let’s give a big hand
to Luis.” Most people aboard clapped. I was so taken aback that
I couldn’t get my hands together in time. What, I wondered, were
we applauding? Surely not that Luis joined the growing ranks of
the unemployed. Clearly it was an expression of solidarity for
someone who suddenly lost his means of earning a living.
is certainly not alone in his new status. Staff reductions in
the travel tourism industry have been underway for some time,
and since the start of capitalism’s latest crisis they have been
drastic. Back in April, Air France unveiled plans to eliminate
2,500 jobs over the next two years by not replacing retiring workers
and not renewing short-term contracts. Back in July, United Airlines,
citing “this challenging economic environment” announced it had
avoided layoffs when about 2,100 flight attendants agreed to take
voluntary furlough or other steps. Then Continental Airlines announced
a cut 1,700 jobs on top of a previous decision to lay off 500
reservations agents and 700 flight attendants. Last month, Japan
Airlines Corp., said it was considering slashing 5,000 jobs over
three years, or 10 percent of its workforce. In July British Airways
announced it was considering cutting 2,000 attendants and 1,500
from its ground crew.
thought again about Luis the other day when the latest employment
figures were released by the labor department. Which one was he?
Does he have a family? A mortgage? How did he react to the applause?
the anticipated decrease in the number of jobs lost in the economy
in August was cited as new evidence of a green shoot in the still
dark economy terrain, the jump in the overall unemployment rate
from 9.4 percent to 9.7 percent was unanticipated by the experts.
Nearly seven million jobs have been lost since the recession began
in December 2007. There are now about 14.9 million people in the
country looking for work and over one third of them have been
jobless for over 27 weeks.
alarming statistic emerges from the latest report. In August there
were 758,000 women and men who once actively sought work but,
for at least a month, have given up the search in futility. In
November 2007, the number of such “discouraged workers,” was 349,000.
August figures mean that the nation is still on track to reach
a 10 percent jobless rate by Christmas. And there are suggestions
now that even that figure could be exceeded by year’s end. The
Obama Administration has consistently made it clear that it expects
the job situation to go on worsening. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis
says that while she is pleased to see some “moderation” she told
Fox Business News, that “we know that we are still going to continue
to see some more job loss and we know it was predicted to go up.”
thing that can always be anticipated when the jobs statistics
are released is the unemployment burden will not fall equally
on all segments of the population. When
the current economic downturn began the jobless rate among African
Americans stood at 8.4 percent; it has risen to 15.1 percent.
The rate for Latino workers rose 0.7 percentage points in August
to 13 percent, compared with a 0.3 percentage point rise to 8.9
percent for white workers.
to the August Jobs Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
a good picture compared to where we were, which was just a free
fall,” says Dean Baker, a director of the Center for Economic
and Policy Research, referring to the August numbers. “But compared
to anything else, this is just a horrible report. The rate of
decline is slowing, but it’s not going to stop. We’re likely on
a path toward more than 10 percent unemployment.”
slower rate of job loss is the result of further moderation in
the pace of job loss in the sectors that have been the biggest
job losers,” says Baker. “Construction
lost 65,000 jobs in August, down from 119,000 per month between
October and March. Most of this job loss is now coming from the
non-residential sector. However, Baker observes, while there has
been some stabilization in the housing market the non-residential
commercial market faces a “sharp contraction.”
days, the people who buy and sell office buildings, shopping centers,
warehouses, apartment buildings and hotels are hardly in a festive
mood, despite some recent encouraging signs relating to the job
and housing markets and a recent increase in sales of small office
buildings,” reported the New York Times September 1. The
article spoke of the market being in an early stage of a crisis
that will see “a spate of defaults, foreclosures and bankruptcies
that could surpass the devastating real estate crash of the early
has become commonplace to explain each dismal job report by saying
that a resurgence in employment always lags general economic recovery,"
the New York Times said editorially last week. “But
with the job market severely wounded, and with consumer spending
expected to be weak for a very long time, it could easily take
until 2014 for employment to recover. It's safe to say that five
years or more of subpar job growth is not what most people have
in mind when they think of a ‘lag’.”
is looking around saying, ‘Where is a robust recovery going to
come from?’ and not finding it,” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist
at Economic Policy Institute. “It’s
going to be a rocky recovery. We’re going to have elevated unemployment
for four years to come.”
to from here?
workers are ready to roll up their sleeves and get back to work,”
President Obama said in a Labor Day address to the AFL-CIO. But
it’s going to take a lot more than bare arms and his assurances
that recovery is just around the corner to make this happen. The
financial world may have stabilized a bit and the rate of job
loss declined but the need for bold government action remains
Associated Press Business Writer Christopher Leonard
put it last week, “job cuts in August were lower than they've
been in recent months. But a deeper look at the data shows why
it will take millions of new jobs to dig American workers out
of this recession's deep pit. ”
are three parts to the woes of American workers - falling wages,
rising unemployment, and insecurity about the future,” wrote American
Prospect co-editor Robert Kuttner. “More robust policies could
improve all three. For starters, we need a second stimulus bill.
could begin with emergency federal aid to state and local governments
that are laying off workers and cutting services in a recession.
We also need policies to create more jobs and raise wages for
the long term.”
high unemployment rate has brought increased criticism of U.S.
President Barack Obama’s economic strategy,” wrote one foreign
wire service reporter last week. Ridiculous, you say. It may not
be a widespread sentiment today, however, considering everything
else the reactionaries have engaged in its efforts to destroy
the Obama Presidency; that charge is just waiting to be trotted
Obama administration is on the defensive on health care in part
because it is promoting an ambiguous and ultimately feeble health
reform bill, but partly because health insurance has become a
lightning rod for larger economic fears,” writes Kuttner. “Voters
are not yet convinced that this president is on their side in
the battle for economic security. Major steps to improve job opportunities
and wages would be a good place to redeem the popular good wishes
that accompanied President Obama as he took office.”
Editorial Board member Carl Bloice is a writer in San Francisco,
a member of the National
Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for
Democracy and Socialism and formerly worked for a healthcare
union. Click here
to contact Mr. Bloice.