This very detailed article does a splendid job of putting numbers and lines on some trends that I've been tracking through description and observation. It covers wage deflation, job market deflation, and their impact on the economy -- which is to say, if people don't have money to spend, the economy isn't going to get better no matter what you do to the poor thing.
Wage Deflation in Our Midst
The op-ed column by Bob Herbert in the Saturday New York Times really hit the nail on the head on this whole ‘green shoot’ issue — how can there be ‘green shoots’ when the labour market is deteriorating at such a rapid clip fully nine months after the Lehman collapse. The full brunt of the credit collapse may be behind us, but please, the other two shocks, namely deflating labour markets and deflating home prices, are very much still front and centre. For every job opening in the USA, there are more than five unemployed actively seeking work vying for those jobs. That is unprecedented and nearly double what we saw at the depths of the 2001 recession. The official ranks of the unemployed have doubled during this recession to 14 million and if you take into account all forms of labour market slack, the unofficial number is bordering on 30 million, another record. For those who still believe that we somehow managed to avoid an economic depression this cycle because of a 13% fiscal deficit/GDP and a pregnant Fed balance sheet, the Center for Labour Market Studies at Northeastern University estimates that the real unemployment now stands at 18.2%, which is actually higher than the posted rate at the end of the 1930s.
The part that got me was "For every job opening in the USA, there are more than five unemployed actively seeking work vying for those jobs." I have no idea how they came up with a number so low. Around here, job openings get dozens or hundreds of applicants. There are probably well over five fully qualified
applicants per job, not counting the desperate who don't really fit the requirements and the average folks getting out-competed by the several perfect matches.
The last job I applied for entailed a rather obscure combination of skills and drew over a thousand applicants
. My chances of getting that job were less than .1%. To put this in perspective, the major science fiction magazines buy about 2% of manuscripts submitted. So my chances of selling a story to Asimov's are twenty times
my chances of getting that job. Even if there had only been a hundred applicants, my chances of selling a story would still be double, and there are a lot of jobs pulling in 100 applicants these days. I like freelance work, but I need regular gigs too.
People talk about how depressing it is to be a writer and deal with all that rejection. Well, I'm a writer; I can deal with it. But most people can't
and when lots of our workers are putting out dozens or hundreds of applications and not getting a job -- or even an interview! -- that is doing tremendous damage to our workforce. People's sense of self-worth is so tied up in employment that when they are unemployed, they think they are worthless, and if it goes on too long they may get so wrecked they can't function anymore. In that case, society has wadded them up and thrown them away for no better reason than it didn't want them right then. That's a recipe for disaster. You think taxing the rich will "discourage people from working hard" ...? Howbout dumping them by the truckload.
Plus of course it's necessary to consider that the norm used to be one job per household. It now takes 2-5 jobs to support a household. Many people are working multiple jobs, because a single job often doesn't pay enough to live on. So not only does the economy contain fewer jobs, but the number of jobs is not the same as the number of employees.