like something out of the Great Depression
I’m surfacing for a minute from my own (thank G-d, no complaints here, I’ve got a job) crushing work-load to comment about some stories I’ve seen in the last week in the U.S. The story about the more than 1400 people who lined up in single digit temperatures starting nearly 16 hours before the doors opened, not to get some great after Christmas sale deal, but to have a chance at securing a handful of jobs on offer in New York is the latest of them. This seems to be happening across the country — earlier this week there was a story about more than 1600 people turning up to apply for one of only 36 new jobs at an ice cream plant in Hagerstown, Maryland. A couple of weeks ago there was an article about more than 500 people turning up to apply for something like 10 jobs as supermarket cashiers in, I think it was Georgia, and the manager was like, this is crazy, more than half of them have college degrees.
The new jobs report of only 6.7% unemployment was a bombshell but not one you’d expect. It is not a happy number. There had been a forecast that more than 200,000 permanent jobs would be added in December but the number turned out to be only 74,000, including temporary jobs. The news gets worse: That major drop in unemployment numbers is more a reflection of jobs lost — or at least, people without jobs –rather than gained. For every job added in December, 5 people left the labour market (e.g., gave up finding a job and stopped trying) in that same month. The official unemployment numbers only reflect the number of people actively trying to find work and so the unemployment number went down only because so many unemployed gave up finding work. It gets worse, yet: More than half of the 74,000 new jobs added in December were temporary, seasonal jobs. The latest reports are that 92 million people are unemployed. More women than men are employed (though at lower wages) but the number of women in the workforce has just dropped to a more than 30-year low — going back to numbers that reflect a time when a majority of women didn’t work out of choice and societal norms — a time when only one income was needed to get by and there were far fewer female heads of households. Only 62.8% of the adult population is participating in the labor market now — meaning they either have a job or are looking for one. That matches the lowest level since 1978, again a time when a majority of women didn’t need to work for their family to survive. Times have changed.
Disturbingly, it isn’t just the U.S. in an unemployment crisis crunch. Record numbers of job seekers have been turning up for jobs in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K.
There’s something else that is making an uncomfortable itch climb up my spine and I’ll post about it later but involves Germany’s sudden demand that the U.S. return the country’s gold that they’ve been storing for them, the fact that the U.S. has said it will take 10 years for them to ship all of it back, and that the first shipment was only a quarter of the amount promised and what did arrive was not what Germany stored — it was re-melted down bars and not the bars Germany stored with their country’s insignia imprinted on them. There’s been a good bit of coverage in the German press about this and what it may mean and, I think, none of what it may mean is very good.