Side Note

Millions of workers are still feeling the effects of the Great Recession

(And other signs America’s economic recovery is a sham.)

One of my favorite (read: least favorite) things Donald Trump likes to tweet is, “JOBS, JOBS, JOBS,”. It’s like he thinks America is a factory that produces the abstract concept of “jobs,” and those jobs could be anything.

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released their latest Jobs Report, which contains a lot of data that people can cherry-pick from to make some ideological point. Trump, predictably, settled on the fact that the report’s 3.7 percent unemployment rate is “the lowest number since 1969” (nice). And while 3.7 is definitely a relatively low number, it’s difficult to understand what it actually means. First off, the U.S. economy created fewer jobs than expected, and according to the BLS, the number of people who haven’t held down a job for the past 27 weeks remained unchanged. Additionally, America saw an increase in its ranks of “involuntary part-time workers [...] who would have preferred full-time employment” but couldn’t find a salaried job. Additionally, while average hourly pay has increased by 2.8 percent, that’s sort of canceled out by our current 2.7 percent inflation rate.

On top of it all, according to the Congressional Research Service, the government’s non-partisan think tank, ever since the Great Recession, the types of jobs being made available don’t present a particularly rosy picture. “Employment growth since 2007,” writes Sarah Donovan of the CRS, “has been concentrated in certain occupations with low median wages [...] and high median wages [...], while the decline in employment share has been concentrated in certain middle-wage occupations” such as “production, office and administrative support, and construction” labor. Young people and African-Americans have both struggled to find work, while Hispanic workers are inordinately concentrated in low-wage positions. It’s almost like America’s post-recession economic boom is a sham that’s had the effect of widening the gap between rich and poor and concentrating wealth among a small number of old white dudes! Oh wait, that’s precisely what’s happening here.

“There are few examples of the U.S. economy sustaining a very low unemployment rate for a significant period of time without returning to a recession,” writes Donovan. “At some point, a new recession will begin.” Will America’s descent into late-Roman Empire decadence result in a subsequent decay in which the people with all the money finally get their comeuppance? Eh, don’t count on it. Donovan continues, “For some, the effects of the next recession could be long-lasting, in terms of future earnings and employment.” Given the way things are going now, I think we all know who’ll hurt the hardest.