The Real News on Jobs

Robert Reich – Former Secretary of Labor; Professor at Berkeley;  Author, Aftershock: ‘The Next Economy and America’s Future’ – Posted: March 4, 2011 01:42 PM

Are we making progress on the jobs front? The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 192,000 new jobs in February (220,000 new jobs in the private sector and a drop in government employment), and a drop in the overall unemployment rate from 9 to 8.9 percent.

We’re heading in the right direction but far too slowly to make a real dent in unemployment. To get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent by 2014 we’d need over 300,000 new jobs a month, every month, between now and then.

Overall, the number of unemployed Americans — 13.7 million — is about the same as it was last month. The number working part time who’d rather be working full time — 8.3 million — is also about the same.

But to get to the most important trend you have to dig under the job numbers and look at what kind of new jobs are being created. That’s where the big problem lies.

The National Employment Law Project did just that. Its new data brief shows that most of the new jobs created since February 2010 (about 1.26 million) pay significantly lower wages than the jobs lost (8.4 million) between January 2008 and February 2010.

While the biggest losses were higher-wage jobs paying an average of $19.05 to $31.40 an hour, the biggest gains have been lower-wage jobs paying an average of $9.03 to $12.91 an hour.

In other words, the big news isn’t jobs. It’s wages.

For several years now, conservative economists have blamed high unemployment on the purported fact that many Americans have priced themselves out of the global/high-tech jobs market.

So if we want more jobs, they say, we’ll need to take pay and benefit cuts.

And that’s exactly what Americans have been doing.

Employers have demanded wage and benefit concessions from their unionized workers and often got them. Detroit is creating auto jobs again — but new hires are getting about half the pay that