The Austin Chronicle

The Hightower Report

What job creation numbers don't tell us

By Jim Hightower, June 20, 2014, News

Have you noticed that the powers that be employ an entirely different standard for measuring the health of America's job market than they use for the stock market?

They're currently telling us that, "The job market is improving." What do they mean? Simply that the economy is generating an increase in the number of jobs available for workers. But when they say, "The stock market is improving," they don't mean that the number of stocks available to investors is on the rise. Instead, they're measuring the price, the value of the stocks. And isn't value what really counts in both cases?

As a worker, you don't want to know, not merely that 200,000 new jobs are on the market, but what they're worth – do they pay living wages, do they come with benefits, are they just part-time and temporary, do they include union rights, what are the working conditions, etc.? In other words, are these jobs ... or scams?

So, it's interesting that the recent news of job market "improvement" doesn't mention that of the 10 occupation categories projecting the greatest growth in the next eight years, only one pays a middle-class wage. Four pay barely above poverty level, and five pay beneath it, including fast-food workers, retail sales staff, health aides, and janitors. The job expected to have the highest number of openings is "personal care aide" – taking care of aging baby boomers in their houses or in nursing homes. The median salary of an aide is just under $20,000. They enjoy no benefits, and about 40% of them must rely on food stamps and Medicaid to make ends meet, plus many are in the "shadow economy," vulnerable to being cheated on the already miserly wages.

To measure the job market by quantity – with no regard for quality – is to devalue workers themselves. Creating 200,000 new jobs is not a sign of economic health if each worker needs two or three of those jobs to patch together a bare-bones living.

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