Many experts point to consecutive months of job growth as if they were talking about Joe DiMaggio’s famous hitting streak. At the same time, they say the growth is not good enough, which makes them sound reasonable. It also hides ignores a growing problem: Too many of the new jobs are low wage.
Writing for MSNBC, Suzy Khimm reports that over a third of the 195,000 jobs added in June were in the hospitality industry, which usually generates low-wage positions. Khim also notes that new jobs are more likely to be part-time than they were before the Great Recession. Paul Krugman’s view of the situation is even more dismal: “Full recovery still looks a very long way off. And I’m beginning to worry that it may never happen.” To a degree, Krugman blames his usual suspects: the Fed and the Austerians. However, this time he adds a new culprit: voters who don’t seem to care.
In my encounters with clients who are employed, the story is not much better. They talk about small raises or flat salaries, increased workloads, and employers that only know how to ask for more. Yesterday, I wrote about workers in China kidnapping their boss. In the U.S., workers and voters just seem beaten down. They blame government, but they don’t change it. They blame the poor, most of whom are working at low wage jobs, and they ignore the people who have benefitted most from this broken economy.
Sure, the monthly jobs numbers sound good again. Look below those numbers, and you see another bridge waiting to fall.
Today’s Huffington Post offers a fascinating and frightening analysis of youth unemployment. The overall loss to the nation is estimated at $18 billion, but behind that big number are millions of young people who will struggle to survive. Beyond the unemployed most of the new jobs created over the past few years have been low wage, which means that many other young people are starting their careers with little opportunity to save money.
While we need to pay attention to unemployment, we should also look to other factors that impact young people, such as student debt. Young people who attend college are less likely to be unemployed, but they are often leaving school with a debt equal to a small mortgage. If Congress does nothing (which is what it has done best over the last few years), interest on student loans will double later this summer.
Our political leaders need to start focusing on this problem. However, given their general failure to care about working people and the unemployed, it’s most likely that the problems described above will only get worse, and young people will suffer because their elders are acting like children.