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.
Writing in Daily Kos¸ Meteor Blades reports that our focus on more jobs may be missing a bigger problem. The economy has added jobs. The problem is that more and more of them tend to be part-time or paid at lower wages. Blades cites a this eye-popping statistic: In 2008 4.7 million Americans were employed part-time. That number is now, just five years later, 7.8 million. Even more shocking, the retail industry has cut one million jobs since 2006 and only added 500,000 part-time jobs.
Recent economic news has sounded good: more people working, improved housing market, and more factory orders. None of this happy talk will matter if employees keep getting squeezed on income. My clients tend to be professionals with college degrees. Over the last year too many to count have told stories of going 3-5 years with no increase in pay. If this continues, the chickens will come to roost.
In today’s Chicago Sun-Times, Sandra Guy tells the story of a young man who chose to take part-time jobs over the past four years. He did this to write a book. Now he’s found that he’s not able to save or put money aside for retirement. Sadly, this story does not stop with people who have chosen part-time work. Many Americans are stuck in part-time jobs that offer no chance to save for proverbial rainy day.
Even many full-time employees have faced several years of small raises or no raises at all. One of my clients is married to a corporate lawyer. Her husband has not had a raise in 5 years. His company stopped contributing to 401K savings. This example shows that even accomplished professionals are facing an ever tightening noose of insecurity.
What will we do? Too many people are asking that question.
Today’s Chicago Sun-Times “Money Maker” section carried a brief article on temporary openings with the U.S. Census Bureau. The position will only last a few months (Dec. 2009 - June 2010), but if you are stuck in your current job search, this could be an opportunity to consider.
What if you find a full time job while you’re in the middle of your “commitment” to the USCB? Quit. We have seen every industry, including government on all levels have no shame or sorrow or qualm in laying off workers or, worse still, strong-arming them to take furlough days. It is time that we as workers take the same attitude toward employers. Lay off your employer – fire them – when a better opportunity comes your way. (Ideally, leave in a way that burns no bridges.)
To learn more about positions at the Census Bureau, you can call 866-861-2010 or go online at http://2010.census.gov/2010censusjobs/