I've been warning about our economic malaise for some time (and been branded a Jonah or a Cassandra by some for doing so). I remain pessimistic about the short to medium term, as there are no signs whatsoever that things are improving (but plenty to indicate the opposite). This was reinforced today by a column in yesterday's New York Post by John Crudele.
Just when we think business conditions are going to start acting more ladylike, the economy shows you its butt end and raises a middle finger.
It happened again on Friday when the Labor Department announced that 125,000 jobs were lost by the US economy in June. Most of the loss was because the 2010 Census is winding down, but the number of new private sector jobs was also abysmal.
President Obama quickly rushed to the cameras -- as politicians often do -- to explain that even with the May dip we should be grateful that we've had five straight months of job growth.
You shouldn't be grateful.
In fact, you should be angry -- not only about the poor performance of the job market (and I'll get to the misleading notion that we've had five months of job growth in a moment) but also because you are being conned.
From January through May the government has reported job growth of 14,000, 39,000, 208,000, 313,000, culminating with 433,000 new jobs in May. The January and February reports originally showed job losses but turned positive when revisions were done.
Much of the March and April growth and nearly all of the May improvement came from temporary, part-time hirings by Census 2010.
Unless your goal in life is a career once every 10 years with the Census, these jobs really don't count. And, as I've shown in previous columns, there are also big questions as to how these jobs were calculated by Census and reported to the Labor Department.
That aside, add up those five months of growth and you get 1.007 million new jobs. Keep in mind that 750,000 additional jobs would have been needed just to absorb new workers coming into the economy during those months. Again, put the issue of jobs for new workers aside.
During those five months of alleged job growth, the Labor Department was pulling a statistical trick -- one that didn't work last year and probably won't work this year.
The department included in its calculations 728,000 jobs that it thinks -- but can't prove -- were created by newly formed companies that are beyond its ability to survey.
This outpaces last year's guess, which proved to be totally wrong. Census jobs that are very temporary. Estimates for probably non-existent jobs created by newly formed companies that likely don't exist. Seasonal adjustments. Revisions.
Tally the numbers and they don't add up to an economic recovery. And that gets me back to the issue of double-dip recession.
The good news is that there won't be a double dip. Why? Because the economy has never really recovered in the first place -- it's all one long slog along the bottom of an economic cycle.
Officially, the recession has not ended because the independent National Bureau of Economic Research hasn't declared the Great Recession over yet. And the group doesn't have a meeting scheduled to reconsider.
While the nation's gross domestic product may have been expanding since last summer, this really isn't a legitimate gauge anymore for the recession's end -- and the NBER knows it.
But there's another reason you are hearing so much lately about the "double dip." This notion saves the reputation of Wall Street economists who were almost universally calling for the US economy to perform much better than it has in 2010.
The itty-bitty improvement in the spring labor market gives economists -- like the president -- a chance to proclaim that they were correct about the US economy. They will also argue that any "double dip" came from situations outside the US that couldn't have been anticipated.
This is all, of course, nonsense.
There's more at the link. Bold print is my emphasis.
Mr. Crudele is quite right, of course. The statistics put out by the present Administration are cherry-picked to give the rosiest possible picture of the economy. It's an election year, after all. They don't care if they're found out later . . . just so long as they can fool voters long enough to maintain their majorities in the House and Senate.
Let's hope they don't succeed, either in fooling voters, or in retaining their majorities. We're neck-deep in the proverbial brown substance if they do.
While on the subject of job creation, I'm still waiting for many job-seekers to wake up and smell the coffee. I've seen innumerable references in various news reports to people wanting - insisting on! - work that's 'commensurate with their qualifications', or that pays a decent wage. Unbelievably, some of them actually refuse to take 'lesser' jobs. Sorry, folks. In today's economy, you take what you can get, and you're grateful for it. You know all the jobs that illegal immigrants are said to do, the ones that Americans won't do? Seasonal jobs in the agricultural sector, working long hours in the fields for less than minimum wage? Those might just be the only jobs open to those with few or no marketable skills right now.
I'm particularly struck by the whines and moans of teenagers and students who are either at, or have just left, university. They're complaining that most of the jobs that used to be open to them, like waitressing, busboys, entry-level retail assistants and so on, are now taken by older folks. Guess what, youngsters? Those older folks have lost their higher-paying jobs, and are now willing to work for whatever they can get, so long as it helps to pay the bills. The average employer can now choose between conscientious hard-working adults, who know how lucky they are to have any job, and self-centered whiny teens who don't know what they want to do with their lives, but demand a high salary and plenty of time off in return for doing as little as possible. Guess who he's going to hire, every time?
You have an undergraduate degree in sociology? Aztlan culture? Basket-weaving? Ethnic studies? Black history? I have news for you. There aren't many companies hiring in those fields right now, and university students are learning that a degree in those fields no longer even qualifies you to ask "Do you want fries with that?" If you sit around waiting for a job and salary 'commensurate with your qualifications', you're going to sit for a long, long time. Uncle Sam won't be paying you while you wait, as he has in the past. We're going broke, honey. Ain't got no hope and we've run out of change.
Get a job doing something - anything - to earn your daily bread. If that means picking peas in a field, so be it. Be grateful you're young enough and strong enough to do so. And if the fact that Americans now need those jobs helps to stiffen our national resolve into deporting the millions of illegal immigrants currently mooching off our wallets and our taxes, so much the better for this country.