[Marxism] Query US Work Force: A careful review

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Mon Dec 6 05:26:17 MST 2004


Hi Rod,

You wrote:

My point is that dropping real wages force an ever increasing percent of the 
population to work; i.e., the labor force as a percent of the civilian 
non-institutional population has been increasing since the early 1960s. 
People aren't working for the hell of it; they work because they have to. 
There are more workers per household and more people pre household. There is 
a long established pattern of retrenchment in hard times and the subsequent 
boom never allows a recovery.

Reply:

Thank you very much for your extensive analysis.

However, the 2.4 million workers you are talking about here (the claimed 
1.4% increase in the proportion of the NILF) are excluded from the aggregate 
"unemployed". Unemployed and NILF are not the same thing.

According to own your figures, in 1997, 32.9% of the CNP was NILF, and in 
2003, 33.7% of the CNP was NILF, an increase in the proportion of about 0.8 
percentage points. NILF in 1997 was 66.8 million people and in 2003, NILF 
was 74.7 million people in round figures.

This works out as an absolute increase in the total NILF of about 7.8 
million people, or a 11.7% increase from the 1997 level.

During the same seven years, for comparison, the total number classified 
"unemployed" increased absolutely by about 2 million, or a 30.2% increase 
since 1997.

In 1997, the unemployed were 3.3% of the CNP, and in 2003, they were 3.97% 
of the CNP, an increase in the proportion of 0.67 percentage points.

Thus, as I argued, in seven years time, the total number of NILF grew 
significantly faster than the number classified unemployed, both relatively 
(as proportion of the CNP) and as a mass (7.8 million more NILF as against 2 
million more U). This trend is obscured somewhat perhaps because the total 
number of unemployed increased absolutely by 30.2% since 1997 whereas NILF 
rose by 11.7%, while the employed workforce also increase by about 6%. NILF 
is of course a much larger aggregate than U, thus a smaller percentage 
increase means a larger number of people.

This result does not deny your claim that "People aren't working for the 
hell of it; they work because they have to", indeed some 22.5 million US 
people aged 55+ are now working (16.2% of the employed workforce), it says 
only that for an increasing number of people, work is something they aren't 
looking for anymore in the short term, for one reason or another.

That implies, in turn, a larger number of people who either have sufficient 
assets not to have to work, or else a larger number of people dependent on 
others for their income who are not receiving an unemployment benefit. But I 
haven't figured out yet what precisely the social composition of that 
additional 7.8 million in NILF is. For that, we need a detailed breakdown of 
NILF by age and social status.

Jurriaan





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