[Marxism] More jobs, worse work

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Jul 22 07:08:17 MDT 2004


NY Times, July 22, 2004
OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
More Jobs, Worse Work
By Stephen S. Roach

The state of the American labor market remains the defining issue of the 
current economic debate. Through February, the United States was mired 
in the depths of the worst jobless recovery of the post-World War II 
era. Now, there are signs the magic may be back. More than a million 
jobs have been added to total nonfarm payrolls over the past four 
months, the sharpest increase since early 2000.

These gains certainly compare favorably with the net loss of 594,000 
jobs in the first 27 months of this recovery. But there's little cause 
for celebration: the increases barely make a dent in the weakest hiring 
cycle in modern history. From the trough of the last recession in 
November 2001 through last month, private sector payrolls have risen a 
paltry 0.2 percent. This stands in contrast to the nearly 7.5 percent 
increase recorded, on average, over the comparable 31-month interval of 
the six preceding recoveries.

Nor is there much reason to celebrate the type of jobs that have been 
created over the past four months. In general, they have been at the 
lower end of the economic spectrum.

By industry, the leading sources of hiring turn out to be restaurants, 
temporary hiring agencies and building services. These three categories, 
which make up only 9.7 percent of total nonfarm payrolls, accounted for 
25 percent of the cumulative growth in overall hiring from March to 
June. Hiring has also accelerated at clothing stores, courier services, 
hotels, grocery stores, trucking businesses, hospitals, social work 
agencies, business support companies and providers of personal and 
laundry services. This group, which makes up 12 percent of the nonfarm 
work force, accounted for 19 percent of the total growth in business 
payrolls over the past four months.

That's not to say there hasn't been any improvement at the upper end of 
the labor market, with the construction industry leading the way. At the 
same time, there has been increased hiring in several of the higher-end 
professions: there is more demand for lawyers, architects, engineers, 
computer scientists and bankers. Manufacturing, however, has continued 
to lag.

Putting these pieces together, there can be no mistaking the unusual 
bifurcation of the recent improvement in the American labor market. 
Lower-end industries, which employ 22 percent of the work force, 
accounted for 44 percent of new hiring from March to June. Higher-end 
industries, which make up 24 percent of overall employment, accounted 
for 29 percent of total job growth over the past four months.

In short, jobs are growing at both ends of the spectrum, but the 
low-paying jobs are growing much more quickly. The contribution of 
low-end industries to the recent pick-up in hiring has been almost 
double the share attributable to high-end industries.

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/22/opinion/22roac.html
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