…but these are
green shoots merely “bumps in the road.” Or something. Brad DeLong posted a graph showing just how dismal the employment numbers are: as a percentage of population, employment has cratered. That’s a much more revealing number as unemployment, especially the strict version (‘U3’) leaves out all sorts of people who would be willing to work if there were jobs.
Inspired by Delong, I decided to look at the historical male employment. I’m not a believer in the (false) notion of a ‘mancession’, but attitudes towards working women have changed dramatically over the last sixty years, but not towards working men. In other words, increases in female employment in part result from a broader acceptance of women in the workplace, while expectations of men and work haven’t really changed much. Here’s the monthly seasonally-adjusted employment data for men twenty years and older from 1948-2011:
You’ll notice that, in the mid-1970s, male employment drops and then stabilizes between 71-76%, so let’s look at the same data focusing on 1980-2011:
The technical economics term for this is pandimensional clusterfuck. Let’s be absolutely clear: since the end of 2008, male employment has never this low post-World War II. Ever.
But what do our august solons worry about? Budget deficits. Not the employment deficit. As I always write on this blog, people have to like this crap. And who in his or her right mind thinks record low male employment is a good thing? (Hell, we cause enough trouble when we’re gainfully employed).
Get unemployment down to 2-3 percent, then worry about budgets (which we should do at that point to prevent inflation and misallocation of resources, but that’s a different post).
In a sane political system, a persistent failure of this magnitude would be grounds for impeachment. Or perhaps beheading.
(By the way, anyone think this level of economic insecurity among men is helping women’s rights? Just asking. To me, it’s no coincidence there is a wave of sexual prudery and restriction of women’s freedoms sweeping across the U.S.).
An aside: Digby, uncharacteristically, makes a category error while she discusses the political implications of high unemployment:
The sad fact is that the President has not conveyed a sense that he cares passionately about the problem of unemployment and very, very foolishly bought into the finance boys’ advice that the key to economic success was in the hands of the bond vigilantes and confidence fairies.
In light of employment figures that haven’t budged since he took office, it isn’t farfetched to assume Obama hasn’t “conveyed a sense that he cares passionately about the problem of unemployment” because he doesn’t care passionately about it. As Digby notes, it is vital to his re-election, yet he really hasn’t fought for it.