Friday, August 1, 2008

The End Is Nigh. Nigher.

Today, from the Washington Post: U.S. Employers Shed 51,000 Jobs in July.

I'm not sure how long this kind of thing can continue before there's a serious social rupture. I've been predicting revolution for a decade, though, and we haven't gotten to that point yet, so maybe I'm just a pessimistic doomsayer. But this really illustrates to me the complete failure of free-market capitalism and a society based almost entirely on luxuries. From the linked article:
Employers cut 51,000 positions from their payrolls, and the economy has now lost jobs every month in 2008, a total of 463,000 fewer positions now than in December.
That's half a million jobs vanished in nine months. The only reason that can happen is because there are half a million people employed in non-essential pursuits--as almost all of us are. We are a nation of nonsense. None of it matters, and it's built on illusions. Now the magicians are closing up shop and we're going to be left helpless, useless, and defenseless.

But not only are jobs disappearing--the costs of existing are on the rise. From the same WaPo article:
The new data show how ordinary Americans are being squeezed from almost every direction. Food and fuel are more expensive, homes are less valuable, credit is harder to get, and it is increasingly difficult to get a job or a raise.

I'm telling you, this can't continue. There will be violence soon. Violence on a large scale. People can only take so much, and I'm afraid we're nearing that point.

And on a personal note: Those 463,000 missing jobs are sure to complicate my ability to achieve any kind of material stability.


Jim said...

One thing that you didn't mention is that those 463,000 jobs are only 5.7% of the total working population in the USA. I think you're revolution is a ways off yet- but, I do agree that the USA is mucked up right now and our foundations for the patented "American Dream" are illusions.

Something else to note is that these jobs aren't jobs you'd actually want to do, are they? Car salesman? Telemarketer? Ice Road Trucker? And it's not likely that these unemployed people will be interviewing for teaching positions at colleges and universities. If anything, they'll be returning to college to finish their degree or pursue a new career path. That would increase the demand for teachers and make you a hotter commodity (although I'm sure Michele thinks you're a hot commodity already).

To back up my theory, this is from the article: "Workers without advanced skills have been hit the hardest. Among people without a high school diploma, the rate has increased to 8.5 percent, from 7.2 percent. The rate among those with a bachelor's degree or more education is 2.4 percent, up only slightly from 2.1 percent a year ago."

Jason said...


A couple quibbles:

I don't know if "only" applies to 5.7%--that's better than one in twenty workers--that's huge.

Sure those jobs you mention are generally (there I go again!) not the most desirable, but since everyone needs something, now there's crowding further up. And it's not like as these low-skill jobs close down a corresponding number of skilled positions open up--there's nowhere for those people to go. Sure, they might want to finish a degree and get better qualified, but to what end?

The problem is that the options are disappearing with the jobs.

Nik said...

I too have a quibble as well. :)
As Jason pointed out, everyone needs something. Not all of us are Rocket Scientists, or Great Thinkers. Some of us went to school because that was what you were supposed to do (and that includes HS & college). I didn't get to pursue either of the areas of study that I would have liked (meteorology or communications), for various reasons (that would be for my own post at another time). I ended up in a degree that I thought would give me the best chance of a "good job", not necessarily what I wanted (Management & Marketing). Ha Ha, jokes on me because I haven't used anything from said degree since it was handed to me. But I digress... point is that not everyone can be college professors or rocket scientists - we need the garbage collectors, retail sales & yes, even Billing Specialists of the world. ;)

hops off soapbox

Jim said...

I didn't mean to down play unemployment. I've been unemployed, as many of you know, collecting my check (you have to call a phone number to claim it every week) and hoping to find a job. It's tiresome and depressing. And not really the point I want to make.

So moving on.

I'm hung over so I don't know if I'll make any sense. But, will there ever be a time when there is (or was) zero unemployment? This might be a byproduct of our civilization. My economics sucks, though, so I really don't know.

Jason said...

I can't imagine unemployment's ever been reduced to zero. I've even been told that a capitalist system can't function without some unemployment (though I've never tried to confirm that even as an existing theory).

dchmielewski said...

I admit that I was pretty young for this, but does anyone remember the late 70's and early 80's when interest rates were pushing 20% and unemployment was double digit?

OK, let's take a step back further, can anyone even contemplate the depths of the great depression with regard to unemployment and misery? The dust bowl?

Neither of these brought about a revolution and people are even more lazy than ever. Revolution takes work and sacrifice. People die in revolutions. Admittedly there are enough guns around now for people to die in large numbers, but who are you gonna kill? Who really represents what you would Revolt against? Our country (and the world) is all so interdependent now that violent revolutions in developed countries are a real .... uh, INCONVENIENCE.

The revolution will be televised, but everyone will be sitting on their asses in front of the tube waiting for someone else to get it rolling.

BTW, 0% unemployment would imply a perfect match of jobs with skilled labor, a perfect match of job location with population location and no international mobility of labor (no immigration of labor willing to do any one job cheaper, as the cost of labor gets driven up by the decreasing supply of labor). I would doubt that any of this will happen in our lifetime, and its not necessarily a desirable goal. Labor must be available and mobile to keep costs down.

Jason said...


I'll grant that people are lazier now, but they're also more self-centered. In the past, when things looked bad, people didn't generally think: Hey, I deserve better than this. They thought: This too shall pass. They were used to less.

But you're probably right. Even Eric Hoffer, in his book The True Believer, claims that the middle class is unsuited to revolution because they all aspire to the upper classes. It's the poor who are hopeless enough to try revolution.

Of course, that's just a big ol' case of logical induction. Just because the past was that way doesn't mean the future will be.

Oh, and if you can believe this graph on Wikipedia (and who doesn't believe Wikipedia?), unemployment almost hit ten percent in the early eighties.