This month’s lackluster jobs report – 195,000 net jobs created in the month of June with the unemployment rate unchanged at 7.6 percent – leaves Americans adrift.
More than 22 million Americans remain in need of full-time work. The participation rate in the labor force – 63.5 percent – remains mired near recession lows. Wages continue to stagnate; young people struggle to get jobs; young African Americans face devastating rates of unemployment; inequality grows more extreme. And at current rates, it will take an estimated seven years to return to pre-recession unemployment levels.
The new normal is neither new nor normal nor acceptable. The Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows once more that government policy is a hindrance, not a help, to the recovery. In previous recessions, government spending and hiring helped fuel the comeback. In this one, perverse austerity policies are pulling the economy down, not helping it up. And now Congress is gearing up for another mindless fight focused on reducing deficits rather than putting people to work.
Inside the report, little has changed in the past month. Manufacturing – down by 6,000 – isn’t contributing to the recovery. Government continues to shed jobs: a net 7,000 at the national, state and local levels. The housing comeback is generating remarkably few construction hires – up just 13,000 in the month. The jobs being created, largely in service and entertainment industries, continue to be lower in pay and benefits than the jobs that were lost.
Once more temporary and part-time jobs predominate.
Americans need work and there is work to be done. With interest rates still low, there will never be a better time to rebuild our decrepit infrastructure. We should be hiring teachers, not firing them; lowering the student debt burden, not doubling interest rates on student loans. The mindless sequester cuts should be repealed. Any “grand bargain” discussion should be on the mix of spending and tax cuts needed to put people back to work.
Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) has introduced an updated version of the president’s American Jobs Act, a proposal that would create an estimated 1.9 million jobs by investing in rebuilding the country, providing tax credits to small business and low- and moderate-income people, and aiding the long-term unemployed. In a rational time, Congress would not fight over how much and what to cut at the cost of more jobs, but would focus on this and other proposals to put people back to work.