A Picture Worth 1000 Words: A Sighting from the McJobs Market

One of the complaints too often taken seriously by the business press is employer claims that they can’t find workers with the right skills for open job slots. We’ve looked at some of these stories in the past, and when employers complained, it pretty much without exception reflected that because the economy is slack,they expect to be able to hire workers cheaply, which often includes not being willing to spend time to train someone. In fact, there has been a perverse trend starting more than a decade ago of employers putting out incredibly narrow job specifications. They were effectively saying they were willing only to hire someone who had been in precisely the same role at a similar company.

But even as McJobs look to be the fastest growing employment sector, just because they want to hire workers for as little as possible does not mean that prospective employees will hit their bid.

This issue got new attention last week as news reports blared that new job openings had hit their highest level in 13 years, surely a bullish economic sign. Higher wages are just around the corner! But then the stories point out even as work postings are rising, the number of actual hirings is down. Notice the contrast in this Wall Street Journal account:

Employers had 4.84 million open positions in August, up from 4.61 million in July and the highest level since early 2001, the Labor Department said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, steady job creation has decreased the number of job seekers, a sign the labor market is tightening and raising the prospect of stronger wage growth. In August, there were just under two unemployed workers per job opening, the lowest level since the recession. In 2009, that figure was nearly seven….

Still, other figures suggest the labor market is growing below its potential. Despite the pickup in job openings in August, the number of hires actually fell to 4.6 million from 4.9 million in July. That could be a sign that while employers are ready to expand, they are having trouble finding the right workers or they lack urgency to hire immediately.

Moreover, the number of workers quitting their jobs has remained flat in recent months. That shows that despite stronger employment growth, many workers still aren’t confident enough to quit their jobs for better opportunities.

The article curiously fails to mention the low labor participation rate and the large number of discouraged workers. Employers are strongly prejudiced against candidates who have been unemployed for more than six months. It’s not irrational for them to give up.

And even for low-end, low-skill jobs, the pay on offer often looks unreasonably low. For the last two years, reader Carol B has regularly sent us job postings in her area in New Jersey. Her note with her latest find: “I’d send representative samples, but this is a representative sample. The economy’s on a roll now!”

New Jersey McJob listing

The flip side is that employers are following the lead of Obama, who last year touted Amazon warehouse jobs that paid below living wage levels as “middle class jobs.” With the President subtly jawboning wage expectations down, why shouldn’t employers see how far they can get with bottom fishing? As we wrote last year:

Obama needed a visual to show that, no, really, truly, jobs really are being created somewhere in America for yet another one of his exercises in trying to pretend that he’s on the side of ordinary Americans. But it’s hard finding any really good success stories in an economy with 12.2 million counted as unemployed and over 28 million as “disemployed” which is the number of people out of work relative to normal labor force participation rates when the economy is in good shape. So Obama chose as his backdrop an American success story, Amazon, which is opening a new a warehouse in Chattanooga and hiring 7,000 people.

But Obama in trying to tout this as a success story revealed either that he’s completely out of touch or that he’s conditioning American to regard a state of peonage as middle class. Not all that long ago, “middle class” meant you could after a few years of work and savings, buy a house in the suburbs, afford to have children and have a reasonably comfortable family life, and send those kids to college. “Middle class” also generally meant college educated, white collar employment plus the higher-skilled, better paid blue collar jobs.

If you had any doubts that that vision of middle class life was on its way to extinction, the Obama speech made it official. Amazon has been repeatedly cited here and abroad for abusive conditions in its warehouses.

….The message from Obama is clear: Americans are now expected to celebrate when companies are willing to pay at or not much above a living wage [for a single person]. As long as you pay enough that the workers don’t wind up having to seek public assistance in the form of food stamps or emergency rooms for medical care, you’ll now be promoted as creating better conditions for Americans. That’s true as long as you remember that the Americans that benefit from this grinding down of ordinary citizens are Obama’s backers and other members of the elite.

So the real story of the supposedly improving job market is that if things are getting better, it’s likely only to be at the margin. Real wages have been stagnant since the mid-1970s and worker rights continue to be under attack. And with the top wealthy profiting handsomely in this weak recovery, there’s no impetus yet for any real change.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. jgordon

    I’m not exactly sure what proposed benefits will accrue to people or society or the earth by making sure everyone can get “good middle-class jobs”, but I can sure see the downsides. Instead, I suggest redefining what a good job is, and encouraging methods of living that don’t absolutely require currency to mediate every transaction people must partake in to survive. That is happening anyway, whether or not economists and politicians approve, but it would be nice to have explicit, official approval and encouragement of the process. The monetary system and industrial economy are going to shrivel up and blow away in any case. Might as well make the transition easier on people, and maybe preserve some knowledge and infrastructure for future generations (if there are any) in the process.

    1. not_me

      Yes, jobs are not the answer; justice is. We should remember that self-employment has been the rule throughout most of human history EXCEPT for slaves. And many would argue that chattel slavery has been replaced with wage and debt slavery which has been extended to include nearly everyone.

      Let’s aim for justice and then people will have the time and other resources to do the work they find meaningful. I’d hazard that slaves do not make good innovators or workers in general so an enormous amount of human resources are wasted because we ignore justice in favor of “amoral economics” which is actually immoral for neglecting justice.

        1. MikeNY

          We collectively, as a society, define ‘justice’. As we defined it to exclude slavery and indentured servitude and child labor, etc.

          Just because it’s not a mathematical equation doesn’t mean it’s spectral or meaningless. Indeed, it’s meaningful precisely because it’s not a mathematical equation.

        2. not_me

          I’m sure we can at least agree on “Thou shall not steal”, can’t we, even if done legally via both explicit and implicit government subsidies for what should be entirely private banks? And that theft requires restitution?

          If so, then recognize that most, if not all, major businesses have been built with the stolen purchasing power of their workers and general population. And recognize that family farms and businesses have been stolen by the government-subsidized credit cartel too. And likewise the population has been driven into unjust debt by the same cartel.

          So at a minimum, we need Steve Keen’s “A Modern Debt Jubilee” plus the redistribution of the common stock of all large corporations plus land reform.

          “I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies . . . If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] . . . will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered . . . The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.” — Thomas Jefferson — The Debate Over The Recharter Of The Bank Bill, (1809) from http://www.barefootsworld.net/prophesy.html

    2. N.M. DuPlanti

      I have student debt that as of this writing is repayable only in money. So unless the law changes, and to avoid a lien being placed against my home, money, and a considerable amount of it, is what I need.

      1. jrs

        And if wasn’t that you’d need it to pay for the house, or for health insurance etc.. There’s not going to be any easy escape when they’ve locked all the exits.

      2. jgordon

        The only things that have real value in this life are people, nature, the earth, and the universe. It’s hard to express this in a meaningful manner to people who have the American/Western cultural shackles binding them, but really all the industrial stuff we spend our lives stressed out and slaving for isn’t worth much of anything at all. In fact, it’s basically all trash.

        I can’t say as how you’ll be able to overcome the constricted, lower-dimensional view of reality that is limiting your potential and allowing others to control you, but for me I had help from a shaman and psilocybin. Though I hear that years of meditation and study of Buddhist philosophy can have the same sort of affect on your thinking.

        1. N.M. DuPlanti

          @ JGordon, you are absolutely right about what should matter. However, I stand to inherit a third-generation small family business – one primary residence and a couple of rental properties. I have been a responsible steward of said properties to date and am growing non-herbicide/non-pesticide fruits and vegetables on the land with an eye towards self-sufficiency and without reliance on fossil-fuel inputs. As much as I would love to leave our capitalist economy in the dust, since it seems utterly incapable of providing me with employment at compensation adequate to meet my obligations, I am continually drawn back to the point that if I am to preserve my estate, money is what I need. I’m certain that I am not alone in dealing with these circumstances, so I’ve written honestly, hoping to spark further discussion.

    3. Whine Country

      “…encouraging methods of living that don’t absolutely require currency to mediate every transaction people must partake in to survive. That is happening anyway, whether or not economists and politicians approve ..”

      Yes, indeed, and it is actually happening on such a large scale that I am certain that the economists and politicians would definitely not approve. With no personal disrespect intended, NC readers do not appear to be very familiar with the very large segment of the middle class that has long ago been forced to survive outside the “system” (not completely outside though). Look no further for the reason why we do not have blood in the streets right now. For their own reasons, both economists and politicians choose to base their facts on their conclusions, so we will continue to go around in circles until a lot more people get out of the house more often.

      1. jrs

        Well the world only needs to many drug dealers and prostitutes as well if that’s what you mean (I don’t know about elasticity of demand there). The black market isn’t an unlimited market either. And if it also only needs so much labor it can’t possible be the answer to the problem of lost jobs except for a few individuals.

        Most of those I know who survive outside of the system and not so obviously illegally are baby boomers THUS de facto PRIVILEGED! It’s one thing to survive on barter in a paid for house etc. but younger generations are never going to get that foothold in the first place, because they simply are not starting out economically in the same place to end up in a better position when they are older. So all older generation talk of doing this is so much hot air.

        1. jgordon

          I feel like trying to reply to that would be like trying to explain what the ocean is to someone who has never seen the ocean. It’s probably not a useful way to spend time.

  2. Brett

    Real wages have been stagnant since the mid-1970s and worker rights continue to be under attack.

    This myth again? Real wages grew in the 1990s, and only flatlined in the 2000s when we had a mild double-dip recession and poor GDP growth until 2007 (just before the crash).

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Stop cherry-pickting time frames and deal with the contention presented. This chart clearly shows real wages were higher than now for all of the 1970s save for when the 1979 recession started. In fact, they were clearly HIGHER in the later 1960s and even higher than now at the end of the 1974-1976 recession, which is considered to have been a severe recession. The statement is accurate as written and the facts are worse, not better, than you suggest.


      The statement that average real worker wages have been stagnant since the 1970s is not controversial. For you to try to contest that is tantamount to agnotoloty.

      1. JCC

        I love learning new words – “Agnotology (formerly agnatology) is the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data.” – a one word description of the study of the Modern American Condition.

        1. skippy

          Yep I fell in love with it too, at first sight, and was going to comment, but thought naw. Since you broke the ice tho I thought I would give it a seconded.

          1. Kim Kaufman

            yes, I just looked it up. It’s an awesome concept – putting a name on intentionally deceptive information – which I guess is one step away from flat out propaganda. .

          1. Ulysses

            “kakistocracy” = a form of government with the worst people in charge. Their incessant blather, of course, is nothing more than cacophony.

      2. Pelham

        And I wonder whether saying that wages have flatlined for decades actually grossly understates the problem. The key figure is what average households have left over after paying for the rock-bottom necessities, and I believe that has been declining sharply for a long time — not just flatlining.

        I haven’t been able to find any figures that precisely trace this. But there was a story in USA Today a few weeks ago that calculated the minimum annual pretax income that a household of four would need to have a quite minimal middle-class lifestyle. The figure was $130,000. Compare that with the median household income of about $53,000 (maybe $10,000 higher for a median household of four) and you get some idea of where we stand.

  3. Jesper

    Only way to increase wages is collective bargaining and also use the old but effective negotiating tactic of withholding supply. For workers that would be to demand a reduction of working hours per year. Americans have what, two weeks of vacation per year? Increase that to four weeks and temp workers would get two (or more) weeks of paid work. And how can unpaid overtime be the norm?

    But I suppose the ‘I couldn’t possibly be replaced’ people can’t stand not working themselves into death will continue to oppose any such measure. How many people really sees work as their primary (if not only) way of being validated as a person? A majority or is it just a vocal but tiny minority?

    1. nony mouse

      which workers have two weeks of vacation per year?

      and even if they are offered such things without being fired, which workers can afford to take two weeks off without pay? and of those, who actually does take the time off that they are given for a vacation, instead of using it to do things that they can’t manage in their regular life because they are too busy working? I know quite a few people who spend what vacation time they do get going to dentists, getting their car serviced, and thoroughly cleaning their homes. this does not really sound like a vacation, in the normal sense.

      most of us can barely get time off when we are ill, much less for enjoyment of real leisure activities.

      1. jrs

        2 weeks vacation a year is paid vacation. But yea definitely if practical things are ever going to get done, getting a doctor’s checkup, having the plumber come will come out of vacation or paid sick days in that case. I think most people would preferably take them out of sick days if they have them and so therefore they will come to the office with Ebola (or at least the flu).

  4. Ed

    Alot of the reason for the contradictory data on things like the labor market is that some of the data has been faked, but not all of it.

  5. craazyman

    I don’t know how he does it everday. There’s a dude who works the salad bar at a lunch place across from the office. Probly a Pakistani or an Indian or Bangladeshi. I think it’s Bangladeshi, cause that’s where all the cashiers are from. Women and girls, they work the registers. The guys are behind the food. He’s probly in his 40s or maybe 50s, a hard intelligent face and eyes that burn something like anger or maybe a defiant but thoroughly unexpressed and violently contained rebellion. The line is long usually, white collar types, one after the other in suits, ties, crisp skirts. You get there and he’s fast, he grabs the bowl rapidly and says “Yes?” looking at you with his hard expectant eyes. You’re supposed to know the drill. You don’t delay or halt in indecision. It’s “tomatoes” Yes? “cubumbers” Yes. “carrots” yes. . . . his arms move fast like a boxer’s punch. Yes? Yes? There’s 10 people behind you waiting. His angry face grabs the metal bowl and mixes it up. then he dumps it in the plastic bowl, seals it and hands it to you. I always work to his rhythm and then smile and say “thanks, looks great.” with a respectful acknowledgment, man to man, of his craft. There’s a brief nod and it almost seems an exhalation, for a second. He probably could be a mathematician or an engineer or maybe a doctor. Who the hell knows? He must do this for 3 straight hours. I wonder what he thinks about? Probably nothing really good. When I leave I feel less self-pitful, less self-obsessed, less wounded by the minor slights from fools from the morning. God he must have it hard. I can’t even imagine doing something like that, for what? 9 or 10 or 11 bucks an hour? Fuck. What a life. That’s why they invented another world, I guess. And that’s where most people live, in that other world, even when they’re doing their time in this one. Who can blame them?

  6. Crazy Horse

    As a real basis for defining “middle class” we should look at net worth. The median net worth of Americans is in the 30k range as they live from pay check to pay check, while a “middle class” Italian or Australian owns over 100k of assets. By their standards there is virtually no American middle class.

    Looks like the benefits of spending a trillion dollars a year on a global military and enforcing the dollar as the world reserve currency aren’t exactly trickling down. More like a yellow fluid landing on the heads of the former middle class instead of sharing the rewards of empire—.

  7. Ep3

    Yves, job postings in Lansing Mi are quite similar. I look at the accounting jobs and 3/4ths of them are all through accountemps, the accounting temps service. There are plenty of jobs, just all start as temp.

  8. John

    This is a problem everywhere. Here in Belgium, government is quick to tout the same narrative… “See! Dropping unemployment numbers is a direct result of our ‘reforms’ measures.” What many fearless leaders neglect to say we are counting sinful things like prostitution and other vice in the GDP and employment numbers, of course they are going up. BTW, the last number I saw Belgium has $1.3B vice economy.

    In spite of what the wrecking crew says many Belgians have a tough time making ends meet. That is because salaries are dropping like stones and can be traced back to the awful ‘reforms’ policies that were put place in recent years. I see cases where companies fire someone only to hire someone else to undercut the previous pay.

  9. Trish Flanagan

    I think we should do away with the term, middle-class, it is fraught. It is divisive, relative and more of an expectation than a description of reality. Lets talk about wage-earners instead, those who labour for someone else to provide the necessities of life. Some wage-earners make a living wage and some do not. Why is that and what is a living wage anyway? Somehow I don’t think its $15 a hour.

    1. Peppsi

      You’re right. Middle class has ultimately become meaningless anyway. A UAW worker with good benefits and high wages might have been in the “middle class” but they were actually “working class.” And middle class somehow became a euphemism for unionized working class, because this is America and unions are a dark communist construct.

      Middle class = working class = wage labor. Now the middle class are legacy workers in the few remaining unionized slots, and tradespeople. If we make a wage and don’t own your labor, you’re working class.

    2. Denis Drew

      The official federal poverty line is 3 X the price of an emergency diet (dried beans only please; no expensive canned) — a formula from the mid-fifties = $20,000 poverty line for family of three ($400 a week).

      A realistic minimum needs line based on table 3-2, p. 44 (after adjusting for inflation) in the MS Foundation book Raise the Floor works out to more like $50,000 a year for family of three if it has to pay for its medical insurance ($1,000 a week!). The median wage is $16 an hour — but the median personal income figure I keep seeing is $26,000 a year so they must be missing weeks or hours. In any case half of American workers are working for substantially less than a realistic minimum needs line for a family of three.

      From all the anecdotal stories of I see of minimum and low wage workers working two and three jobs to survive (they have to!) I would like to see numbers showing how many of the people we see working in shops, etc., everyday are working two or more jobs. Scale it along every dollar an hour.

  10. timbers

    I’ve worked several times for State Street in the Boston area first full time and later on temporary contract work, and have worked for them for decades over time. State Street has transferred much of their work to India, and many Indians are working in Boston in State Street offices. At their Copley Place Mall office, the Indians are kept out of sight located at the far end of complex and I only happened notice them by accident one day. In State Street’s Crown Colony office in Quincy, they occupy an entire wing of an office floor and comprise the entire “help desk” or IT Department except for the manager in the middle of the room who is a white male. If you ride public transportation in the Boston area, you see large numbers of Indians commuting. In Quincy I know of an apartment complex that in summer you can see female Indians in full traditional dress swimming in the pool as you drive by. The spectacle has caused traffic to slow at times.

    When on an interview at Brown Bros (a competitor), I was told that Brown Bros gets a tax subsidy from the government for every American employee they replace and thus they were setting up a new office in Poland to move their entire IT support there. About a year after that interview I worked at State Street with someone who lost his job at Brown Bros in their IT dept, he said they let everyone go.

    Recently Obama has or is trying to allow guest workers to bring their spouses to USA to work. Most might think this a small number of additional guest workers fighting for American jobs, but if you know how Brasilians in the Boston area get U.S. citizenship (my husband is Brasilian), you know what could happen: Indians will do “fake” marriages just to get lucrative US jobs, making the potential impact much greater that what most people might thing.

    No matter how you cut it, all of this is bad for wages in American.

      1. timbers


        I’m a gay male so no loss for me. Will say I rarely find Indian men attractive. On the other hand, my Brasilian husband is very hot, very handsome! And he did his “fake” married before to get U.S. citizenship me so our marriage is because we want it!

        1. craazyman

          It isn’t the Ganges River and it’s not a Laundromat. It’s ridiculous. If they want to come to this country and take America money, then they should get with the program.

          Get in bikinis and lather up the butt and tits so they glisten in the sun. The smaller the bikini, the better. Pasties and a G-string would be a serious patriotic sign of national respect. I would salute the flag, buy a couple margaritas and have a courteous conversation with any one of them.

          It’s not a matter of condescension, it’s a sign of respect. But if they wannna swim around in their clothes it’s hard to roll out the welcome mat. It’s like they don’t care at all about my feelings or respect my country. And I wonder what it does to the pool’s water filter.

    1. Immigrant

      Ms Timbers,

      I think you’re on to something. Where I live, I see a lot of Indians [software], some Japanese [manufacturing], and numbers of Chinese [other service jobs]. Truly eye-opening.

      Some may have H1-Bs, others may be residents, and still others may be citizens. However, I’ll bet that most are being paid less for their work – and each displaces an American job. They make an ideal work force – they are highly skilled and won’t complain – because they know they can be easily replaced.

      Bigger question – How long will it take Americans to realize that one class of Americans [top managers] has given a real shaft to another class of Americans – middle and working class Americans]? Is this “treasonous,” loosely speaking?

      Further, once they realize this, what will they do about it?

      [I know I’m using terms vaguelly here such as “American job” but I want to make a point rather than labor to make it preciselly.]

      I think this managerial class is setting itself up for some interesting future consequences, much like the banksters. All it takes is a wakeup and a realization.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        I keep wondering why we still have American managers. Most of our factories have moved to other places. We send most of our work to those other places. For what few jobs remain here, we find ways to fill those jobs with as many workers from other places as we possibly can. Are American managers really so exceptional? When will the Grand Poobahs who run American companies figure out that there’s no need to pay high wages to American managers? We can outsource the whole deal – except for the Grand Poobahs – who must earn all of the income. Why are they so generous to American managers and executives? We can all start being extremely creative, hard-working, capitalists in the great American Slum-a-topia bettering the best of India, Brazil or any other nation. We’re Americans. We’re exceptional. We can work longer than 12 hours a day doing crap work for crap wages. We can remain competitive in the world market for super cheap labor. It will a new morning in America.

  11. Denis Drew

    I hate to just cut and paste but — what else is there to say:
    There is a decades old, around the world tested answer to middle class cleansing. Ask Jimmy Hoffa as I always say — who spent 30 years, fighting (by fair means and admittedly sometimes foul) to spread the negotiation of one, single collectively bargained contract for all employees doing similar work with all employers — spreading outward from the jungle of Detroit’s Depression era labor market, finally to the whole country with the Teamsters 1964 National Master Freight Agreement (covering 400,000 truckers then, 50,000 now). Without so-called centralized bargaining every union these days is subjected to the race-to-the-bottom if employers can point to someone down the road paying less — more is needed than just organizing, as with card check. Ask poverty level wage supermarket employees since Walmart, etc., destroyed their middle class one-union-with-one-employer contracts.
    Campaign financing and lobbying equal to the 1%’s plus 99% of the vote would neatly fall into place.

    So when are progressives going to start talking up legally mandated, centralized bargaining — the automatic economic/political power balancer? We just have to do what Obama never does — try to lead and change the culture. I’m sure supermarket workers and airline (especially regional) employees would kill for centralized bargaining legislation. A Giant Political Winner.
    * * * * * * * * * *
    From: The Rising Tide: Will All Boats Be Lifted?, August 01, 2014, by Richard Reeves
    … The crucial factor, Podhorzer found, is Democrats’ vote share among voters making less than $50,000: … whether Democrats win these voters by a 10-point or a 20-point margin tells you who won every national election for the last decade. … To reach these voters, Podhorzer believes, candidates need to focus on the economic issues of the working class. ‘Economic populism decides who wins elections in America,’ he said.

    1. Peppsi

      This is a very good point. And a great place to start. The only way we can stop the race to the bottom is to organize massively.

      1. Denis Drew

        And all we have to do to organize massively is to simply vote for reps who will legislate centralized bargaining — no blocking scabs with picket lines and resisting police excitement! :-) Centralized bargaining is in practice in French Canada next door. They have it all over continental Europe (most thorough example in Germany which exports 7 out of 8 vehicles it manufactures).

        Interestingly the continental version was instituted at the behest of Post WWII industrialists — not the left — to keep labor from going on a race-to-the-TOP — in order to conserve resources for rebuilding. Must have been dealing with a different labor attitude over there. ??? Barry Eichengreen (if I recall correctly) in his book The European Economy After 1945 wrote that England fell behind the continent because it did not adopt this labor setup.

        1. lightningclap

          A few years back I voted for a candidate who appeared to be pro-labor. He said he’d be “out on the picket line with y’all” or “you folks”, I can’t remember. Oh well, he has a couple more years left yet to do it.

        2. hunkerdown

          Vote, blah blah blah. What good is a vote if they invariably do what they were paid for and allow us no way to pull the plug on them? These are not people who fear the sack so why shouldn’t they just dispense their canned speeches and stay as far away from us as possible?

          Seriously, all this voting blather is concentrating on the wrong end of the political career lifecycle at best, Romantic hero fantasism at best. Stop reenacting the g-d Odyssey, America. There are other stories.

          1. Denis Drew

            Simple as this: you vote for them; they vote specifically to pass legally mandated, centralized bargaining into law …

            … that’s where every employee doing the same kind of work (e.g., retail clerk) negotiates a single contract with all employers (e.g., Walmart and Safeway) by law.

            What amounts to universal unionization means that the reps who now ignore you will come looking for you to find out exactly what you want.

            Most basic possible example: I read in “In These Times”, I believe, that some Chicago taxi drivers were organizing themselves to demonstrate for some concessions they wanted from the city. I emailed the drivers that all they needed to do was volunteer with their local city councilperson to work for them a couple of weeks every two years at election time — and the councilpersons would be calling them up to find out what they wanted. Now I see taxi drivers doing elections work — and I assume they are getting those calls. :-)

            Right now it doesn’t matter a whit what progressives complain about — or how articulately they complain — because literally nobody at the government level is listening — we are just batting air. Legally mandated, centralized bargaining will reconstitute more than just labor’s economic bargaining power. Matter of fact there is simply no other modality that I have ever heard of that is capable of doing it.

  12. Noni Mausa

    At present, jobs or some form of paid labour are viewed as the only usual legitimate route to sustenance. Linking the two is not unreasonable. But today, labour is a buyer’s market and fewer people can sell their only resource at a good return.

    If labour was something like buggy whips or fedora hats, it wouldn’t be a problem when it went out of style and the labour, whip and fedora industries collapsed. But labour isn’t a product, and human lives are not sold on the futures market.

    As America has conflated health insurance with health care, with very poor results, business has also conflated jobs with legitimate sustenance. Are they willing to baldly state that if business doesn’t need someone, then that person is expendable? Many jobs discussions imply this, but few have the gall to say it outright.

    Might be a good question to ask at political debates.

    1. jrs

      Yea also the idea that it’s rational to give up job hunting after 6 months if the odds are very poor. This is some type of “economist rationally”. Unless one has an alternate source of income what is rational about stopping searching and saying yes I’ll be homeless in 6 months, oh well. Anyone who really needs a job would rationally it would seem to me keep trying. This isn’t a pep talk, this is just reality.

  13. rjs

    like the way the WSJ pretends it’s a lack of skills that more arent hired… job openings in restaurants and hotels rose by 73,000 to 632,000; there were also 63,000 additional openings in health care and social assistance and 40,000 additional openings in retail….apparently there’s not enough trained barmaids and bellhops…those are the jobs that are going unfilled…

    1. ambrit

      “…not enough trained barmaids and bellhops…”
      Those jobs are going unfilled because it’s really difficult to keep that uniform pressed and spic and span when you’re living in a tarpaper shack down by the railroad tracks.

  14. TarheelDem

    Also, there is the contractor rakeoff of half to two-thirds of wages for placing people in jobs.

  15. roadrider

    In fact, there has been a perverse trend starting more than a decade ago of employers putting out incredibly narrow job specifications. They were effectively saying they were willing only to hire someone who had been in precisely the same role at a similar company.

    This is right on the mark. The entire concept of transferable skills has been sent down the memory hole. It’s not a matter of a “skills gap” when you have to have lived an entirely different life to qualify for a job that actually uses your skill set in a different context.

    Employers seem to think that they’re entitled to a vast reserve of potential hires who fit their incredibly narrow job specification in terms of skill set and highly specific past experience and are either located in their backyard or are willing to relocate at their own expense and will work for below market rates.

    Speaking as a currently disemployed tech worker these tactics seem to be part of a patently transparent scheme to justify the import more poorly-compensated indentured labor (H1-B) from South Asia and Eastern Europe. Unfortunately politicians of all stripes are falling for the “skills gap” meme hook, line and sinker (or are getting paid off to look the other way) and allowing the decimation of the American labor force.

    1. Ulysses

      “Employers seem to think that they’re entitled to a vast reserve of potential hires who fit their incredibly narrow job specification in terms of skill set and highly specific past experience and are either located in their backyard or are willing to relocate at their own expense and will work for below market rates.”

      This is very true. What’s worse, they often advertise the same job in several different markets– just to find out which area has the highest skilled people willing to work for the lowest wages. They fully expect people to pull up stakes in Jersey to chase a $14/hr. job without benefits in Colorado, or whatever.

  16. jrs

    Workers often don’t even need to invest in “training”. A reasonably intelligent person who has done quite similar if not exactly the same work in the past can self-teach on the job pretty darn fast. But of course noone wants to hire this either.

    1. Ulysses

      Absolutely! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more demoralized person than an ex-archaeologist friend of mine who had learned several languages, adapted to foreign cultures, etc., realize that a car-rental company thought he wouldn’t be able to figure out quickly enough how to rent cars to customers.

  17. nothing but the truth

    what i see here is chaotic rage. you folks dont understand how or why things are the way they are.

    This used to be called political economy. Now economists talk about things like differential equations, MMT and so on.

    The political economy is now based on inflating asset prices at any cost.

    What the media wont tell you is that high asset prices are not a good thing because they imply high share of the pie for the ownership / rent extractor classes, therefore lower for the labour. And good old keynes himself supported fiat money because that was the way to reduce real wages.

    The problem has gotten much worse because of the fiat money system which is boon to the asset inflation freaks.

    SO there you have it. The declinign share of labour is a feature not a bug. And they are not trying to fix it. They want to reduce labour wages and employment because that way they can manipulate the monetary and fiscal policies to emergency mode, and steer the money to themselves.

  18. Benedict@Large

    That picture is worth 1,000 words? I can sum it up in two: labor pool. That’s a come on ad for a labor pool. The job listed doesn’t exist. They probably are looking for overnight janitorial help. Probably minimum wage.

  19. hunkerdown

    In Michigan, I have seen web designer positions offered on Craigslist for minimum wage. If the price of the gig isn’t awful, just wait until you work with them and experience firsthand how they value your time…

  20. ian

    You forgot to mention ‘at will employment’ – you sign a piece of paper on day one that your employer can let you go at any time, for any reason (or even for no reason).

    There have been way more of these in the last few years than in the beginning of my career.

  21. cnchal

    I am a bit surprised that globalization is never mentioned in the post or comments. It is the root of this evil.

    When Apple has their IPhone made in a slave labor country with suicide prevention nets surrounding the building, how many of those slaves can afford to buy what you make? Zero. Will Apple be there when the poisoned Chinese have to deal with intractable health and pollution problems? No.

    Forty four percent of Apple’s suppliers are in China alone, and eighty five percent are in Asia, including China. It is so eye opening lopsided, it becomes criminal.

    Globalization = infinite supply of cheap slave labor and no new customers. The CEOs of the multinationals that abuse these workers think of themselves as visionary magnificent leaders that deserve multimillion dollar pay for their acumen, by firing the $twenty dollar an hour worker here, and using slavery. The results are in for that strategy, and it is a success for the elite, and a failure for everyone else.

  22. not_me

    I am a bit surprised that globalization is never mentioned in the post or comments. cnchal

    You should ask why globalization does not benefit all instead of just the rich. The answer is our money system. If, for example, reductio ad absurdum , all large US corporations were equally owned by the entire population then American consumers would not be so desperately poor that they’d countenance the oppression of foreign workers; see Maslow’s Hierarchy for confirmation. But instead, our money system concentrates wealth and power rather than justly share them.

Comments are closed.