Economic Briefs

May 20, 2010

Jobless Recovery

Recently released data from the U.S. Labor Department shows that productivity (output per worker per hour) increased significantly during the 1st quarter – at a 3.6% annual rate.

Despite economic growth since last summer (production of more total goods and services), employers are relying on increased output per worker, rather than new hiring, to fill new orders. As a result productivity has grown at annual rates of 7.6 percent, 7.8 percent and 6.3 percent respectively in the second, third and fourth quarters of last year.
During the same period, unemployment continued to grow, reaching 9.9% of the workforce in April.

In fact, the working class knows from long experience that under the capitalist system, the overwork of some workers goes hand-in-hand with the unemployment of others.

To begin with, the capitalist drive to maximize profit is based on increasing the exploitation of the workers both through cutting wages as well as continually increasing the intensity of labor – speeding up the assembly line, piling more and more jobs onto fewer and fewer workers, increasing caseloads, etc.

Yet even while the employed workers are worked past the point of exhaustion, millions more are denied any means of a livelihood.

In turn, of course, the capitalists use the fact that so many workers are unemployed as a club to force even more speed-up, overwork and wage cuts on the employed workers. As the capitalists constantly remind us: "if the job's 'too hard' for you, there are plenty of unemployed waiting to take your place."

What a twisted economic system! Doesn't it make sense to change our economic priorities so that every worker is guaranteed a job while those who are employed are not overworked like beasts of burden?

Millions Denied a Livelihood

Statistics show that the economy is growing again.

But statistics also show that of the 15.3 million unemployed, more than 6.5 million have been unemployed for over six months. An additional 1.2 million workers have dropped out of the labor force altogether – unable to find work after months of searching. Over the last 2 years, more than 8.2 million jobs have been wiped out and economists warn that millions of these jobs will not be replaced.

The persistently high unemployment rate (which reached 9.9% in April), in turn, is putting downward pressure on the wages of employed workers.

These trends are expected to continue as corporations are planning to lay off more workers and "hold the line" on wages and benefits.

In sum, the capitalists are trying to revive the economy by shifting a greater burden of poverty and exploitation onto the workers.

Production is increasing again but more workers are laid off while the capitalists sweat more and more production out of fewer and fewer workers.

Profits are growing again but wages are falling and tens of millions of workers do not even earn enough to make ends meet.

This situation must be changed.

The very starting point of economic life must be to guarantee a secure, stable, modern livelihood for the workers, whose labor creates all the material wealth in the first place.