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Thursday, May 23, 2013 02:24 pm

America's worsening jobs crisis

At last, some excellent economic news for folks long-mired in the stagnant labor market!

At least, those were the headlines recently trumpeted across the country. “Jobs Spring Back,” exclaimed a typical headline or report that companies added a better than expected 165,000 private-sector jobs in April. Wow – the thunderous, three-year boom of prosperity that has rained riches on Wall Street is finally beginning to shower on our streets, right?

Well, as dry-land farmers can tell you, thunder ain’t rain. Read beneath the joyful headlines hailing April’s uptick in job numbers, and you’ll see the parched truth.

For example, more than a third of working-age Americans are either out of work or have given up on finding a job. Also, last month’s hiring increase was almost entirely for receptionists, waiters, clerks, temp workers, car-rental agents and other low-wage positions with no benefits or upwardly mobile possibilities. On the other hand, manufacturing – generally the source of good, middle-class jobs – did not add workers in April and has cut some 10,000 jobs in the last year.

Especially problematic was the continued rise in underemployment – people wanting full-time work, but having to take part-time and temporary jobs. Underemployment is also pounding college graduates. While they’ve been more successful than non-grads at landing jobs, they’re not getting jobs that fit their career goals or even require the degrees they spent money and time to obtain. Indeed, many of those rental agents and restaurant employees you encounter hold four-year degrees, forcing everyone else to scramble for the few, even lower-paid jobs further down the skill ladder.

Meanwhile, the next graduating class is already beginning to flood into the labor market from colleges and high schools with nowhere to go.

The monthly unemployment reports don’t tell the depths of misery that’s out here in the real world. More than a third of our working-age population is no longer even in the job market, and only 58.6 percent of us are employed. Put the opposite way, 41 percent of the potential workforce is not working – about 102 million people.

Our people are trapped in a jobs crisis that is sucking the economic vitality out of our nation, but our leaders refuse even to acknowledge it, much less cope with it. In fact, corporate chieftains are deliberately exacerbating the crisis by hoarding trillions of dollars that ought to be rushed into job-creating expansions, and politicians keep adding to the casualties by gleefully eliminating the middle-class jobs of hundreds of thousands of teachers, firefighters, police and other valuable public employees.

America’s middle class is burning to the ground, while Washington fiddles with nonsense and Wall Street feathers its own nest. It’s disgraceful.

Jim Hightower is national radio commentator, columnist and author.
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