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By Mike Gimbel, Chair, Local 375, Afscme
Published: 23 August 2010

The 9.5 percent "Official Unemployment rate" has no credibility. It is classic "political spin" intended to fill worker's heads with a non-existent hope that a recovery "is right around the corner". Isn't it about time that we proclaim "The Emperor has no Clothes" in regards to these phony figures?
Here are the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for the period of April, 2010 to July, 2010:

  Civilian Labor Force   Employed Unemployed  Not in the Labor Force   Part-time
July 2010   153,560  138,960  14,599 84,330   8529
 June 2010  153,741  139,119  14,623  83,949  8627
May, 2010   154,393  139,420  14,973  83,107  8809
 April, 2010  154,715  139,455  15,260  82,614  9152

The real unemployment figure for July, 2010 is 18.43 percent. The 9.9 percent unemployment rate for April became a 9.5 percent figure for July by artificially shrinking the total workforce numbers (employed and unemployed) by 1,155,000 over these three months, from 154,715,000 in April to 153,560,000 in July. Did the U.S. population decline precipitously these past three months? Of course not! The BLS hid the unemployed in a category entitled "Not in the Labor Force". Between April and July, 2010 the BLS added 1,716,000 individuals into this category, while decreasing the number of the officially unemployed by 661,000 in the same period. Only about 230,000 (this number includes retirees, for instance) should have been added to the "Not in the Labor Force" category during those three months. The phony 661,000 decrease in the official unemployed were simply discarded, as if they were garbage, into the "not in the Labor Force" column. They weren't even counted as part of the civilian work force, either employed or unemployed.

As a result, the "Not in the Labor Force" category is the convenient way for "disappearing" the real unemployed so that the capitalist politicians can "spin" fairy tales of a soon to arrive economic recovery. Workers who have exhausted their unemployment benefits or have become discouraged, as well as youth who have yet to find a job, are all dumped into this catch-all category as a way of hiding the truth of the extent of the job crisis from the workers.

An estimated 16,802,000 unemployed workers have been hidden in the "Not in the Labor Force" category since April, 2000, the peak of the last economic cycle. When added to the officially listed 14,599,000 current unemployed, the total becomes 31,401,000 actually unemployed. When you add in the 8,529,000 who are working part-time, but want full-time work, this incredible total becomes almost 40 million distressed workers!

If you look at the numbers listed above, another fact should jump out at you. The BLS data shows how many workers are working part-time but want full-time work. These part-time workers dropped from 9,152,000 in April to 8,529,000 in July. In other words, 623,000 of the 1,716,000 added to the "Not in the Labor Force" category came from the underemployed workers who work part-time but want full-time work. It is a remarkable and stunning crisis when even the part-time workers are getting laid-off, as has clearly happened over these last three months! The real unemployment + underemployment figure is 23.44 percent when you include part-time workers looking for full-time jobs.
The country is already in a depression, not a recession. This depression, in fact, appears to be more serious than the one in the 1930's, even though we've yet to match the percentage of unemployed during the worst period of that catastrophe. This crisis is more serious because the capitalist system today has "hit a wall" from which there is no escape.
There is no "light at the end of the tunnel" in this economic catastrophe created by its own revolutionizing of production (robotics, internet, etc…) which slashes the number of workers, especially skilled workers that are needed. This revolution in production enabled the bosses to cripple unions all over the world through threats of shifting production to low-wage countries or low-wage, non-union areas within the country. The bosses were like "the Sorcerer's apprentice", as they gloated over their triumphs over the working class, forgetting that these same workers were their customers! Who was going to buy their goods when they had no money in their pockets? In effect, they were destroying their own market!
As a result, the capitalist system is in a crisis that it can't get out of. It is "dead in the water", A/K/A: "SPLAT". Even the financial advisors are now realizing that this crisis is much worse than they had thought. In an article in "Daily Finance" on July 16, 2010, entitled "The Jobless Effect: Is the Real Unemployment Rate 16.5 percent, 22 percent, or…", by Pallavi Gogoi stated that when TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence did their July, 2010 job survey, they were stunned when they came up with an unemployment rate in excess of 22 percent. In the same article, John Williams, founder of Shadow Government Statistics, also came up with a jobless rate of 22 percent.
Aren't these tragic numbers the very definition of "economic terrorism?". While the bosses try to divide workers against each other by creating unreasonable fear of Muslims and undocumented immigrants, the real terrorism that workers face is loss of employment, which leads to bankruptcy, foreclosures and shattered families and shattered lives.

As labor leaders, we cannot sit back and wait while millions more workers lose their jobs and homes. We can't afford to sit back and wait for the Democratic Party politicians to come to our rescue. That's a dangerous pipedream that has repeatedly shown itself to be a futile waste of labor's power and finances. Despite a massive effort by labor to elect Democrats in the last two elections, resulting in an overwhelming Democratic Party majority in both houses of Congress, EFCA (The Employee Free Choice Act) died even before it had a chance to be introduced in Congress.

Congress is dysfunctional precisely because it only appears to run the government. In reality, billionaires run the government, as we could all see during the Wall Street banker bail-outs. Where is the "democracy" that is so touted? While millions lose their homes, the bankers give each other bonuses while Congress votes $Trillions for the unpopular occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and hundreds of billions more each year for the military-industrial complex. It's a "democracy" only for those with the money to buy Congress! We can't afford, once more, to waste labor's power and finances in an ineffectual election campaign trying to get Democratic Party politicians elected. Labor already "successfully" did that in the last two elections and where did it get us? What labor needs is a regroupment that is independent of the Democratic Party, which must be based upon reaching out to the rank and file to win them to understand that labor needs to create labor/community alliances that will fight, for instance, evictions and foreclosures, as well as fight layoffs and plant closures. With almost 40 million distressed workers needing full-time jobs, it is imperative that labor organize the unemployed to demand a federal jobs program along the lines of the WPA of the 1930's.

All serious labor activists, community activists and left organizations need to regroup and organize so as to create a class-wide, independent, anti-racist fightback movement from below. As a first step, we need to mobilize for the massive October 2, 2010 demonstration in Washington, D.C. It would be good if there was an independent anti-war, pro immigrant contingent precisely because some of the more moderate leaders of the demonstration may try to promote another unfortunate and wasteful effort to elect Democratic Party politicians in this November's election.
One suggestion: MWMM revived May 1st in 2005 and the Undocumented Immigrants took May 1st one step farther in 2006 in a magnificent "general strike" involving many millions of workers. MayDay is the real "Labor Day". It is our day! Immigrant workers have come out in large numbers each MayDay since 2006. Wouldn't it be wonderful if millions of workers in organized labor unions across the U.S. joined their undocumented sisters and brothers on Sunday, May 1st, 2011 in rallies all across the country? Wouldn't that be a powerful statement of solidarity and worker unity?


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