Mort Zuckerman: "America Remains In A Jobs Depression"

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Mort Zuckerman, originally posted in The Wall Street Journal,

Jobs! President Obama has set a record. In his speech to Congress on Tuesday, he uttered the word "jobs" more than in any of his previous four State of the Union addresses. His 45 mentions were more than double the references to any of the other policy ambitions encapsulated in his speech by such words as health, education, immigration, guns, deficit, debt, energy, climate, economy, Afghanistan, wage, spend or tax (the runner-up).

If only the president's record on unemployment were as good.

After four years America remains in a jobs depression as great as the Great Depression. But the crisis isn't seen in that light because the country isn't confronted daily by scenes of despair like the 1930s photographs of bread lines and soup kitchens and thousands of men (very few women then) waiting all day outside a factory in a forlorn quest for work.

But the jobless are still in the millions across the land, little changed in their total since the 1930s: 12.3 million today officially fully unemployed compared with 12.8 million in 1933 at the depth of the Depression.

Yes, the U.S. population is much larger now, but 12 million out of work still means 12 million lives devastated. And that number masks the true vastness of the modern disaster.

The jobless today are much less visible than they were in the 1930s because relief is organized differently. Today in the "recovery," the millions are being assisted, out of sight, by government checks, unemployment checks, Social Security disability checks and food stamps.

More than 48 million Americans are in the food-stamp program—an almost incredible record. That is 15% of the total population compared with the 7.9% participation in food stamps from 1970-2000. Then there are the more than 11 million Americans who are collecting Social Security checks to compensate for disability, also a record. Half have signed on since President Obama came to office. In 1992, there was one person on disability for every 35 workers; today it is one for every 16.

Such an increase is simply impossible to connect to direct disability experienced during employment, for it is inconceivable that work in America has become so dangerous. For many, this disability program has become another form of unemployment compensation, only this time without end.

But the predicament of our times is worse than that, worse in its way than the 1930s figures might suggest. Employers are either shortening the workweek or asking employees to take unpaid leave in unprecedented numbers. Neither those on disability nor those on leave are included in the unemployment numbers.

The U.S. labor market, which peaked in November 2007 when there were 139,143,000 jobs, now encompasses only 132,705,000 workers, a drop of 6.4 million jobs from the peak. The only work that has increased is part-time, and that is because it allows employers to reduce costs through a diminished benefit package or none at all.

The broadest measure of unemployment today is approximately 14.5%, way above the 7.9% headline number. The 14.5% reflects the unemployed and three other categories: the more than eight million people who are employed part-time for economic reasons (because their hours have been cut back or because they are unable to find a full-time job), the 10 million who have stopped looking for work, and those who are "marginally attached" to the workforce.

The labor-force participation rate has dropped to the lowest level since 1981. It reflects discouraged workers who have dropped out of the labor force. If it were not for the dropouts, the formally announced unemployment rate would be around 9.8%, not the headline 7.9%.

Sometimes the employment numbers that are announced are simply not understood. January was supposed to have seen 157,000 jobs created. The news provoked relief and even enthusiasm in some quarters. But the supposed hiring was based on seasonally adjusted numbers—numbers adjusted to reflect regularly occurring shifts in employment, such as increased hiring of farm workers during crop harvests or retail employees after Thanksgiving. The real, unadjusted figures for January show that nearly 2.8 million jobs disappeared, which happened to be worse than the 2.63 million lost in January 2012. Even though the 157,000 jobs created were fewer than the 311,000 of January 2012, many commentators cheered because they don't understand the effects of seasonal adjustment.

So there is no solace in the statistics. Job seekers are only one-third as likely to find work as they were five years ago, and a record number of households have at least one member looking for a job, which affects everyone. And most of the newly available jobs don't match the pay, the hours or the benefits of the millions of positions that have vanished.

It typically takes 25 months to close the employment gap from the employment peak near the start of the downturn. Yet this time, more than 60 months after employment peaked in January 2006, nonfarm unemployment is still more than three million jobs below where it started.

The president's speech was not without sensible commitments, and the news of negotiations for a trans-Atlantic free-trade area is promising. Europe and the U.S. represent 44% of the world economy, but both have stalled. They (and the rest of the world) would benefit from freer trade. Europe and the U.S. would also benefit from common technology standards and simpler regulations. The bilateral talks have been conducted quietly and positively for some time (while the World Trade Organization talks have floundered), but it will need real executive energy to get an agreement with a real impact on jobs.

Ordinary Americans are looking for leadership and renewal. They know that a job is the most important family program, the most important economic program, and the most important national program that America could have. They also know that, by this standard, we have failed.

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BKbroiler's picture

green shoots (himself)

EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

Did anyone actualyl expect Obummer to tell the truth, that he and his banker friends plan on driving us into the worst depression in history?

Half_A_Billion_Hollow_Points's picture



"A big war will wipe out these useless youths and make the jobs numbers better, taking the pressure off from us."


that's how bankers and politicians think.

strangewalk's picture

The bankers are a minor part of the problem.

Over 17 TRILLION dollars of direct and indirect investment has surged into China from US businesses over the past 20 years, destroying or severely decimating entire swaths of American industry including textiles, shoes, furniture, automotive components, building materials, glass, tires, tool, die and mold making, electronics and assembly along with an alphabet list of consumer goods manufacturing, along with the associated support industries and supply chains, and is now extending into aircraft and jet engine manufacturing and engineering services--in short, anything involving labor or operational costs that could be reduced through outsourcing to a third world kleptocracy and or the avoidance of expenses related to environmental protection and worker welfare or safety.

And, since each job in manufacturing supports between three to six more in services, why is there any mystery of any kind remaining as to the real source of the unemployment problem?

The real axis of evil is represented by Clinton-Bush-Obama. These three fools were instrumental in giving America's industrial greatness away on a silver platter and in so doing it severely depleted the tax base along with increased social payouts which have transformed the US into a debt riddled basket case in free fall decline.

The bankers came in afterwards, using fraud, manipulation and accounting tricks in an attempt to create the illusion of a real economy.    

WillyGroper's picture

You left out Reagan, Bush. Spot on, according to plan.

TruthInSunshine's picture


Au contraire, when you have private banking interests using fiat money (that can be conjured at no cost and utilized without risk of loss, since the taxpayer covers all sour speculation/gambling/betting that they engage in purely for their parochial interests), with the power/force of law enforcing the exclusive, monopoly use of this fiat in commerce & transactions, and these private banking interests have literally-- not figuratively-- purchased the representatives, regulators & other state officials that are supposed to be guarding the hen house, you've allowed the fox total and free reign in conducting activities that are inimical to the interests of the nation as a whole.

And this is what we're witnessing playing out in real time, at a faster pace than ever before in American History (even more so than the prior Robber Baron era).

Washington D.C. and Manhattan are the epicenters of a private banking interest cabal that literally calls the shots on things as fundamental as what the volume of the fiat supply should be and to whom what % of it should flow, and the politicians, regulators and officials that are supposed to represent "the people" and be institutions that help ensure a level playing field and opportunity to succeed in a free market system based on merit have devolved into a revolving door, nepotistic, incest-ridden, corrupt system literally designed to thwart democracy and free markets.

Your claim that real political choice is lacking is correct, but you not only diminish, but eliminate, private banking interests exercising monopoly control over sovereign government as a primary cause of our downward spiral.

The political party "choice" illusion you've highlighted is a symptom of the disease, and not the disease itself.

You've mixed up your horses and carts, chickens and eggs, and causes and effects...

To top all of this off, there's an extremely high possibility that the damage caused by the private fiat money banking cartel that owns alleged sovereign governments, including that of the U.S., has already induced a permanently broken American Economy going forward (i.e. below trendline growth for as far as the eye can see, episodically entering into contractionary/negative growth much of the time), as measured in real AND nominal terms for many periods, with estimated losses of 22 trillion USD thus far since the onset of the Great Repression:

Banksters Cost the U.S. Economy $22 Trillion & Counting
bank guy in Brussels's picture



From the 'South Park' cartoon show, hilarious, a full minute of American cartoon characters repeating

«   ... They turk arrr jaarbbs! ... They tirrk arrr jarrrbbss!! ... »

Things that go bump's picture

You know, of course, that we are majorly f'd if there is a war.  Its not just the jobs that went overseas, but any hope of making things for ourselves left, as well.  


Maybe in a protracted war fought on multiple front where men and material get bogged down,  but not one that is resolved in 60-90 days.

You have to know that there has always been this historical habit of assuming our enemy's are more advanced or ahead of us. In the 60's Kennedy attacked the Eisenhower administration for a bomber gap with the Soviets. The Soviets held a may day parade and squadron after squandron flew over RED square scaring the shit out of the intelligence analysts. Turns out the Soviets just had the same squadron circle over and over the parade ground. No gap, just the paranoid Russians trying to appear least impotent than they were and the paranoid US military fearing we were getting caught napping.

In the late 60's a Soviet fighter was caught going mach 3 doing an overflight of Israel and eventually landing in Eqypt. Again, scared the shit out of the intelligence areas and we suddenly had a soviet high performance interceptor that our F4's couldn't touch. The fighter was so fast the Israelis coudn't scramble aircraft fast enough. What really happened was the Soviet fighter's engine accelerated beyond control and while he hauled ass for a few minutes, he ended up burning the engine up and barely got it landed.

The US military still is the most superior fighting force that has ever existed. In the worlds of General "Buck" Turgidson   "I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed"

but the US is not going away anytime soon 





Things that go bump's picture

If every man's hand were turned against us, and I can see that happening, if we were on our own, we couldn't even clothe our own soldiers. They would have to let the nukes out to play.

All Risk No Reward's picture

I don't think you fully understand the magnitude of the term "banker."

We aren't talking local banker, but the biggest kind of banker - the most powerful.

1. Bankers define money as debt - that happened in 1913 - well before the job exodus to China.

2. Debt money is Debt Money Tyranny - a system that transfers the nation's wealth to the criminals Debt Money Tyrants.

3. Debt Money Tyrants then use their accumulating wealth to buy up the media.

4. The combination of wealth and media allow the Debt Money Tyrants to plant their operatives into government and into the bureaucracy - ensuring their capture of the governing process.

5. All the while, the Debt Money Tyrants are busy buying up controllin ginterests in in every major strategic industry they can find - and they want to control the major players within the industry, say, control both Coke and Pepsi.

6. They then lobby government to give them tax incentives to offshore America's manufacturing to dictator controlled, slave labor China.  They run the media, so nary a peep comes out of the media.

In proper context, if is the mega-bankers that are the root of the problem, not some minor part of it that came about later.


El Oregonian's picture

All Hail to the "Failure-in-Chief!"

Looney's picture

All Hail to the "Unemployer-in-Chief!"  ;-)


boogerbently's picture

The coming political battle will leave many more unemployed.

I wonder if the REAL UE #'s will be added to the new one.

For "Blaming" purposes, of course.

Jay Gould Esq.'s picture

Alas, Mortimer: you endorsed ( both personally, and through the editorial page of your tabloid daily ) and, "wrote a speech" for the Democrat nominee for President in 2008. That nominee went on to gain the White House, and be subsequently re-elected four years later.

You originally helped make the bed. Now you must lie in it.



Freddie's picture

Mort's a Dem and voted plus promoted Obummer.  Evil little shit - isn't he a Canadian?  Mort you voted and supported and bankrupt police state.  You and your ilk did it.

OutLookingIn's picture

Pure BS numbers from the Dept of BLS.

The TRUE numbers are worse.

Recovery? What recovery?

Its an ongoing depression. Like its 1933 and the worse is yet to come.

Yen Cross's picture

 Freddie that was a good post. +1

Laddie's picture

Mortimer Benjamin "Mort" Zuckerman is also an active supporter of Israeli and international Jewish causes. Between 2001 and 2003, Zuckerman was the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

MSimon's picture

The Jews have made your mind occupied territory. Clever aren't they.?


In the mean time their real work of promoting medical marijuana - look up Dr. Raphael Mechoulam - goes on unabated.

JR's picture

Zuckerman reminds me of the cartoon with Mooch the cat.

Panel 1: A crash occurs downstairs.

Panel 2: Mooch runs up the stairs as fast as he can.

Panel 3: Mooch yells down the stairs, “What’s going on down there?”

Isotope's picture

Somewhat related; heard last week that The Morgue was taking over the EBT program here in Ohio in several months.

"You will be assimilated."

midtowng's picture

And with the "recovery" now 44 months old, we have hit the normal length of a recovery and are due for another downturn.

Except this time we will have never even recovered to the previous peak.

kchrisc's picture

We can only hope.


Everybodys All American's picture

Jobs mentioned 45 times followed by balance, fair, and folks.

ElvisDog's picture

"folks" is the expression that bugs me the most. Obama's marketing research team must have concluded that using "folks" dozens of times in a speech connects Obama with J6P in an FDR-like way. Obama's just a small-town Joe hanging out on Main Street with "folks".

EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

"Believe" is right up there too.

kchrisc's picture

Well who else used a similar pithy word, "volk", for people?!

I think it was Charlie Chaplin and his tramp, right?!



quid pro quo's picture

No doubt about it.  To the unwahsed, using the term "folks" makes him sound like some great super-hero of the common man.  Truth, justice, and the American away...(now pay up suckers).  

OTOH, Bush 43 had a way of using terms like "fixin" for which the same argument could be made e.g. "we're fixin' to go down to Galveston and obviously are going to see a devastated part of this fantastic state"

Whoa Dammit's picture

If he insists on saying "folks" he could at least use the more correct "Po Folks".

Everybodys All American's picture

Obama is a con man. Like all Marxists he talks a great game and delivers poverty for all.

Woodyg's picture

Jobs mentioned and then TPP and TAP - free trade agreements are only free for money and the race to the bottom.
These agreements will kill more jobs than they make- and the ones killed will be decent living wage and the ones created 9$ an hour w no bennies -

So the author provides some good stats but then saying that corporate welfare bills masquerading as Free Trade Agreements will help jobs in America is the same neo-lib bs since that giant sucking sound.
And the guy with the funny ears was right.

suteibu's picture

Indeed.  Without a free market, there can not be free trade.  This is just a corporate welfare scheme writ globally.

alex_g's picture

Woody, that happens when the other free trade partner has a cheaper labor pool.  The EU is not that partner.  The biggest beneficiary of this might be Mexico, which could then route cars (4th largest producer worldwide) and TV's (largest producer) to the EU via the US.

suteibu's picture

Aside from the reduction of tariffs that supports your scenario, it is the non-trade provisions that give corporations dominance over nations.  The investor-state dispute provisions in these "21st century" trade deals are devastating to sovereignty.  And once the bureaucratic framework is established, a new level of taxes and global regulations are sure to ensue.  If you create an Atlantic regional bureaucracy and a Pacific regional bureaucracy (TPP), you will, of course, need a higher level of bureaucracy to oversee them.  And, thus, a global corporatocracy is built through "free trade."

Yen Cross's picture

 Sweet, new Z/H news for my morning walk.

gould's fisker's picture

Fear not, the BLS will re-adjust labor statistics as many times as necessary to spread hopium throughout the land (hopium also for the bent over media anxious for presidential "attention"), Ben will print and Krugman will pester him until everyone has an O-phone so they can chatter about other goodies they should have, and everyone who bought the election propaganda that everything is getting better should be happy--they've gotten what their common sense told them to watch out for when they voted for more of the same--4 moar years of more of the same.  Maybe it doesn't matter who they voted for--but don't complain or whimper that the winner told us--moar of the same--and he got elected.

Hunter S. Thompson's picture

Raising the minimum wage to $9/hr is just going to make the problem worse. With low interest rates, employers can lease capital equipment (factory automation and robotics) at a very low cost to replace workers. Look for more people to be collecting unemployment, EBT and welfare if the minimum wage increase gets passed. The Federal Reserve and Policy makers have painted themselves into a corner.

EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

You're a fucking retard.

Raising the minimum wage to $9/hr now days is like raising it from two tenths of a cent to three tenths of a cent per hour in real value.

So blow me



pemdas's picture

Enslave  --  I must be a little slow today.  Can you explain the math on that?  

Raymond K Hessel's picture

Raising the minimum wage will raise wages for many Americans.  This enormous mandated increase will do one thing.  

Increase the inflation rate!

It is simply part of the plan to inflate the debt away.

You can use your brainz or just say bitchez. That choice is yours.


boogerbently's picture

It will raise unemployment.

Less of our unskilled workforce will be seen as deserving the higher rate.

Henry Hub's picture

Look, they have out sourced and downsized and eliminated every job possible. The mimimum wages shit jobs in this country are what's left. They are still going to have to be done. These jobs will still be there at $9.00 an hour as well as at $7.25.

Confused's picture

But without a minimum wage, the "market" would determine what people would be paid. McDonalds wants to hire you for $2/hr? Fine, who the fuck is going to do that? 


Price (wage) discovery. 

suteibu's picture

"Fine, who the fuck is going to do that?"

Exactly.  Which is why they would have to pay more.