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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WakeUpPeeeeeople's picture

and then you can kiss that dollar menu good-bye

Henry Hub's picture

Corporations are happy when markets are driving wages down. Keep the government out of it blah, blah, blah. But when the markets are driving wages up in a certain sectors, it's a different story. Ten or fifteen years age, software developers were in shot supply and could almost name their price. What did corporations do? They went running to the government to open the floodgates to h1b visas. The h1bs could be employed for far less the Americans. So much for market discovery and keeping the government out of it. It's all bull shit!

Lucius Cornelius Sulla's picture

The H1-b program has trapped corporations because instead of creating jobs in the USA by training a new generation of technicians, they opted for cheap Indian labor.  It may have drove salaries down in the short-term but now IT is totally dependent on them.  There are not enough Americans in IT because the global corporations created the shortage.  Now they say we need more H1-Bs to stay competitive?  Its total bullshit.  If we want to be competitive we need to shut the program down and force global corporations to hire and TRAIN Americans!

lotsoffun's picture

it's all self-propogating bullshit.  the h1b's are for the most part totally useless, they are immovable, stupid, lazy, can't think outside the box, and most importantly, they know they are here as thieves to take jobs and leeches to suck on as long as possible. 

give me any american kid with a little ambiltion and college schooling and they will do much better in 1 year than all the middle aged indian parasites.  and - i have the experience in this.

it's a self-fulfuilling problem.  the big companys hired all these fckheads because they claimed they were cheap but qualified.  now - that IT everywhere is buried ganges deep in dead weight - how can they admit they were wrong - and got hustled?

at least if they were pleasant, i could agree with it - but once they know they have a majority - the bastard humble uriah heeps take the knife out and it's right in your back and smiling in your face as you turn around and bleed to death. 

good luck to you.  and they just keep bringing more of them.  want jobs?  stop this now.


Lucius Cornelius Sulla's picture

If any of our so-called leaders in DC had intentions of helping college grads get jobs, the H1-B program would have been cancelled years ago.  Money talks, and Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Accenture and Oracle have lots of it.  Congresscritter feed is in their budgets.

Nick Jihad's picture

Sorry if you find free-market competition to be unpleasant, but people from overseas have the same right to earn an honest living as anyone else. The last time I was in a startup that went bust, the H1-Bs had two weeks to find a new job or get on a plane. That is not a decent way to treat any human being, in my humble opinion.

Andy Lewis's picture

It wouldn't be so bad if I could understand a single word they said.


Gobble gobble said the offshore turkey.

suteibu's picture

So, you want the government involved except when you don't.  That's the slippery slope we are on now.

Henry Hub's picture

***who the fuck is going to do that? ***

I would have thought that no one would accept doing these shit jobs for $7.25 an hour. Guess I was wrong.

kchrisc's picture

Let's see. Raise the minimum wage and then take it all back and then some with "penalties" when the poor dopes can't "buy" health insurance.

The shit is brilliant.



boogerbently's picture

Raising the minimum wage is a ruse to raise other govt. handouts....which are tied to the minimum wage.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla's picture

If you raise minimum wage then prices of goods and services will go up in order for businesses to remain profitable.  But rising prices for goods and services will reduce demand and therefore cause businesses to cut back or shut down thus cutting more jobs overall from the economy.  Think about it.  If it costs more to go out to dinner then people will take the time to stay home and cook for themselves.  Its an elementary concept that liberals everywhere fail to grasp.

Raymond K Hessel's picture

Liberals have grasped that concept with both hands.

It's how they plan to get out from under the debt.  They know that raisiing labor costs will raise the cost of goods and services everywhere in the economy.  That rise in prices will pump more †ax receipts for those taxes based on a percentage rate.


Lucius Cornelius Sulla's picture

Just because you raise the minimum wage does not mean that people who make more than minimum wage automatically get a pay increase, especially in a slack labor market.  Therefore, rising prices for goods and services will reduce demand for them.  This will hurt low income earners the hardest.  People will mow their own lawns, split their own wood, clean their own windows and fry their own burgers or not spend the weekend in the hotel if prices rise.  It will not raise the tax base.  Like every other government edict, the effect will be the opposite of its intentions.  Stupid is as stupid does.

nmewn's picture

"Today in the "recovery," the millions are being assisted, out of sight, by government checks, unemployment checks, Social Security disability checks and food stamps."

Bring them out of the shadows Obama! ;-)

GeezerGeek's picture

The millions being assisted will come out of the shadows when the government largess becomes insufficient or even non-existent. Then Obama can call out Janet Napolitano and her crew to maintain order while declaring martial law. That's when we'll begin to see why the billions of hollow-point rounds were purchased. 

All continues according to plan.

TahoeBilly2012's picture

"Safety" and "fairness"...pumped into the people until you are starving, locked up or dead.

kchrisc's picture

Welfare macht frei!



CheapBastard's picture

Why work? Benefits are too good from what I read. Too many incentives to pop out moar (rug) rats also.

overmedicatedundersexed's picture

obuma is off on another golf vacation, but we all know he is working on jobs jobs jobs for the people every hour of every day...eyes wide shut the syndrome with it seems no antidote....(maybe zh helps some)

WmMcK's picture

Don't forget about universal-preschool
(at about 11.5 K/child)
starting at 3 yo.
(later to be revised to 6 weeks, of course).

GeezerGeek's picture

Indoctrination can't start soon enough! Mustn't let troglodytes teach their young children about anything so barbaric as liberty.

Lord Of Finance's picture

I agree with the Austrian economic consensus, ie; Faber,Rodgers,Schiff,etc., that when all is said and done, this period in time will not be seen as a 'great depression'. Indeed. There is only one known period of time, historically classified as such, and that is the time between 1929-1945. This millenial economic time period, however, will be seen as 'the greater depression'.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla's picture

IMHO, it will be seen as the beginning of the fall of the Amercian Empire which will plunge the Western world into another dark age that is likely to last for generations.  Meanwhile, Asia is rising (as it did during the other European dark age).

Lucius Cornelius Sulla's picture

Rome was a long, slow decaying death that took centuries ...  I think the beginning of the end in the USA was FDR, or maybe Wilson.

BringingTheRukus's picture

Forward, Bitchez, with a hand out, or both!

francis_sawyer's picture

Who needs 'a job' when you can just count on free shit from Uncle Sugar? [I 2nd Cheap Bastard above]...


If I do ANY work ['work' meaning something very different from having 'a job'] at all... I'm keeping all the profits for myself...

janchup's picture

Repeating the word "jobs" is very effective...


ekm's picture

It is quite strange that the only billionaire talking straight is a Canadian one like zuckerman.


Where are the other ones?

Seasmoke's picture

Still does not beat the numerous times Obama asks male interns for blow jobs.

Desert Rat's picture

Awesome, while we are at it let's add millions of legalized illegals to the rolls!  

Water Is Wet's picture

Yeah, that immigration 'plan' is a crock of shit.  So if illegals can become legal after 8 years, what are they during that 8 year period?  Quasi-legal?  Is immigration going to go after them relentlessly for 8 years, and if the illegal wins, he gets to stay?

Fuck this.

Desert Rat's picture

yep. more bullshit from the master of bullshit...

Whoa Dammit's picture

Rush Hour in my area seems to be populated mainly by H1B Visa types. Can't tell me that people who were born here won't/can't do those jobs.

Desert Rat's picture

Those are skilled workers, no? Companies can get an H1B Software Engineer for significantly less than an American counterpart? Or we just don't have the skilled citizen workers to fill these jobs? I'm thinking the latter...

lotsoffun's picture

we have the workers.  but the corporations won't take them.  from top to bottom the elite want the h1b guys because they have no rights and they walk on them like never.  until the h1b guys get the citizenship by having babies with the other h1b's and now we are in new york gandhi on the hudson.  good luck with that.  they are so fcked there - we have 1 billion people ready to get over here.  if you aren't onto/aware of it, just wait until they take your job and cover your neighborhood complete with bed bugs and diseases we eliminated almost 100 years ago.

i love everybody - and the further away from me they are, the more i love them.  and the inverse.  get it?  obama was the perfect plant.  nobel peace prize and everything.  learn to love big brother, because he's got his everything into anything you didn't want it into.


Lucius Cornelius Sulla's picture

I would take an American graduate from a State University over any one of the Indians from Bumfuck University in Mumbai.  Problem is middle management can't because there is no internship or training programs available.  Senior management will not train US workers.  They get the Indians trained offshore for $5,000/year then ship them over here as indentured servants.  They have to be sponsored for an H1-B so the corporations have them under their thumbs until their visa expires or they get a green card.  The only way America will become competitive in IT is to eliminate the H1-b program because corporations will continue doing what they are doing until they are forced to stop.

Nick Jihad's picture

The US holds a major share of the wold software industry, and this would not be possible if we only worked with US-born talent. All those software jobs that H1B's are "taking from american workers", would likely not be in America were it not for the H1B program.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla's picture

That is the standard line used by software executives and its a myth.  Most of the developers I work with who are Americans were trained in the 90s and many of them do not have Computer Science degrees.  They are hands down better developers than 90% of the H1Bs.  IT jobs do not take highly trained geeks.  I can possibly see a place for some of the best and brightest PHDs from the India Institute of Technology -- sure give them a free pass to help Oracle, Microsoft, Google, etc... with low level code.  But other than that, America has plenty of talented College graduates who, given the opportunity, can do better work in IT than the vast majority of H1Bs who are here.  And by the way, in case you haven't heard; IBM, Microsoft, Accenture, Oracle and every other major tech firm employs tens of thousands of developers in Indian cities.  Massive campuses have been built.  So using fear tactics like claiming that US jobs will be forced overseas is hogwash.  They already have!  Most of the jobs H1Bs take from Americans in America are not low level coding jobs that require super specialized skills.  I should know because I have been in the industry for over 20 years.

boogerbently's picture

Give them 90 days to apply for citizenship, after that, THEY have chosen to reject any legal status here, and must be deported.....well, maybe not "deported". The LESS time consuming, legally expedient alternative to deportation.....a bus ride.

No, NO, NO govt. benefits until citizens.


Meatballs's picture

Mr. Zuckerman is no doubt a smart man and the points he makes are beyond question. However, having watched him over the years on McLaughlin and read his writings on many other venues, he has headed for the safety of the thinking of old men and the status quo, and it's a shame.

otto skorzeny's picture

listen to Mort-a MSM-controlling,juiced in 12 Tribesman-he only has the goys' interest at heart.

Lord Of Finance's picture

Zuckerman has had some sort of semi-positive transformation over the last 5 years. He sounds like he has been trying to open his minds eye. Our third eye, that is. It is hard for many people to do, especially liberals.  After so many years of having it shut in their slumber, a thick crust forms on the eyelid, making it difficult and painful to pry open. Causing most liberals to give up and put their mind back to sleep.

Looks like 'ole Mort has been determined to wake his ass up. Realizing that the layers of crust are just the 'sleepies', and they are from having a long life sleep. Now if he can just feel his way over to the bathroom and gently splash some warm water on it, the sleepies will wash away and there will be light!

DangerClams's picture

I often splash warm water on that other eye, the brown one, that Barry seems to mostly talk out of.

Is that what you mean?

NoWayJose's picture

Not much longer until we are all either getting paid $9.00 an hour, or getting taxed so much that all we have left after all the taxes is $9.00 an hour. A socialist's wet dream!