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Any crash you can walk away from...

By Owen Paine on Friday August 6, 2010 07:36 PM

The latest employment report sucks, of course. We're in yellow-flag time here at the North American job speedway and maze. Lots of rigs are in the pits changing tires, so to speak, and yup, some ain't comin' back out onto the track.

I like to avoid the monthly sermonette about just how bad it is out there -- as if people didn't see what's right in front of their eyes. Especially now, since this Baby Huey of a contraction a few months back gave way to what? The long goodbye of stagnation?

But let's look again -- or maybe for the first time -- at the true efficiency number here, jobmarket-wise.

Forget the various rates of unemployment, each more astoundingly record-breaking then the last. Just go ahead for a moment and carve away the layers of knee-jerk agitprop and notice the real big dog in the hunt here. It's not any delta of UN-employment rates at all. In fact, it's a rate of employment, not unemployment -- the so-called job participation rate, traced here in all its graphic beauty over the last 50 years:

(Click to enlarge.)

Over on the left you got yer New Frontier rates -- wow, only in the mid 50's! Then comes the obvious if cruelly jagged climb through five cycles and 40 years to the apex in the champagne twilight time of the Clinton-Rubin-Greenstain miracle. Yikes, the rate hit the mid-60's: a 20% increase!

Since then, after one complete cycle and into the "bite me" opening of a new one, looks like maybe we face a break in the trend, the onset of a epochal reversal, the beginning of an n-cycle, m-year-long ragged secular decline in the participation rate.

I know, I know, most of those uptrend years were for shit, what with us goin' faster to barely stay in place. Rising participation was coupled with wage stultification, but at least it liberated the housewife army. Without that wage squeeze, who knows, today we might face far worse, as the last of the male-order factory jobs slink away to Asia major.

Much has been made of the now nearly completed trend toward two-job households, most of it bad: oh the sweat, oh the waste, oh the toil. But right now how about we look at it from the eggs in a basket POV. Compare in your head the impact of pop's layoff back in the Ike years, when so often he was the only householder participating in the job force, with now, when even after the most grotesque job contraction since 1937-38 we as a jobbled nation are still at a higher participation rate then in the glorious new frontier/great society years of Sinatra and Lennon.

Sure, we make less per hour, and produce a lot more "value", but we see more of our hours bought... right? And that means despite drastic job loss, today's middle American households not only have unemployment comp but often a second household member still out there at the front, still at the job site, still pullin' in gainful work-time wages.

If we think of ourselves, each of us in our little household unit, as yeoman outfits, each a private grower of potential job hours, much like the family corn farmers of old -- what has happened to us since Nixon jousted with premier K on that fake kitchen set in Moscow?

Well, we're sellin more time, and as I mentioned, producing more with it. And okay, getting less per unit sold.

But sports fans we're still selling our two pairs of hands per household, not one. And that's even at this pit point in the cycle.

No wonder the teabaggers aren't savaging corporate America; their spouse still works inside there.

Gotta love a system that can increase household income AND at the same time increase the rate of exploitation; create more job insecurity AND spread around more jobs. Shows an instinctively keen inner coherence, an innate ability to stablize itself right along with its satanic drive toward insane instability.

Yeah, it relies on us to scramble a bit too much, to produce that dugout of stability in the gale force instability roaring around us. And yup, it was us wee weebles done all the streamlinin' to our basic units -- you know, cut down on kids underfoot and old folks overhead; pretty well wiped out marathon family repasts and home-cooked pies and haircuts, etc.

But like the resurrectionists used to say: "Hey, don't knock it, mate, till ya tried it. Fuck, it's a livin'... ain't it?"

Comments (4)


i know i know
we got 30% of households with only one person or something like that
and lots of busted marriages
but the nexus of jobbled ones
is still more tightly woven then when jack fucked .....marilyn

she was a card carrying party member of course
like picasso brecht and neruda

few know the whole story
quite like i do ??

comrade MM
martyr to the cause

clink here
to see her official party photo


I think you have your samurai finger on the pulse here once again, op-san. There is much here to be fathomed.

Do we know the comparable numbers back in GD II, aka 1929-1939? One suspects very similar numbers, tending to prove that it's the supply of jobs that determines the official "demand".

Also, are we reaching a real breakdown? Rosie the Riveter became Betty Crocker became Jane Doe became...what? If it weren't for the upper class tradition of male dominance and a slight yupper-middle mommy track, there might be news of pay equity's arrival. Right?

And now, we have no third gender to play tricks with...

Al Schumann:

All those jumps coincide with an increase in Corporate/Military Keynesian policies and spending (poor old Tricky Dick never caught a break, of course). They are by their nature unsustainable. The Greenspan miracle consisted of abandoning forced recessions to loosen the labor market with the introduction of wholesale plunder through trade policy, financialization and Owen's Arbitrage. If each spike needs to burn the bottom of the ladder to create warmth further up, I can see a coherence, given that party-affiliated whites are the beneficiaries, but the insane instability comes through more clearly.

Semi-related, the St. Louis Fed is graph heaven.


"Corporate/Military Keynesian policies ...are by their nature unsustainable."

hy minsky is right on this

we had a white hat version of brass hat keynes 1950 to 1965
--thank u joe stalin and premier K --
when pentagon spending aided episodically

thru built in big gub stablizers
not in hoovers quiver

at least gub counter action mostly automatic
was strong enough to balance off most
of the cyclical drops in corporate spending
and exports well before they together became ...local slump "protractions"

and then the inherent "wage push "
bloomed too noticeably after 65

credit validating price booms
started kicking in with indexing to CPI etc
we got the mailaise and volckerdammering
then sneeking up to top billing after 84
forex fiddling and Al's financialization
--the later of those had already emeged
as a convenient crisis trigger
way back in the mid 60's but now it was used intentionally --

of course Al is correct to the last T
about greenspan
and the emergence of this post 85
stinking third era in modern macro

the system learned to use
flexible exchange rates --post nixon--
immigration -- post johnson--
and by far most of all
cross boarder "capital mobility" --again post nixon
to "regulate family income
thru trade gaps and mild "consumer " credit ball goosings

after about 20 years of that ( till 07)
we fond ourselves by the mad scrambling slamming door finale of the bush years
with some nice final crumblization
of our cio unions and hyperbolic mirror transmogrifying of our hourly wage structures

so today as we transition to a brave new stage
the big dawgs
can eaasily burn off
any section of bottom wrungs
they choose

lots of removal with just enough warmth

an excellent cocktail for profiteers

but will it work ...now ???

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