04 FebThe Jobs Numbers And The Rest Of Us

Faith Ringgold print

The job numbers are out and there are three places where it matters, Wall Street, 1600 Penn and Main Street.

For Wall Street, the Jobs Report is a marker that the stock market may be up and it is another call that the recession is over. Coincidentally, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached a high of  14,000 last Friday for the first time since 2007. For the White House, it is a measure that the administration’s job creation initiatives is a success. However for Main Street, the job reports have many people scratching their heads in confusion, because to many, there is no evidence of new jobs.

What Do The Jobs Numbers Mean?
According to an October article in the  New York Times, not much. The Bureau of Labor Statistics creates the report from a data that is statistically volatile. This is because the survey is small and the margin of error is 400,000.   Monthly, there are wild fluctuations in the jobs report  because of seasonal employment and reclassification and obsolescence of industry sectors are take into consideration.

Jobs Council Fail
According to an article on Mother Jones, the Jobs Council was created in 2011 and it set to end this month. Unfortunately, the council has yet to yield much success. The Jobs Council is star-studded and comprised of many corporations.CEOs and led by GE’s Jeffrey Immelt. However, there is little representation of the segment of the economy that is actually producing new jobs, small businesses.

Small businesses is where the job creation is developing all across the country, and African American small businesses can be the place where job opportunities are. In fact, Black-owned business hire black people for two out of three jobs.>

The Erosion Of Union Jobs

The new jobs are not union jobs. Union jobs were mostly manufacturing and automotive. Both of my parents have recently retired from union jobs that facilitated them to put my two sisters and me through college and have a comfortable middle class lifestyle.  However, union jobs that provide great benefits and pensions are fading away, and union membership has fallen to 97-year low to 11.3%. The erosion of union jobs is due to obsolescence of both automotive and manufacturing jobs, and the job growth from the service sector which includes many low paying jobs in the restaurant industry.  The average restaurant worker makes $2.13/hour and only 1% of the restaurant industry is unionized.

Is This The New Normal?
Young people are often where see the optimism and hope of our country, but according to Generation Opportunity, a youth advocacy group, America’s youth are making daily decisions based on today’s current economic outlook. The choice of getting more education, having children or buying a home. Generation Opportunity drills down on the job numbers for the 18-29 demographic.  I talked to Matthew Feraci at Generation Opportunity and he says that the lack of jobs facing the millennial generation can leave a “wage scar” whereas they cannot catch up income-wise even ten years later.
The unemployment rate for that group is startling high with over 11% unemployed. The number is double for African American youth at  22.1% . This is a not just a problem for the African American community. The high unemployment rate for African American is a national burden that stifles consumer spending, innovation and overall economic growth.


Where Are The Jobs?
The  growth of new jobs are coming mostly from the service sector which has wealth of jobs that yield little opportunity, less benefits and a workforce that is typically over-educated for the work they do.For both the young and African Americans living on Main Street, the question is not “what does the jobs numbers say, but “where are the jobs”. In fact the search for jobs currently is either a scavenger hunt like “The Amazing Race” where you are search high and lows for clues. Or it is more like “Where’s Waldo” where the jobs are hidden in plain sight. 

If jobs are hidden in plain sight, then maybe  a new app will shine a light on them.  Tobin Schwaiger-Hastanan, an entrepreneur based in New York City, has developed an app, Jobs Nearby, that helps jobs seekers. Jobs Nearby is a mobile service that lets job seekers take their job search on the go with them; helping them discover employment opportunities at local businesses that are hiring. The app soft-launched in the iPhone App Store recently and it is currently servicing the New York City area as they build relationships with local businesses.

Recently, the National Urban League announced a $70 million initiative, Jobs Rebuild America. One component is to focus on advocacy on federal legislative action to create permanent pathways to employment for at-risk teenagers and young adults. Given the current the gridlock in Congress, legislation would not be most expedient way to resolve this crisis.

Even if the jobs numbers are fuzzy, there are real people behind the numbers. The real people are in limbo and the lack of jobs is limiting. Americans are making daily decisions based on what they can or cannot afford to do. Taking a college course, filling the gas tank or even buying groceries are hard decisions to juggle because their is not enough money to do all three. It is a crisis. In the span of fifty years, the American Dream has gone from being described as picturesque (white picket fence) to being practical (a two-car garage) to penurious (a living wage). Most dreams need more than a living wage to make them happen.

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