News that the US unemployment rate has fallen 0.4 percentage points and that we have created 120,000 jobs is better tidings than of late, but we need to do much better: just to match population growth we need to create at least 150,000 jobs a month. For hiring to occur at a pace that would support recovery, we would need at least 500,000 more hires per month. Instead, payrolls today are more than 7m shy of where they were when the Great Recession began.
For American workers, these are the worst times since the depth of the Great Depression. The unemployment rate, the highest and most sustained in seven decades, improved last month primarily because more than 300,000 people left the labour force. And the situation is even grimmer than suggested by the dismal statistics, calculated from a base of only 60,000 families. Analysts have concluded that the combined unemployment and under-employment rate is slightly above a staggering 20 per cent of the labour force.
Who, among the contenders for the White House, has a remedy for this catastrophe? Clearly, this dysfunctional Congress offers no hope until after 2012. Yet we must reverse the decline in American education that has left workers less able to compete in the new world. Skills, not muscle, are the only reliable path to high-wage jobs, in an era when technology and globalisation allow companies to make new investments in regions where labour is cheap. Continue reading »