Jobs in the USA

A nuanced examination by our Dan in DC. As usual nothing is as simple as you would like it to be.

Commenting on a talk about rethinking the unemployment rate:

As far as I’m concerned, the key factoid is near the end, where he points out that we would have 10 million additional working-age men productively employed if the rate of employment today was the same as it was in 1965.

And that’s largely the fault of government programs – such as unemployment insurance, disability, Obamacare, licensing, etc – that make it easier for people to choose to be unproductive.

And the Wizard of Id takes down the welfare state. h/t Dan.

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15 Responses to Jobs in the USA

  1. Iampeter says:

    And that’s largely the fault of government programs – such as unemployment insurance, disability, Obamacare, licensing, etc – that make it easier for people to choose to be unproductive.

    What about all the people actually working for the government?
    I wonder what unemployment figures would actually look like if you factor in all the government employee jobs.

  2. John Bayley says:

    There are plenty of accomplished commentators out there in the USA who have attempted to address the discrepancy between the ‘low unemployment’ headline figure and things like low participation rates and/or the fact that the average American apparently is not much better off in inflation-adjusted terms than s/he was back in the late 70s.
    And when debt is taken into account, the average person is arguably in much worse shape than 30 years ago.
    This has not been as pronounced here in Australia, probably mostly because of the China-inspired mining boom, but with recent declines in productivity, over-regulated labour market and the demise of much of our manufacturing, it is quite likely we will see the same phenomena cross the Pacific in the very near future.
    The solutions are not simple and will not be fast, but they certainly involve substantial reduction in taxation, red/green tape and the overall size of government.
    In other words, it will not happen until there is a serious economic crisis.

  3. the rate of employment today was the same as it was in 1965.

    In the 1960s and early seventies, you could knock on any business door, walk in and get a job.

    I wonder what it is that has changed?

  4. pbw says:

    I was drawn to just the quote, above, that you were, but for completely different reasons. Eberstadt shows a graph of male dropouts, 25-54, from the work force, showing a virtually linear trend upwards since the mid-60s, irrespective of economic conditions. This group is at the centre of the “opioid crisis” (another excuse for the gummint to arrogate more power over people’s lives, not just over there, but here as well). This group spends an inordinate amount of time watching, and interacting with, screens of one kind or another.

    It is 7 million strong. The male non-workforce across all working-age groups is 10 million strong. In addition to this group is the large prison population of the U.S.

    Eberstadt notes that black immigrants are more likely to be in the work-force than native-born whites. So the decision to emigrate trumps ethnicity. More significantly, married American blacks are more likely to be in the workforce than unmarried whites, and married high-school dropouts have the same workforce participation as unmarried college graduates. That is, marriage trumps both ethnicity and education as a workforce motivator.

    Marriage, however, has been under relentless attack since… well, the mid-60s, so the ability of marriage to stabilise and motivate men’s working lives is ever-declining. Meanwhile, the transfer of power from men to women proceeds apace. It seems to me that, whereas a decade or two ago women required that men voluntarily hand over the keys, we have crossed a rubicon to a territory in which men have lost the power to either prevent further transfers of power, or to reclaim any of their losses, at least within the existing structures of governance. These are conclusions which Eberstadt does not draw.

    I could warm to this theme, but don’t have the time. Let’s return to that 10 million strong nonworkforce. It is an army awaiting its callup. You can see hints of this in the response of young men to Jordan Peterson. They are being reminded of the demands, responsibilities and privileges which, by nature, accrue to men. This new awareness will not be abandoned because of the refusal of the Matriarchy to acknowledge it. When that awareness spreads to the Opioid Army and they get off their couches, something will have to give.

    Frankly, I think we are past the point where the ground lost to militant feminism and its rainbow coalition can be rationally and reasonably regained. If that is the sorry situation, we in the West are in for a rough ride.

  5. bemused says:

    Economists often do a crummy job of teaching people about the impact of fiscal policy on the labor force, largely because we put people to sleep with boring discussions about “labor supply”…

    This is so pertinent and especially on this forum where simplicity and clarity is so often in short supply.

    I used to study nuclear physics, theory of relativity and found them easy. I could do differential calculus virtually in my head, but can barely understand a word of ‘economic speak’. Back in the 80s I gave up my MBA studies in year two because all the economic stuff was doing my head in.

  6. Percy Porcelain says:

    Nuance – you want “Nuance”?

    Well, here it is.

  7. sfw says:

    Not just welfare, if you are a white male with no degree or an older white male , say over 50 with experience and qualifications it’s very difficult to get full time work, even in lower status, low pay jobs. Nobody wants you, you won’t receive replies to your applications, much less get an interview. Welfare does make it easier for these men to get by but nearly everyone I know in this situation is working but either part time or casual in jobs they hate.

    Now if you’re female your options are much, much better, add in skin colour, gayness or otherwise and you will have no shortage of options.

    This isn’t going to end well.

  8. Rossini says:

    #2681688, posted on April 8, 2018 at 6:28 pm

  9. flyingduk says:

    The statistic that should be reported is not the ‘unemployment rate’, but rather the ’employment rate’: given the ever decreasing role of the family and personal savings, it is a fair approximation to say if you aren’t working, you are on welfare of some sort. When you do those numbers, the actual ’employment rate’ of around 70% is rather shocking, it means every 7 working people are supporting another 3 who aren’t.

  10. nerblnob says:

    Old white male with no degree checking in here.

    I have a good job but could be fucked if I lost it.

    Unlikely to get something as good in Australia given the full frontal establishment assault on mining and drilling.

    If I could get something as good, it wouldn’t be through the conventional HR recruitment process, despite my forty plus years field and business experience including twenty plus years of employing graduates and bossing them around.

    I’d work self employed but wouldn’t hire anybody. That’s just become a world of pain in Australia.

  11. sfw says:


    I work for myself but it’s weather dependent, drive trucks a day or two a week and over winter work on the ski lifts. I’m 62, over the past 6 years I’ve applied for hundreds of jobs for which I’m experienced and qualified, the only responses were for driving jobs, former member of vicpol, couldn’t even get an interview for a job as a security officer at the local airport. Nobody wants you, I’ve never been on welfare but I can see why people give up and lose hope and drive.

    It’s alright for people like Rafe to denigrate us because he will never be in our position, the elites casting the first stone.

  12. bemused says:

    It’s alright for people like Rafe to denigrate us because he will never be in our position, the elites casting the first stone.

    I don’t think Rafe is doing anything of the sort. I think he’s pointing out some of the major long-term issues that a welfare state creates and which affects everyone.

  13. nerblnob says:

    sfw, to be honest, if I find myself in your position, (and I could well do), I wouldn’t expect much success from conventional approaches.

    I’d do the usual and tap up contacts, although if they hadn’t offered me a job already, they probably don’t have anything.

    I’ve gained a small reputation in helping small engineering firms with new technology get into national and international markets, so I’d knock on a few doors there. At the moment I’m overseas and likely to be there for some time.

    It’s not just welfare but all the unproductive jobs demanded by redundant regulations and compliances that act as a brake on productive business. Not just existing businesses but all the ones that never get going because of the smothering effect.

    If businesses are booming, believe me, and I’m older than you ,your age will not be an issue.

  14. hzhousewife says:

    Coffee queue Saturday morning : retired bloke (68) said he’d never been offered more jobs in his life since he retired, currently working at night driving for a harvesting outfit who are going 24 hrs a day at the moment, had just done four ten hour nights. Said no young blokes willing, or found to be unreliable. Rural area of course. Expected to have plenty of ongoing work because of contacts he’s made in the last three months.

  15. Chris M says:

    Dan is a smart guy but these calcs only work as you can get reliable data. We live in an era where data is easily massaged and ‘seasonally adjusted’ and the USA has actually no clear idea of what it’s population is or how many illegals there are.

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