Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

The Jehoshua Novels


Your Call Has Been Disconnected

Well, this is good news, right?

Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, a sign the labor market is firming heading into the second quarter.

Jobless claims fell by 6,000 to 388,000 in the week ended March 26, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The government also issued its annual revisions to the seasonal- adjustment factors, which caused a ”œmild upward shift” in the number of applications, an agency spokesman said as the figures were released to reporters.

A slowdown in firings and growing payrolls may bolster further gains in consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the world’s largest economy. Companies added 210,000 jobs in March, while the unemployment rate held at 8.9 percent, economists project a Labor Department report to show tomorrow.

A side note: there is some reason for concern for the Obama camp, in that high unemployment is usually a harbinger of defeat in an election. The latest number, 8.9%, is notably down from the near-10% of this time last year, but more has to be done. Fortunately, these things have a way of gaining momentum.

Employment is like Sisyphus’ boulder: once it starts up the hill, it becomes easier and faster, but when it falls, it plummets.

Americans getting jobs. Sounds like a sign of a healthy economy.

You’d think.

As I write this, the markets have just opened for the day. Mind you, nearly every index is up for the year at or near record paces not seen since the tech bubble of 1998, but today, when finally it looks good for an American middle class worker, the toilet lid flies up and the markets sink. The Dow is off 13 points, and S&P 500 and NASDAQ are both struggling to stay even.

What is it with corporate America that they can’t sync up with Main Street Americans?

In a nutshell, there is no more Corporate America any more than there are American cars. So many companies have become multinational conglomerates that their fortunes no longer rise or fall along with those of you and I here in the USA.

It used to be “what was good for GM was good for America,” but that’s no longer the case. GM got bailed out. Americans got HAMPered, the plug having been pulled on the only sensible bailout program in the recession, the one that helped Americans keep their homes.

But I forgot. That program wasn’t going to turn a profit for the US. Or a bigger one for the banks. My error.

Just like full employment means the banks can’t hold your feet to the fire in interest and late payment charges.

20 comments to Your Call Has Been Disconnected

  • Scotjen61

    at taking good news and turning it into bad news. I think you got a future in journalism. I envision a white board, and a good conspiracy.

  • zot23

    It’s always so much damn spin, you have to be a detective to figure out what’s really going on. They simply don’t give you enough information (or the right information) to make a qualified decision.

    Unemployment, for example. This looks like a good report, the # of people filing for unemployment fell. But what about underemployment (or the total # of people unemployed whether filing or not?) After all, many times once their 75 (or 99?) weeks of unemployment runs out, people are off the records while still involuntarily unemployed. Are there really only 8.9% of Americans out of work and job searching right now? Seriously? Because I would say it is closer to 16% or so. Many, many people I know are caught in very tough times.

    Plus, companies added 220,000 jobs. Great, but what level were these jobs? Corporate sales jobs, picking fruit, or asking people if “they want fries with that?” at the mall? Just having a job is one thing, having a good job is entirely another.

    Nothing is perfect, but these numbers and the “official data” have become another tool of deceit IMHO. Once Bush and crew stopped reporting the total availability of money supply the fix was in IMHO, but using these statistics to assess the country’s health is as useful as using a sound recording to assess your child’s fever.

  • steeleweed

    1) The government lies by twisting facts.
    2) The government lies by omitting pertinent data.
    3) The government flat-out lies.
    4) Nothing is going to change 1-3. Ever. In any government.


    Retiring Mainframe maven, active curmudgeon, poet, writer.

  • Scotjen61

    Good news when news is good.

    Got it. everything is bad all the time, and no hope. I think someone needs a beer.

    Personally I’ve found sticking my fingers in my ears and going La La La La La works.

    :)

  • steeleweed

    Maybe a couple of fifths of Old Charter would take the edge off. :-P

    If I’m cynical, it’s because I can count on my fingers the amount of good news I’ve heard from the government in the last 70+ years.
    If we combined all the fingers and toes of everyone on this site we wouldn’t have enough digits to keep track of the deceptions.

    Time to go get that bourbon. I’ll share.
    :-)

    Retiring Mainframe maven, active curmudgeon, poet, writer.

  • chalo

    which is that things had gotten bad for the productive working people who drive the economy, and they’re still bad. Saying the official unemployment rate is less worse than it was last month doesn’t help people, doesn’t indicate things are actually getting better for regular folks, and more importantly isn’t a result of the sort of systemic changes that must happen before things really do become and stay better for regular folks.

    But the rich and powerful won’t do what they must to have a thriving economy with decent prospects for all its participants. They’d rather just own all the wealth, even if it’s all the wealth of a looted, broken shell of a fallen nation. They want to be the winners within a larger version the Haitian economic model. This is what you are constantly and enthusiastically cheerleading for. Everyone here recognizes it, and it is largely this that makes people distrust and disregard the things you have to say.

    _______________________________________________________________

    “There’ll be one corporation selling one little box
    It’ll do what you want and tell you what you want
    and cost whatever you got” — Greg Brown

  • Awake

    … is a leading indicator.

    Except for sudden trauma, the stock market is a good leading indicator (by at least 6 months) of the overall economy. Why has it been flat recently? Because the big rise happened 6 months ago, ahead of the now improving employment numbers.

    The turnaround is near, it’s too bad that there are so many on the right, far-right and in the industrial/financial sector that are adamant about destroying America’s future by not being willing to sacrifice just a little during these hard times. Here in Texas a 1% income tax on those earning over $350,000 would stop the school layoffs and closures, the cutbacks in infrastructure maintenance, the loss of services to the truly needy. Basically the same thing nationally. The bozos in Washington continue to spend money without question in Iraq and Afghanistan, at a tune of $330,000 per minute, yet they refuse to raise the money to pay for that expense. GE not only pays no taxes, but get’s billions in tax credits.

    And so it goes.

  • Scotjen61

    My favorite. Considering the years you got to live through I understand.

    Considering the ‘experts’ in just the last three years have given us the banking crisis, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and now a massive nuclear reactor meltdown.

    I broaden my view. These were private businesses that lied, and the Governments that have to clean them up. Not especially cheery, but the bad news has been bad.

  • Scotjen61

    But if you dig into those tax ‘credits’ it is because this is one major company that is working on new technologies that may provide major solutions to the energy hole we are in.

    They have really put serious capital into innovative alternative energy solutions, and I will give them that.

  • rumor

    … then you have a bright future as a White House spokesman.

    One substanceless personal attack deserves another, right? :)

  • Bolo

    (or are taxing too much) and are talking about cutting spending. On the one hand you have a faction that wants to spend less, on the other hand you have a faction that wants to tax more. Both lead to demand reduction and further losses in the economy, though I do think taxing the wealthy and giving that money to the states to provide services to the non-wealthy would be a good idea–provided additional spending happened as well.

    The fact that a real fiscal expansion is not even being considered means that we will get a double dip. The government is gearing up to turn on the Hoover and suck money away from the private sector. If we’re lucky the second dip won’t be as sharp, but I’ve been feeling pessimistic lately.

  • Anonymous

    The US government has mastered “How to Lie with Statistics”, c.f.
    http://www.zerohedge.com/article/initial-claims-388k-previous-revised-naturally-higher-394k

    As for the stock market being a leading indicator, it is now completely manipulated by the FRB and the high-frequency traders (70% of trading is now HFT) on very low volume

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-frequency_trading

    http://www.cross-currents.net/charts.htm

    http://www.zerohedge.com/article/its-not-just-us

  • Scotjen61

    And nobody does it better than TeeeVeee

    Case in point, household income has stagnated. Uh, no it hasn’t. Real wages have risen 23% in the last fifteen years, while the size of households has shrunk. With households smaller the wage is flat per household, not because wages have flatlined, but because people are living with fewer wage earners per household.

    One thing about America, we love to whine.

  • chalo

    Any person who has been earning wages for the last fifteen years, who has friends in the same situation, knows that what you just said is a lie.

    In the real world where real inflation has not dipped below 5% in a single one of those last fifteen years you mentioned, earned wages have not even pretended to keep up, while unearned income looted by the super rich has outpaced inflation by miles.

    _______________________________________________________________

    “There’ll be one corporation selling one little box
    It’ll do what you want and tell you what you want
    and cost whatever you got” — Greg Brown

  • Scotjen61

    damn those lieing lieing statistics.

  • Awake

    … where we are expected to demand supporting documentation.

    The era of the single wage earner family is basically gone, with both parental members typically working, often more than one job per wage earner. And you claim that there are ‘less’ wage earners per household? OK, maybe you are correct if you go back 2 centuries to when there were no child labor laws.

    So corroborating reliable links please.

  • Actor 212

    Satire is lost on the humorless

  • Actor 212

    You have that almost backwards. Universally, the market is considered a lagging indicator. For example, bankruptcies and unemployment were already creeping upwards, layoffs occuring, in 2007 nearly a year before the markets tanked.

  • Actor 212

    Real wages have risen 23% in the last fifteen years, while the size of households has shrunk. With households smaller the wage is flat per household, not because wages have flatlined, but because people are living with fewer wage earners per household.

    Smaller denominator, higher numerator, would show a skyrocket in real wages.

  • JustPlainDave

    Or at least not without picking some very rhetorically handy endpoints, and even then not at the magnitude implied. I don’t know where you’re getting your figures for real wage increase, but when I look at shifts by number of earners in the household, while I agree the general trends you’re talking about regarding the increase in single earner households are there (went from 33.7% of households in 1995 to 37.2% of households in 2009), as are the associated dynamics generally:

    a) the increases in median household income don’t approach 23%, and

    b) the trends only cease to be more or less flat if one drives the data out 15 years, rather than, say, 10 years.

    All figures below are median household incomes expressed in constant 2009 dollars on a per earner basis:

    All households [does not account for number of earners]
    2009 $49,777
    2000 $52,301
    1995 $47,622

    No earner households [absolute]
    2009 $19,514
    2000 $18,971
    1995 $18,310

    Single earner households
    2009 $41,133
    2000 $41,874
    1995 $38,525

    2 earner households
    2009 $39,237
    2000 $38,750
    1995 $34,938

    3 earner households
    2009 $31,278
    2000 $31,493
    1995 $29,437

    4+ earner households [nominal - figures presume 4 earners]
    2009 $29,168
    2000 $28,746
    1995 $25,939

    All figures computed on the basis of data from Table H-12: Household by Number of Earners by Median and Mean Income (it’s at the bottom): http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/historical/household/index.html

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

Leave a Reply