Jobs for Greeks and for Americans, Too

By L. Randall Wray

Here’s a nice piece:

The Workers’ Think Tank: With an eye on the United States and Greece, scholars at the Levy Economics Institute are developing plans to ensure full employment, by Sasha Abramsky, February 2, 2015, The Nation.

As Sasha notes, the Levy Institute has a novel approach to fighting unemployment: JOBS! Hardly anyone ever thinks about that–that the cause of unemployment is lack of jobs.

For some reason, virtually all policy-makers and economists (including progressives) think that jobs will magically appear. True, some suggest that US unemployment is created because China ( “steals” jobs that are rightfully due to America. Hence, the solution is to steal them back.

But why not just create more? Is it really that hard to come up with a list of things that people could usefully do, right here in America?

As Sasha writes, things appear to have improved in America,

“Yet scratch below the surface and you’ll see that the United States still has a considerable economic problem. While the official unemployment rate has fallen to 5.6 percent, the lowest since 2008, the percentage of the adult population participating in the labor market remains far lower than it was at the start of the recession. At least in part, headline unemployment numbers look respectable because millions of Americans have grown so discouraged about their prospects of finding work that they no longer try, and thus are no longer counted among the unemployed. Depending on the measures, only 59 to 63 percent of the working-age population is employed, far below recent historical norms.

Millions who lost their jobs during the recession have found work, but at lower wages and often for fewer hours per week than was the case before the financial collapse. In August, the US Conference of Mayors released data indicating that jobs created during the recovery paid an average of 23 percent less than jobs lost during the recession. That represents an extraordinary collapse in living standards for millions of people. Not surprisingly, according to the latest data, nearly one in six Americans are living below the federal poverty line.”

Unemployment remains far too high–and, more importantly, the employment rate remains far too low–because there are not enough jobs. Job seekers exceed job openings by a wide margin, across the entire spectrum of sectors. Here’s the latest data I could find (2012, and while things have improved a bit, it is not likely that we’d see much difference in 2014 data):


No matter where you look, there are plenty of job-seekers. And these data do not include those who’ve given up hope: official unemployment rates only include those actively seeking work. If you only hide 5 bones and send out 10 dogs to find them, you can be sure at least 5 dogs come back boneless. That’s what it still looks like across all sectors of our economy–far too few jobs out there. Five years into “recovery”. And with what looks like a possible slow-down coming.

9 Responses to Jobs for Greeks and for Americans, Too

  1. Brilliant as always, and more and more attention being paid to the idea of jobs!
    Assuming the next recession is not too far away, (couple of years at most?) perhaps that will finally be the time these ideas are embraced.

  2. Great logic. As neocon shill George Will once said, “The best solution to proverty is to have a job.” (Then, after dumping his first wife and marrying a well-paid lobbyist for the Japanese Manufacturing Association, he suddenly support all jobs offshoring!)

    Real unemployment is still 20% or greater, and almost one-half of the supposedly new jobs created cannot be verified, according to a recent study from Rutgers University.

    Some mindless types in America have argued that once automation takes place on a large scale in China, then jobs will return to America, unable to cogitate the process to understand that once jobs are automated, no humans will have those jobs!

  3. Sir,
    As a “job creators,” only one thing makes us hire, demand. It is not tax breaks, we hire people to DO WORK. The need for employees is created by aggregate demand. I never have hired a person for tax reasons. We only hire because of demand for our products. If we don’t have a need, we cannot hire no matter what the tax break may be. If a customer has needs we can fill, we hire. This is not “rocket surgery” brilliance on my part.
    D. Chekouras, President

  4. Hey El Presidente! Thanks for the drive by, and typical your spray hit nothing. I see demand everywhere- streets, parks, downtowns with litter omnipresent. Human waste all over downtown sidewalks and structures. People of age to look death in the eye driving solo scaring pedestrians and other drivers to death. Yeah, not a lot of profit from this real need though, huh? That is why a public works/job guarantee is being discussed, ala New Deal. Thankfully the biggest employer of last resort is a non-profit! That’s right El Presidente, all you public servants can start hiring citizens to meet the demand of the public good! Wow! Of course, no body should get rich, but of course as El Presidente you always put the public good before private profit, right?

  5. the solution to jobs is an always will be to grow the population .

  6. Interesting. You probably know that R. Antonopoulos, a senior researcher at the Levy Economics Institute, is the new Deputy Minister of Employment for Greece. It was reported yesterday in the Greek press that within the next few months, “Option 2” in her 2014 working paper will be proposed for implementation.

  7. Nomenclature and definitions can sometimes drive perceptions and thereby, ideas. I submit that the notion of someone “not having a job” is erroneous and essentially impossible. Having a job is not a birth right; it is heavier than that. Having a job is an obligation of life it self. The one clear imperative we have as members of the human race is to help others. That is our job and we have it as long as we maintain membership in the human race. The only alternative is to be a hermit. The issue, then, is not jobs but income/money, the means by which we communicate our need of help from others and what specific need we have. I support a guaranteed income for all except hermits. Without income we are economically muted.

  8. The Greek gov’t is finally under new management. The old screw-ups have finally been sent packing. But, the banks are insolvent. Even worse, rather than having gone bankrupt 5(!) years ago when they became insolvent, the decision of those old Greek gov’ts and the Troika was to treat it all like a liquidity problem and keep the money flowing. In the intervening time, the Greek bankers and other wealthy depositors have had lots of opportunity to move their deposits elsewhere. Only someone with no real banking options would still be bothering to bank at those insolvent banks. This all makes the fairly effective solution to a solvency problem which was applied to the Cyprus banking crisis (crush the bankers and big money, while leaving small depositors mostly intact) much less effective at going after those who actually benefited from the activities of the Greek banks.

  9. Charles 3000: please see the Moyers interview of David Simon, of The Wire. You are just advocating an enhanced version of the institutionalized marginalization of the “irrelevant population” that he’s talking about. You are buying into the scam that America has become. Most people–except your hermits–want to participate in society. They don’t want to be “disposable”, they don’t want to be paid to be “useless”. They want to contribute and they want to earn a decent income for participating in the full life of society. The idea that you’re going to bring the marginalized people that David Simon is talking about into society, to make them full members, by throwing a bit of guaranteed income at them is–I think–ludicrous. This is just “go away and leave me alone” policy. Yes, “they” have “jobs” already. Their “job” is to engage in the pre-incarceration activities that are left to them–mostly illegal–so that they can generate profits for the prison industrial complex.