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Where Do They Go?

February 17, 2013

All along the watchtower princes kept the view of strange days and of self-same nights.

This month’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report expresses the symptoms of a lingering stagnation that smells. Actual new job hires were 17,000 in a labor population of nearly 157 million; two million more working compared to last year, with another two million more “no longer in the labor force.” Either way, split the difference as the number of officially unemployed grew for a third consecutive month to 12,332,000.

Wages rose at the ridiculously paltry rate of 0.5 percent, seasonally adjusted for three months and for the year; compensation rose only 1.9%. A desert sheik should run such a frugal household. At 1.9% wage growth, any plans for an economic recovery should be placed well off into the far distant future. It’s true you know, you can’t stand still. You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. The numbers all meander around so, up one month and down the next, but never improving outside of a narrow range.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics report says: “Employer costs for health benefits increased 2.8 percent over the year. In December 2011 the increase was 3.5 percent.” Who paid that increase? So the averages for Americans of all stations are falling backwards. Take heart ye of the class struggle, wages for the higher-ups are doing only proportionally better. Retail workers’ wages increased an average of ten dollars a week, while their boss made twenty. But either way it’s only McDonald’s money.

Weekly hours worked are down in every employment category year after year, save for business services and healthcare. It’s not just a slowdown in this industry or in that, it is a widespread malaise. In its January report the BLS is careful to mention in the footnotes: “Note: Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of the January data.”

Median unemployment duration in weeks:

October – 19.6

November – 18.9

December – 18.00

January – 16.00

I never would have guessed that they adjusted the population controls, would you? Such adjustments make it difficult to assess changes over time through data comparisons and what they’re saying numerically doesn’t truly express the meaning existentially. It means if you were to lose your job today, on average, in a best case scenario, you won’t find a new job until June.

Now take a look at the average length of stay on unemployment.

Average unemployment duration in weeks:

October – 39.9

November – 39.7

December – 38.1

January – 35.00

These numbers only comprise a sub-set of workers who might be hired depending on age and skills. The make-break point seems to be at 27 weeks, as those numbers hardly move at all. If you haven’t found a new job by the middle of August, then you’re that puppy who ain’t so cute anymore; you’re that fat kid in P.E. The 27 week number stands at 38.1 this month, all the way down from 40.8 in October.

Your odds of finding employment are as follows:

Unemployed less than 5 weeks, 1 in 5

5 to 14 weeks, 1 in 4

15 weeks and over, 50/50

After 27 weeks and over, it’s 60/40 against.

Now the numbers for the marginally attached (“Persons not in the labor force who want and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime in the prior 12″):

January 2012 – 2,809,000

November – 2,505,000

December – 2,614,000

January 2013 – 2,443,000*

And discouraged workers (marginally attached workers who have given up looking):

January 2012 – 1,059,000

November – 979,000

December – 1,068,000

January 2013 –804,000*

The numbers say so much and at the same time so little, don’t they? 264,000 Americans in December went from discouraged worker to “Not in labor force.”

Not in labor force:

January 2012 – 87,913,000

November – 88,855,000

December – 88,839,000

January 2013 –89,008,000*

* Note: Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of the January data.

From this point, the worker just fades away, becoming a crime statistic or an accident statistic or a fatality. “Some get stoned, some get strange, sooner or later it all gets real” ~ Neil Young

Americans with a job, any kind of job:

January 2012 – 141,608,000

November – 143,277,000

December – 143,305,000

January 2013 – 143,322,000

Job creation December to January: 17,000

Participation rate:

January 2012 – 63.7

November – 63.6

December – 63.6

January 2013 – 63.6

It’s not a worker fading away, its workers plural, as in millions of them. Ground up and ground down until they just seem to vanish, but they don’t vanish really.

Allan Hill is 68 years old and a semi-retired auto-body man. He lives in Detroit on the grounds of the old Packard factory. It’s a sprawling 35 acre complex of forty odd buildings in various states of ruin and decay. His domicile is located behind corrugated steel doors, back behind a cinder block wall. In back there is an office area with a bathroom and an oven. Mr. Hill is technically the caretaker and pays utilities, but lives rent free on the grounds of an abandoned factory.

These are the types of things which numbers just can’t explain. Allan Hill doesn’t live here alone; he lives with an unemployed son in his 40′s. They have little heat and the pipes freeze when it gets cold, but Allan Hill says it’s, “a blessing” living in the Packard plant. “It’s given me time to reflect on my life.” Hill admits to a drinking past and to two bad marriages, but does the punishment fit the crime?

It’s like a movie scene, out of a dystopic fantasy; the kindly old man living in the abandoned factory, on the grounds of a twentieth century industrial wasteland.

From the Athens Banner-Herald:

Homeless evicted from under Athens Bridge where arson fire destroyed camp.

And again:

Authorities have evicted homeless people from beneath a bridge on the edge of downtown Athens.

On Tuesday, one week after an arson fire destroyed the camp and caused a gas leak that could have resulted in an explosion, officials put up no-trespassing signs on the North Avenue Bridge where it crosses the North Oconee River.

The Athens-Clarke police have increased patrols of the area to make sure no one returns to the camp, and a fence will soon be erected to keep out trespassers from under the bridge, according to the Athens-Clarke County Manager, Alan Reddish.

“Obviously, the fire focused our attention on the potential dangers of the utilities attached to the bridge,” Reddish said. “I met with appropriate folks at the end of last week and gave directions of things to accomplish so we not only ensure the safety of the people who lived there, but also the people who use the bridge and live in the surrounding area.”

Where do they go? Are the night stick and the chain link a social program, let alone a job? First, they were pushed out of their jobs, then pushed out of their homes, and now… out from under a bridge!

Matthias: One creature, caught. Caught in a place he cannot stir from in the dark, alone, outnumbered hundreds to one, nothing to live for but his memories, nothing to live with but his gadgets, his cars, his guns, gimmicks… ~ The Omega Man

David Glenn Cox is a senior staff writer for TLR and an award winning author and musician; he is the author of the novel, “The Servants of Pilate”.


One Response to Where Do They Go?

  1. SteveH on March 1, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    People need to be put first. We need to pass legislation making it illegal to deprive people of a place to stay on public properties if there are no shelters available. With that, local, municipal, and state authorities will have to allocate money to expand infrastructure to provide shelters for all homeless people. If all must provide shelters, those that do now, the most compassionate, wont be burdened with a disproportionate share of caring for homeless Americans. For a fraction of a fraction of the military budget we could put an end to homelessness in America.

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