After exposing the faux prosperity of the immediate post-2009 “wholly unnatural” recovery and explaining the precarious foundation of the Bernanke Bubble, David Stockman’s new book ‘The Great Deformation’ delves deeper (in Part 2 of this 4-part series) into the dismal internals of the jobs numbers and only the utterly politicized calculation of the “unemployment rate” that disguises the jobless nature of the rebound. To be sure, the Fed’s Wall Street shills breathlessly reported the improved jobs “print” every month, picking and choosing starting and ending points and using continuously revised and seasonally maladjusted data to support that illusion. Yet the fundamentals with respect to breadwinner jobs could not be obfuscated.
The Wall Street meltdown of September 2008 accelerated the recessionary forces already in motion, causing a total job loss of 7.3 million between the December 2007 peak and the end of the recession in June 2009. That the Fed’s bubble finance had camouflaged the failing internals of the American economy then became starkly apparent. Nearly three-fourths of this reduction was accounted for by the above mentioned loss of 5.6 million breadwinner jobs; that is, nearly 8 percent of their pre-recession total. That devastating hit left the nation with only 66.2 million prime jobs and set the clock back to the level of early 1998. This is an astonishing fact: before any of the Greenspan-Bernanke maneuvers to coddle Wall Street and pump up the wealth effects elixir—that is, the 1998 LTCM bailout, the 2001–2003 rate-cutting panic, the August 2007 Bernanke Put, and the Fed’s post-Lehman tripling of its balance sheet – there were more breadwinner jobs than there are today. Since the BlackBerry Panic the Fed has relentlessly pumped freshly minted cash into the bank accounts of the twenty-one government bond dealers. Not surprisingly, therefore, there has been a jarringly divergent outcome between Wall Street and Main Street.
By September 2012, the S&P 500 was up by 115 percent from its recession lows and had recovered all of its losses from the peak of the second Greenspan bubble. By contrast, only 200,000 of the 5.6 million lost breadwinner jobs had been recovered by that same point in time. To be sure, the Fed’s Wall Street shills breathlessly reported the improved jobs “print” every month, picking and choosing starting and ending points and using continuously revised and seasonally maladjusted data to support that illusion. Yet the fundamentals with respect to breadwinner jobs could not be obfuscated.
On the eve of the 2012 election, for example, there were 18.3 million jobs in the goods-producing sectors: manufacturing, mining, and construction. These core sectors of the productive economy had taken a beating during the Great Recession, shedding 3.5 million jobs, or 15 percent. Yet after three and a half years of so-called recovery, the jobs count in the goods-producing sectors had not rebounded in the slightest; it had actually declined slightly from the 18.5 million jobs recorded at the end of the recession in June 2009.
Likewise, there were 7.8 million jobs in finance, insurance, and real estate, meaning virtually no gain from the 7.7 million jobs at the end of the recession. As to lawyers, accountants, engineers, architects, and computer designers, there was no pick-up there, either: the 5 million jobs counted by the BLS in September 2012 barely exceeded the 4.8 million recorded in June 2009; and in the information industries—publishing, broadcasting, telecommunications, motion pictures, and music—the data had slightly deteriorated, with the 2.8 million jobs posted in June 2009 slipping to 2.6 million in the month before the 2012 election.
Similarly, the 10 million jobs in transportation and wholesale distribution in September 2012 had changed hardly a tad from June 2009. Finally, the other heavy-duty category of breadwinner jobs—that is, government employment (outside of education) where average compensation exceeds $65,000 annually—had actually gone south. The 11 million of these high-paying jobs on the eve of the 2012 election had shrunk by more than 4 percent since the recession ended in June 2009.
In short, after forty months of “recovery” there was virtually no change in every category of breadwinner jobs that had been slammed by the Great Recession.
THE “BORN AGAIN” JOBS SCAM
These data are extremely important. They belie the sunny paint-by-numbers jobs picture peddled by the Fed to distract the public from the fact that monetary policy is all about fueling the speculative urges of Wall Street, not the economic health of Main Street. This obfuscation is especially true with respect to the aforementioned headline gain of 3 million jobs. Never told is the fact that the majority of these, as indicated above, were part-time jobs in bars, restaurants, retail emporiums, and temporary employment agencies.
That fully 55 percent of the rebound has been in low-paying, part-time jobs not only illuminates the phony nature of the Fed’s so-called recovery, but it also comes with a news flash; namely, every one of these 1.6 million new part-time “jobs” had already been “created” once before. During the second Greenspan bubble the part-time job count had risen from 34.7 million in early 2000 to 37.2 million in December 2007. In still another episode of Charlie Brown and Lucy, however, the football had been moved backward during the Great Recession. By June 2009, in fact, the part-time job count had tumbled all the way back to its turn of the century starting point at 34.7 million.
What happened by election eve of 2012, therefore, was nothing more than a partial retracement. At that point the BLS reported 36.4 million part-time jobs, meaning that after three and a half years of “recovery” just 60 percent of the gain from the 2000–2007 bubble had been recouped. These were self-evidently “born again” jobs, but in a display of astounding cynicism the Bernanke Fed claimed to be meeting its statutory mandate to promote maximum employment.
The larger truth is that when these job rebirths are set aside there isn’t much left. The part-time job sector has gained an average of just 11,000 authentically new jobs per month during the twelve years between early 2000 and September 2012, thereby contributing hardly a drop in the bucket relative to the working-age population growth at 150,000 per month.
In fact, this “born again” syndrome actually applies to the entire non-farm payroll, and the modest rebound it has registered since the recession officially ended in June 2009. As shown by the data, the Greenspan-Bernanke policy was the monetary equivalent of a Billy Graham crusade: the same jobs got “saved” over and over.
Thus, there had been 130.8 million total jobs in January 2000, and this figure had reached 138.0 million by the December 2007 peak. The Great Recession sent the jobs count tumbling all the way back to the starting point, actually dipping slightly lower to 130.6 million by June 2009. Then, after forty months of “recovery,” the BLS reported 133.5 million nonfarm payroll jobs for September 2012. The Bernanke bubble had thus “recreated” only 40 percent of the jobs that had been “created” by the Greenspan bubble the first time around.
That the Bernanke bubble policies have not recouped even half of the total payroll gains that the Fed had already previously counted is still another testament to the sham nature of the “recovery.” When the Fed’s pump-and-dump cycling of the macro-economy is set aside, it becomes starkly evident that the American economy has been nearly bereft of sustained job growth. For the entire twelve-year period since early 2000, it has generated a net gain of only 18,000 jobs per month, a figure that is just one eighth of the labor force growth rate.
The reason for this anemic figure on total payroll growth is that the great expanse of the nation’s economy outside of the HES complex has been a jobs disaster area. Alongside the rounding-error growth in the part-time sector, the 66.4 million breadwinner jobs in September 2012 represented a drastic shrinkage from the approximate 72 million jobs in that category recorded in January 2000. This was the smoking gun: the prime breadwinner jobs market has been shrinking by a net of 35,000 jobs per month for more than twelve years!
Indeed, the tiny gain of 5,000 breadwinner jobs per month since June 2009 means that it would take 90 years to recoup the 5.6 million such jobs lost during the recession; that is, it would take until the twenty-second century to get back to the job count that existed at the end of the twentieth century! The absurdity of it surely puts paid to the notion that a conventional business recovery is underway.
Indeed, it is only the utterly politicized calculation of the “unemployment rate” that disguises the jobless nature of the rebound. Upward of 8 million working-age Americans were no longer classified as being in the labor force due to purely arbitrary counting rules. In fact, the unemployment rate on the eve of the 2012 election would have posted at about 13 percent based on the same labor force participation rate as January 2000, and would have clocked closer to 20 percent if further adjusted for the drastic shift from full-time to part-time employment.