Friday, May 8, 2009

The much-touted 'pace' of bleeding out

Let's say I'm bleeding. Badly. I have about 15 pints of blood in me. I drop a half pint and I don't like that exactly, but it's really no sweat. Then I lose another pint. I feel a little dizzy, starting to get concerned. Then a pint and a half. Weak, feeling sick. Another pint. Really worried now...

Then the 'pace slows'' to half a pint. Do I feel better? Not much. I'm in deep doo-doo, as a certain former President would say. I'm losing less blood than I was before per minute, sure, but my problem is still getting worse. Much worse - fast. Why? You don't have to be a surgeon of any stripe to figure this one out. Because the first drops of blood lost are not the same as the later drops. The more blood I lose, the more precious each drop becomes - the less able I am to weather the loss, not to mention recover from it.

So it is with the slower pace of job loss announced this week for April (only 539,000 losses - nonfarm). The more jobs the economy hemorrhages, the harder it is for laid-off workers to find work - and the harder it is for families to support one another as charities and social services become overwhelmed.

Of course, these are probably not the final figures anyway. (March figures were just "revised upward" to 699,000 people kicked out of work. 650,000 had been predicted.)

And once again, these official figures use "unemployment" as a technical term, which does not mean how many people are out of work. That number would be about twice as much, even centrist economists admit. Official unemployment rates - 8.9 percent this month - do not count the workers who have "become discouraged and stopped looking for work," workers who are failing to find adequate work - maybe a couple days a week when they need a full-time job, and many others. The under-employment rate could be 15-20 percent, according to some.

Of course, even that is not distributed equally. (What is?) For some age groups of black men, for example, the employment rate is barely about 50 percent now - for others, less than 15 percent.

But the economy "may be finally starting to find its footing," writes Brian Blackstone in the Wall Street Journal - even though " a good deal of the improvement came from government hiring in advance of next year's Census." Now all we have to do is convince the government to hire the 5.7 million people who hav been thrown out of work since December 2007 to count every living thing on the planet Earth ... hmmm ...

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