Wednesday, January 28, 2004

The Jobless Recovery Is Just Fine!

So says an editorial in the Washington Post, a central player in the great liberal media conspiracy. Such editorials are a goddess-send to us weary bloggers, even when they are anonymous as this one is. And no, I didn't write it just to have something to laugh at, but I almost wish I had.

The editorial tells us to look at the bright side of the jobless recovery. It points out that the current unemployment is largely structural rather than cyclical (i.e., based on a mismatch with the changed needs of the economy and the existing skills and education of the workers rather than on a drop in aggregate demand caused by recessions). It then interprets this as joyous news:

"But the bigger question is whether jobless recoveries are a bad thing. They are, after all, the flip side of good news. There is less cyclical unemployment these days, so recessions are milder; fewer jobs are being created now because fewer jobs were destroyed during the downturn. Moreover, a jobless recovery means, by definition, that each worker is producing more. Higher productivity, in turn, is the best promise possible of higher wages and employment in the future."

The first two sentences in this quote are equivalent to saying that it would be a good thing if cancer was a larger percentage of all illnesses and if the relative percentage of influenza sufferers decreased correspondingly. We could then avoid getting the flu every winter, because we would all be dead from cancer or barely surviving chemotherapy. Whatever will the so-called liberal media say next?

Well, the editorial says next that it's great how each worker still working in a jobless recovery is producing more, or rather, working harder. Then it makes a subtle shift to a different reality, and continues by stating that:

"Higher productivity, in turn, is the best promise possible of higher wages and employment in the future."

That each worker might be producing more does NOT necessarily mean that worker productivity per hour of work is up. People may simply be working much longer hours just to keep their jobs. And no, dear Anonymous, higher worker productivity does NOT mean that earnings will automatically rise. There's a large number of workers out there who'd like a stab at any job, many of them in places like India and China, and this reserve will keep wages low. Besides, employers have market power in many labor markets, and they can use this power to keep wages and employment lower. Workers, on the other hand, have very little power, what with us having gotten rid of the evil trade unions.

Read the whole thing tonight instead of the cartoons page in your local newspaper. It's worth it.