Happy days are not yet here again for American workers, regardless of the cheering generated by the government’s latest report on job creation.
The number of people collecting paychecks rose more than had been expected and the tally of people counted as jobless fell, placing the unemployment rate — 5.9% — at its lowest level since 2008.
While the trends are positive, they offer only distant hope to a middle class that is taking home less pay than it used to and can only watch as the wealthy enjoy ever greater prosperity.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way under President Obama, tribune of ordinary folks who, as he likes to say, play by the rules.
Six years into his administration, five years after the end of the Great Recession, the President is out talking up his economic record to bolster Democrats’ chances in the November congressional elections.
He stresses that U.S. businesses have created 10 million jobs since 2009 in “the longest uninterrupted stretch of private-sector job creation in our history.” All of which is true — and far less than the full story.
If you’ve been looking for low-wage, part-time work, for example, you’ve been a winner during Obama’s recovery.
The United States has roughly 3 million more part-time positions today than at the start of the economic meltdown, according to the Federal Reserve. Over that same period, the job growth touted by Obama has left the country with 3 million fewer full-time jobs.
More than 7 million people remain stuck in part-time positions because they can’t find a job with a full work week. An additional 2 million people have essentially given up hope and dropped out of the labor force.
In September, the economy did a little better at creating more full-time than part-time jobs, but almost half of the new positions came in low-wage sectors like retail and hospitality.
Meanwhile, a spot on a payroll was hardly a ticket to paradise.
In 2013, the median income of American families was 4% lower than at the end of the recession, and 7% less than before the recession began in 2007. That year, a family right in the middle pulled down $56,436, compared with $51,939 in 2013 — a dip of roughly $4,500 in spending power.
Meanwhile, the very comfortable have done better than fine under Obama.
With corporate profits at record highs, the stock market enjoying the longest streak of gains in more than a decade and home prices rising, the best off have enjoyed a nice rise in net worth.
Many in the middle missed out on those pluses because they have pulled out of stock market investing, including in retirement accounts.
Still worse, businesses have chosen not to share the wealth as they’ve raked in money. A Goldman Sachs study found that hourly wages last year grew by only 2%, five times slower than corporate profits.
Add it up: Obama’s economy has handsomely extended the long winning streak of the rich.
America’s top 3% claimed 45% of the economy in 1989, 52% in 2007 and 54% last year. The bottom 90% saw their share of the national wealth fall from 33% in 1989 to 25% last year.
Money moving steadily from those who need it most to those who need it least is a record that is hardly a source of pride to the President.