I have a neighbor who, for purposes of this post, I’ll call Carl. Carl is an amiable fellow. He’s in his mid to late 20’s, and he is the classic son of St. Paul. His father used to own a sporting goods store that is a St. Paul institution. He is married to a lovely woman (let’s call her Annabelle) who is from an island nation in the Caribbean, and they have a beautiful daughter (let’s call her Mary).
Annabelle has worked a number of temp jobs, including for companies that purposefully hire temps, have them in temp positions for 9 months, then let them go, en masse (only to do it all over again with another class of temps).
Carl has been unemployed for more than 3 years. This means that he is not counted in the unemployment rate (actual unemployment is estimated at 14 million people or about 9% of the workforce).
You have to worry about an economy that is supported by serial temps and cannot find work for a man like Carl who is healthy, young, college-educated and looking.
There is this woman who is the love of my life who, for purposes of this post, I’ll call Mrs. Duf. She is a college-educated horticulturist at one of our nation’s leading conservatories. She is an employee of the City of St. Paul and a member of a worker’s union (viva unions!). Last year, she did not get a raise or a cost of living adjustment and her pay-in for health insurance increased. She just learned that this year she will not get a raise, but next year she will get a raise of 2.5% (or about .85% per year over the last three years). When you consider that inflation rose 2.2% last year and has risen 4.3% so far this year, then when you factor in her increased health insurance costs (which would more than absorb the increase even if it were given each year – which it wasn’t), she’s losing money. Each year, she gets paid significantly less to do the same job.
What does it all mean?
I don’t feel the United States will make significant (read sufficient) progress with meaningful employment: adequate salaries/wages, available, affordable and adequate benefits, and permanent work, until we provide actual employment (or unemployment figures) and until we isolate the temporary workforce from employment numbers. We need to change the way the unemployment is determined.
From the two stories above, Carl is unemployed but does not count in the unemployment numbers. Annabelle is a temp employee who counts as employed, but who is subjected to the whims and amorality of potentially evil employers, and Mrs. Duf is overly reliant on her sugar-daddy husband because she is a City employee and, with each passing year, has less and less income (when you consider inflation, lack of pay increases and increased health insurance expense) from doing the exact same job.
Meanwhile, the rich….oh never mind…I don’t want to be accused of class warfare.