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(DV) Sandronsky: Strong Economy, Weak Workers







Strong Economy, Weak Workers 
by Seth Sandronsky
January 12, 2006

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The U.S. economy is expanding.  With such strength comes new employment, as President Bush noted after the Jan. 6 jobs report from the Labor Department. 

The president is absolutely correct.  Economic growth does increase total employment. 

But does this trend improve the quality of work, meaning wages and benefits? For more information, we turn to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which analyzed a quarter-century of robust U.S. economic growth (1979–2004) by analyzing data from last March’s Current Population Survey. 

During that 25-year period, Republican and Democratic presidents sat in the White House. As they governed the nation, the share of U.S. workers with “good jobs,” defined as hourly wages of at least $16.00 ($32,000 annually), plus a retirement pension and employer-paid health care remained the same -- 25 percent. 

“The U.S. economy has failed to convert long-term economic growth into better jobs,” said John Schmitt, CEPR economist and author of the report. 

In 1979 as in 2004, 75 percent of the employed American work force lacked good jobs, as defined by the CEPR. Consider these details. 

The economy’s inflation-adjusted output of goods and services per person rose by 60 percent between 1979 and 2004. (It is worth noting that such growth does not include unpaid household labor such as child-rearing and elder-caring.) 

Crucially, for these same 25 years there was no corresponding growth in the share of working Americans holding good jobs. At the same time, their education levels increased, while technology advanced by leaps and bounds. 

For three of every four U.S. workers, economic growth did not raise their living standards. The American economy, the world’s largest, has failed to improve the lives of regular people by providing them with more good jobs as a percentage of total employment. 

Accordingly, it is up to progressive media to explicate and validate this story of job quality for the American people. They have been living it.  

Seth Sandronsky is a member of Sacramento Area Peace Action and a co-editor of Because People Matter, Sacramento's progressive paper. He can be reached at ssandron@hotmail.com

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