November BLS: Another Ho-Hummer

Published on December 4th, 2015

The November Bureau of Labor Statistics report is the latest in a seemingly never-ending series of ho-hummers that included some marginally good news, but with plenty of bad mixed in.

The economy added 211,000 jobs with one of the leading contributors being, as usual, the hotel and food services sector, as well as retail. Those sectors added a combined 70,000 jobs, mostly low-paying and often part-time. Average hourly earnings rose $0.04, but the slightly higher wages were offset by a decline in the average hours worked from 34.6 to 34.5. Making more money means little if hours spent on the job are fewer.

Boeing robot paints 777 aircraft wing.

The official but discredited unemployment rate remained at 5 percent, but the more accurate U-6 rate rose .01 percent to an unacceptable 9.9 percent. The U-6 includes unemployed people, part-time workers who want a full-time job but can’t find one, and many discouraged workers who have given up the looking for employment.

Looking ahead, Americans face a challenging future wherein they will have to compete with a growing working-age population, increasing automation and endless competition from employment-authorized legal immigrants. First, approximately 4 million Americans turn 18 each year and join the work force.

Second, new research from the consultancy firm McKinsey & Company estimates that 45 percent of today’s jobs could be automated and that robots could perform an additional 13 percent of employment tasks once they’re programed to process spoken words. Machines could do nearly a third or more of jobs humans currently perform, according to McKinsey.

Boeing, for example, plans to use robots in the construction of its 777 fuselages instead of the human workers that traditionally attached the 60,000 hand-installed fasteners. The only jobs not vulnerable to automation are either low-paying, like landscaping and home health care, or high-end positions that require years of education like doctors, CEOs and lawyers. Take this Washington Post quiz here to see if your job is vulnerable to robot replacement.

Third, immigration adds at least 1 million new workers annually. With Muslim immigration and its effect on American security being hotly debated in Congress, it’s interesting to note that between 2001 and 2013, the U.S. permanently resettled about 1.5 million Muslim immigrants, most of them work authorized.

More workers, fewer jobs and more efficient automation mean tougher times ahead for Americans and their families. Please help American workers. Go to the CAPS Action Alert page here, and urge your congressional representative to block TPP that will increase foreign-worker competition through the increased numbers of L-1 and tourist visas that will lead to American job displacement.

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