I’m actually posting two related news articles for discussion - they both involve the disparity between general economic numbers and the employment numbers. I think they are summed up by the bold section in the first article:
The Commerce Department said last week that gross domestic product rose by an estimated 3.3 percent during the second quarter — much higher than the market expected. Also, the department’s report on July orders for big-ticket manufactured goods came in much stronger than forecast, jumping by 1.3 percent.
The growth was driven mostly by businesses and other countries — the rise in durable goods orders was due in large part to a gain in demand for commercial aircraft, while the largest factor in the GDP increase was the strong sales of exports.
“We’re moving from a consumer-driven economy to one being more led by exports,” said Robert Baur, chief global economist for Principal Global Investors. He said consumers’ contribution to gross domestic product might be peaking, after rising during the 1980s and 1990s from less than 65 percent to 70 percent.
Meanwhile, the Labor Department last week said the number of people signing up for jobless benefits declined for the third straight period, but remained above 400,000 — an indicator of a slowing economy.
The Rutgers labor scorecard offered other sobering findings:
*]About 530,000 were subject to mass layoffs in the last year, growth of nearly 5 percent, but a lower rate than five and 10 years ago.
*]The median weekly earnings for American workers have not grown in real terms over the last eight years.
*]At $6.55, the federal minimum wage is worth 40 cents less per hour, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was a decade ago.
*]While employer-assisted childcare and employee wellness programs have grown quickly over the last decade, they still cover less than one quarter of American workers.
*]Roughly 4 percent of the workforce wants to work full-time, but is working part-time because they can’t find full-time work.[/LIST]
It appears to me that we are experiencing an economic shift, as the first article mentions. I don’t view the news as all bad. Our businesses are struggling to compete in the global market, but they are still competing. Perhaps some of the gains during the 90s - real estate prices, consumer market gains, etc. - were a little bloated and this is a correction?