I’ve been trying to figure out precisely how many jobs are available in the US at any time, but I think that information is not tracked. I guess it would involve employers letting someone know, “We’re hiring a new [position]” every time they decide to do so, and nobody in the government would take the time to keep up with that.
The reason I wanted this stat was: I bet it’s a smaller number than the number of adults over 18. But then, not every adult over 18 needs a job.
I’ve been hearing a lot of people default to the old Reagan era standby when confronted with the Occupy movement: “Oh, shut up and get a job.” But it’s not that simple, and I wish I had the stats to show why, but I can’t find them. So here’s the anecdota.
Getting a job is not equally easy for everyone
- Most of the people I know who’ve recently been hired are fresh out of college. Few employers want to hire workers who have experience and have already commanded decent salaries and know their rights. It’s like the desire to fuck virgins in hopes they’re so ignorant they won’t realize you’re lousy in bed.
- Even when employers are happy to hire older workers, workers who are 50+ cost them a lot more on health insurance, if the job provides that. It sadly does not really make business sense due to how healthcare is handled in this nation to hire people over 50, so that group is really, really screwed when they lose a job.
- Lots of employers buy into the totally bogus idea that fat people automatically cost more on health insurance than skinny ones, so they won’t hire people who are even a little overweight. Ironically, several recent skinny hires I know have fairly big health issues, and all the chubby people I know happen to have good health. And you know what else? Weight is absolutely no indicator which employees might need thousands of dollars’ worth of psychiatric medications and/or therapy sessions. But the prejudice persists.
- Employers don’t want to hire people with “gaps” in their “employment history”, so the following groups are always lucky to find part time minimum wage employment: the currently unemployed, someone who’s been staying home to raise kids, and people who have taken off time to nurse ailing relatives. Are those your idea of “bad people” who are “lazy” and just “don’t want a job?” If so, I sincerely hope your family sensibly refuses to take time off to care for you when you’re old and ailing. Wouldn’t want them to be “lazy”, would you?
- The disabled are always at a severe disadvantage. While they may have much to contribute, most employers, like most people, just assume it’ll be a lot of trouble and don’t even really consider hiring them. I have worked or temped at probably 100 different offices over about 15 years on the west coast, and you know what? I’ll let you know the instant I see a physically disabled person at one. It hasn’t happened yet. That should tell you something.
Jobs aren’t the cure-all
And none of this even touches the fact that “getting a job” does not equal “getting a job that anyone can actually live on. Again, no one has stats on this, but a huge number of jobs in the US don’t come with insurance or even paid sick time.
- Most waitstaff at restaurants
- Most retail workers (some corporations provide it IF the employees work X hours a week, and then only let a very few ever have that many hours)
- Delivery personnel, other than the USPS (as with retail, some companies provide it with a certain number of hours, but many employees aren’t given that number of hours)
- Fast food workers.
- Telemarketers/call centers.
Start counting the number of workers in those fields you encounter every day. It’s a huge number of people. And many of those people – most, in my experience – do not have a spouse whose insurance they can be included on, because people tend to marry similarly employed folks. Meaning, a professional who has health insurance will marry another professional who has health insurance rather than marry someone who works at a call center.
What the real problem is
When you hear people “whining” about the income gap, they’re not talking about younger workers not being as well off as older workers. That’s a normal function of seniority and everyone knows it. The problem is this:
- [Whelton PDF link] shows that in 1970, in the US, the average CEO made 11 times what the average hourly worker made. In† 2000, the average CEO made 531 times what the average hourly worker made.
- Globally, in 2004, the average CEO earned† to 10 times what average workers earned. This is a trend specific to the US.
- The rising CEO salaries are not in proportion to profits earned.
- Some individual CEOs earn more than the president, vice president, Supreme Court and Congress PUT TOGETHER.
That’s a Ponzi scheme, folks. It is not sustainable. That means, it can’t go on forever like a more stable economic system. It means that executives are draining more not just from the overall salary pool, but the company profits. Of course we can’t expect CEOs to be urgent about changing it – it’s designed to benefit them. But if you are not a CEO, and you’re just holding onto the idea that any decision made by people in authority must be brilliant, and anyone not in authority complaining about it must be defective, you need to exercise your brain. You should be very, very worried. I know loads of people who have good jobs and work hard, and they are worried, too – because they have enough sense to realize they could be next. And if not them, someone they care about.