150 factory workers in China threatened to jump off the roof of an iPhone factory unless they received a raise.
Similar stories are accumulating. Inflation, especially in food and other essentials, has been rampant over the last few years—and to make ends meet, desperate workers sometimes take drastic measures. These anecdotes underscore a major trend in China: skyrocketing cost of labor.
In the US, it’s the opposite. Since 2000, real wages (adjusted for inflation) have declined. The White House even touts this horrid statistic in its paper, Investing in America: Building an Economy That Lasts.
Clearly, the paper is not intended for the rank and file. It outlines how current policies are making America competitive with low-wage countries like China. And one of the principal strategies is … lowering wages. Graph from the White House paper:
The paper also touts the administration’s claim of having created 3.2 million jobs over the last 22 months. But these numbers are based on surveys, formulas, and statistical adjustments. The BLS’s Employment Population ratio, which the paper wisely leaves unmentioned, measures the percentage of people age 16 and older who have jobs. It’s the least corruptible employment number available—and at 58.5%, it’s only a fraction above the August level, which, at 58.1%, was the lowest reading since 1983. And it’s far below its peak of 64.7% in April 2000. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
The long decline from 64.7% parallels another statistic mentioned in the paper: from 2001 – 2007, three million manufacturing jobs were lost. Those were the Bush years, obviously. But what happened during the Obama years? Unmentioned, but just as bad. From the White House paper:
The tiny hook at the bottom is the ballyhooed uptick. But during the next economic downdraft, the line will likely plunge again. And the slack in employment will continue to contribute to the decline in real wages.
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