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False prosperity

Published: Fri, May 17, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Jim Hightower


At last, some excellent economic news for folks long-mired in the stagnant labor market.

“Jobs Spring Back,” exclaimed a typical headline on recent reports that 165,000 private-sector jobs were added in April. Wow — the thunderous, three-year boom of prosperity that has rained riches on Wall Street is finally beginning to shower on our streets, right?

Well, as dry-land farmers can tell you: Thunder ain’t rain. Read beneath the joyful headlines and you’ll see the parched truth.

For example, more than a third of working-age Americans are either out of work or have given up on finding a job. Also, last month’s hiring increase was almost entirely for receptionists, waiters, temp workers, car-rental agents, and other low-wage positions. Plus, manufacturing, generally the source of good, middle-class jobs, didn’t add workers in April, when the unemployment rate inched back to 7.5 percent.

Especially problematic was the continued rise in underemployment — people wanting full-time work, but having to take part-time and temporary jobs. Underemployment is also pounding college graduates. While they’ve been more successful than non-grads at landing jobs, they’re not getting jobs that fit their career goals or even require the degrees they spent money and time to obtain.

America’s middle class is in a crisis, while our pathetic political leaders pretend Wall Street’s prosperity covers us all .

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower, a radio commentator and public speaker, is also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. He wrote this for OtherWords, project of the Institute for Policy Studies.

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