Here Are 7 Charts About The US Economy That Should Cause A Revolution Right Now
on December 05 2013 5:21 AM
  • 001 Labor Force Participation
    Signs of a jobless recovery: The last recession officially ended in June 2009, but as we approach the end of 2013 the number of people participating in the job force has retreated to 1978 levels.
  • 002 jobs openings v seekers
    The official unemployment rate has been ticking down since the end of the last recession. (The gray bars indicate periods of U.S. economic contraction). Job openings are increasing at a slower pace than the decline in unemployment, suggesting that people are dropping out of the official statistics after their unemployment subsidies run out. Many are working in the informal economy, taking up odd jobs and being paid under the table. Economic Policies Institute
  • 002 NILF
    Further evidence that the oft-cited official government jobless figure doesn't tell the full story, especially in this era of so-called jobless economic recovery. Job creation (the red bars) is still being outpaced by the number of people who have dropped out of the formal labor force (the blue bars).
  • 003 - Wages To Profits
    Meanwhile, corporate profits are through the roof even as they require fewer and fewer workers to reap them. Workers face intense pressure to maximize output amid a climate of job insecurity and stagnating wages that don't keep up with inflation.
  • 004
    Meanwhile, hiring is nowhere near where it was before the recession. Interesting to note as well: the pace hiring today is significantly lower than it was during the nine-month recession in 2001. Economic Policies Institute
  • 005
    Meanwhile, four in ten households in America have seen their incomes shrink or remain unchanged since 1979. Another four in ten households have seen incomes grow well under one percent a year since then. Only the top 5 percent of households has seen steady income growth since 1947. Everyone else has seen their incomes either shrink, stagnate or grow at a much slower pace since 1979 compared to the 1947-1978 period. Economic Policies Institute
  • 006
    Meanwhile, employers are pushing employees off their health insurance rolls to help improve profit margins, forcing millions of working Americans who can't afford individual health insurance plans provided by the private sector to forego life-extending and lifestyle-changing preventative health care services. Economic Policies Institute
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The images that have been broadcast in recent days surrounding the annual orgy of consumer spending that kicks off after Thanksgiving depict a cash-rich America filled with millions of people shoveling billions of dollars of disposable income into an economy that depends greatly on their consumption of goods and services.

Through the eyes of a Chinese farmer, a Bangladeshi sweatshop worker or an African jihadist, this annual bacchanal of consumption is proof that America is a fabulously wealthy country whose citizens' primary concerns are not securing clean drinking water or sufficient calorie intake (signs of so-called abject poverty) but rather acquiring the thinnest tablet, the fastest gaming console or the latest pair of basketball kicks. In short, the world’s poorest have no need to feel any sympathy for America’s poorest -- because they’re too busy trying to keep themselves and their families alive.  

This point, about how America’s poor don’t really know the meaning of real poverty, is used by groups like the conservative Heritage Foundation, whose stance on the matter is that America’s poor are largely able to provide for themselves shelter and food, and that in the U.S., “real material hardship … is limited in scope and severity.”

It’s true. America doesn’t have an "abject poverty" problem like the world’s poorest countries face. It does, however, have a poverty problem, and it’s getting worse as even working Americans are experiencing underemployment, lack of job security and eroding incomes. The cost of health care in America is so much higher than the rest of the world that one might wonder whether it’s a matter of U.S. social policy to steer the poor toward earlier graves (often from "lifestyle diseases" caused by obesity and smoking) before they become a drain on entitlements like Social Security and Medicare after they hit 65. 

The effects of the 18-month economic recession that kicked off in December 2007, one of the longest U.S. economic retreats since the Great Depression, have not abated. The lingering negative impact on the lives of millions of households is being masked by the paper wealth effect of rising real estate and equity prices, and the dependence on the Fed’s current monetary policy, which has sent the cost of borrowing to historic lows. 

“Due to the weak economic recovery, a large number of people have simply ‘dropped out’ of the labor force but are not retired,” writes Lance Roberts, host of “StreetTalkLive,” in his most recent column about the disturbing trend of low labor force participation in the U.S. That means many Americans have been jobless for so long they’ve dropped out of the formal economy and are either sitting idle, jobless and economically inactive, or they’ve entered the black economy.

Above are seven charts that help explain how despite the consumer frenzy, despite the meteoric rises seen on the bourses, America’s economy is facing some fundamental problems that haven’t even begun to be addressed by Congress, which seems too busy getting nothing done to do anything about the state of working lower- and middle-class America.  

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