Working Class Forecast

I posted a short story about the changing workforce trends a few weeks ago and later found that my data sources were conflicting. The information in this post was gathered from Excel tables that I downloaded from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the US Census Bureau.

The actual estimated number of job losses, in all payroll jobs, from December 1,2007 thru January 31, 2010, was 10,309,000, bringing the total number of unemployed workers to 16,147,000, with the unemployment rate of 10.6%. The latest information from September, 2015, shows an unemployment rate of only 4.9% [in December 2007 the rate was 4.8%].

According to the numbers, it looks like things are back to normal for the American working class, but life here is far from normal. Let’s take a look at poverty in the US. In 2007 there were 37 million people (12%) in the US living at or below the level of poverty, in 2014 the number grew to 46.6 million (15%).

Now, let’s take a look at Poverty and Gross Domestic Product for 2014. I’ve gathered Census data for four states on poverty and Economic estimates for GDP by state.

United States Gross National Product: 2014 Estimated Current-Dollar GDP by State: $17,316,314,000

2014 Texas California Alabama Missouri
GDP $1,648,036,000 $2,311,616,000 $199,440,000 $284,462,000
% US Total 9.5% 13.3% 1.2% 1.6%
Total living in   Poverty 4,523,708 6,259,098 910,175 908,628
Percent of Total 17.2% 16.4% 19.3% 15.5%
Children under 18 1,728,982 2,047,259 302,736 287,081
Percent under 18 25% 23% 28% 21%

“Family economic success provides a critical foundation for healthy child development, which, in turn, relates to more positive outcomes in adulthood. Ongoing exposure to economic stress and hardship can negatively affect children's physical and mental health, academic achievement and social-emotional well-being.”

Anne Casey Foundation: Kids Count

For example, there are almost 15,000 children behind bars whose “most serious offense” wasn’t anything that most people would consider a crime: almost 12,000 children are behind bars for “technical violations” of the requirements of their probation or parole, rather than for a new specific offense. More than 3,000 children are behind bars for “status” offenses, which are, as the U.S. Department of Justice explains: “behaviors that are not law violations for adults, such as running away, truancy, and incorrigibility.”

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of Justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is manmade and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that generation. Let greatness blossom.”

                -Nelson Mandela

US population below the poverty level in history:

2014 2010 1959
14.8% 15.1% 22.4%

Children in families below poverty level:

21.6% 22% 27.3%

Children in single female households below poverty level:

56.7% 58.1% 24.1%

Poverty level by race:

Year White Black Asian Hispanic
2014 17.9% 37.1% 12.0% 31.9%
2010 18.5% 39.0% 13.6% 34.9%
1985 16.8% 43.6% xx 40.3%
1976 11.6% 40.6% xx 30.2%

(Hispanic figures are counted twice, by race then ethnicity, after 2002 due to change in population controls)

Changing Trends in the US Workforce

The number of persons counted in the labor force between 2007 and 2014 who had no High School diploma, those with a diploma but no college, and those with an Associate degree or some college, have all decreased, as did the number of employed in these groups. Those who earned their Bachelor’s degree or higher increased significantly, as did those of this group who are now employed.

Furthermore, the overall percent of population in the labor force decreased relative to the increase in total population. This suggests that many of the people who lost jobs during the crash have not recovered, plus many new young adults without higher education cannot find employment.

This decline in economic equality is due to several factors. The number one cause, aside from outsourcing labor jobs to developing countries, seems to be the purchase of process automation systems by large employers. In addition to eliminating lower level jobs, the new automated systems require higher education in technology to operate and maintain.

While corporate profits continue to soar, the increasingly rigid hiring criteria for these newly created jobs have blazed a new trail of exclusion for anyone who does not look good on paper. Then, add to that the extensive personal background check services that many companies now use for screening applicants, and hiring exclusions become unimpeded by silly things like Equal Opportunity laws.

One of the new industries taking off in the US is that of selling personal information to perspective employers, and other inquiring minds. Arrest records are public information but can be difficult to locate online without a service. Credit history services also charge fees. And now, there are the all-in-one services online that will search for any and all information about a person, including old dating profiles, social site identities and associations. The list of personal and private information that can be found, by legal or other means, is almost limitless.

So, who is hit the hardest by these workforce trends?

  1. Single women with children, or other dependant family members, of all races, who have time and distance limitations which prevent access to better job opportunities and/or higher education.
  2. Returning military veterans who have limited resources for attaining higher education, many of whom suffer health disparities related to combat and limited access to adequate healthcare.
  3. People who have worked their way up the ladder without the luxury of the all-mighty Bachelor’s degree.
  4. People of all races with health related barriers to traditional employment and higher education programs.
  5. The homeless: people who have lost their jobs and homes due economic hardship, and have little or no family or social support.
  6. The victims of mass incarceration from 1980 through 2000. [Between 1984 and 1989, the total correctional population grew almost 35%, from 2.7 million to 3.7 million. And, between 2008 and 2013, that population decreased by almost a half million.]

The Beautiful Minds Ranch network of communities is a living solution for people who don’t look peachy on paper to perspective employers. Each BMR community will benefit a rural community directly in the following categories:

  1. Build a sustainable, affordable housing community which produces its own clean energy
  2. Grow organic, greenhouse food products using permaculture technologies
  3. Operate a vacation resort to accommodate tourists
  4. Provide learning workshops and educational programs for youth and other interested groups
  5. Participate in Community Supported Agricultural programs
  6. Promote performing arts festivals and art exhibits
  7. Attract new local tourism with the fast growing industries of eco-tourism and agritourism as a model sustainable micro-community.