US wages and salaries rise at record-low levels

Published on WSWS, by Andre Damon, 31 October 2009.

Employment costs in the US rose at the lowest annual amount in at least 27 years, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department. Stagnant wages and salaries are the outcome of government policies designed to lower the living standards of workers.

Over the past 12 months, the Labor Department’s Employment Cost Index rose by 1.5 percent, marking the lowest wage and salary growth since these figures started to be collected in 1982.

Meanwhile, compensation costs for the three-month period ending in September increased by 0.4 percent, among the lowest level since quarterly records began in 2001. This figure was unchanged from the previous quarter, and up slightly from the 0.3 percent growth in the first quarter of the year. 

In the 12-month period before September 2008, employment costs rose by 2.6 percent …

… The number of workers the federal government has actually employed in new projects is miniscule—estimated at 30,000 by the administration itself in a report released earlier this month.

In some states, the impact of federal programs has been negligible—including about 400 in Michigan, which has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 15.2 percent.

In reviewing these figures, the Associated Press found significant reporting errors, with certain new positions being counted as many as five times. The analysis showed that, based on the government’s records, the figure should have been 25,000, not 30,000.

Similar overestimations were quickly discovered in the figures released on Friday. For example, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the White House claimed that 6,598 jobs were saved or created in Utah. “But discrepancies were easy to find,” the newspaper noted. “Some entities seemed to create their own criteria, while others double counted employees over multiple contracts. The most common error appeared to be counting temporary or part-time work as a full-time job.”

Since the recession began in December 2007, 7.6 million jobs have been eliminated from the economy, and 3 million since Obama’s stimulus program was approved. Even if one were to accept the government’s estimates, a stimulus program that would address the unemployment crisis would need to be at least ten times the size of the one that has been passed. Instead, the Obama administration has rejected any further stimulus measures.

In fact, mass unemployment has been part of a deliberate policy, allowing for corporations to exploit workers’ fears over the poor labor market. The financial and corporate elite has used the economic crisis it created to carry out a massive redistribution of wealth. The bank bailouts will be paid for through attacks on the working class—including austerity measures, cuts in social programs and a continual attack on wages and benefits. (full text).

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