We all know that the real unemployment numbers for Michigan are difficult to come by, but the clever folks at Remapping Debate have given us an excellent interactive chart that shows the trend over the past ten years. They break it all down into four categories: unemployed, discouraged, involuntary part-time, and marginally attached.
In 2003, Michigan had a combined total of 12.2 percent. Ten years later the total is 16.7 percent. While this number doesn’t even begin to track those that have completely dropped-off the employment radar, Michigan, like the rest of the nation, has seen some traceable recovery in the past few years. Yet, it remains worth delving deeper into those numbers by category for a fuller appreciation of the gravity of the economic despair in the state.
Sure, under the Snyder administration unemployment has decreased, but that number is a poor indicator by which to measure the real employment situation in the state. In 2010, the core unemployment rate was 12 percent, and the marginally employed and discouraged were at 9 percent. By 2012, the unemployment rate had come down to 8.9, but those on the periphery were still at 7.8 percent, leaving Michigan in the sixth worst place in the nation.
Illustrating that point, last Saturday morning Michael Moore hosted a discussion on the economy and jobs with Robert Reich, the former U.S. Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Reich explained that the median income, when adjusted for inflation, has decreased across the nation by about 5 percent since the beginning of the recovery. The wages found in the new jobs are simply too low to sustain economic growth. Reich elaborated:
“It’s not a great achievement to create more jobs at lower wages. Theoretically, slavery was full employment”.
Today, we learn that Meijer Corporation has announced they plan to hire up to 9,000 new employees across several states, with 4,400 in Michigan. Their human resources spokesperson, Kevin Wiederhold, qualified the real nature of these employment opportunities:
“While many of these opportunities are part-time, these jobs can provide a gateway to a full-time career at Meijer. As we continue to grow, we are frequently looking to fill our ongoing part-time and full-time needs. These positions provide a great opportunity to get your foot in the door and demonstrate success within a growing company.”
It is unlikely job applicants will be permitted to seek more than one of these part-time “opportunities” at the mega-store in any attempt to flesh-out their not-quite-so-much-a living wage there. Employers across the nation have taken a policy of not allowing employees more than 28 hours in a work week so they may skirt the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
Robert Reich may have come closer to the mark on the slavery comment than perhaps even he intended.
Amy Kerr Hardin