Despite rhetoric from businesses and governments, unemployment/employment statistics do not provide useful information. And worse, whether about the Great Depression or about today, they are a distraction.
Unemployment data says nothing about:
- what work or employment mean
- what jobs pay
- available “benefits”
- how many jobs a person has
- how many hours a person works
- unofficial economies
- the kinds of labor people perform
- spending power
- economic inequality
- gender inequality
- race inequality
- planning for the future
- personal health and satisfaction
- forced dependency on welfare/aid from others
Focusing on the percentage of people employed promotes a never-actually-historically-realized utopia idea that work–being employed–guarantees a certain level of economic security and advancement. Such data also says, without an acknowledgment of social constructions, that work is not just necessary but a positive good.
Rhetoric about low unemployment data gives the employed permission to flee responsibility or thoughts of further concern. (But why is it economists say a healthy economy must have some level of unemployment – permission to flee responsibility?!)
The popular cliché–“He who does not work, neither shall he eat”–gets in wrong on both accounts. Not feeding someone–regardless–is immoral, especially in a world with plenty and with food thrown away en masse. And working does not guarantee someone can eat. Thousands of students and their teachers and professors go hungry everyday because the powers at be have determined that their own increased wealth is more important. Thousands of government workers are going hungry because of the POTUS’s support of White Supremacy. In addition this wisdom operates under the false assumption that work is automatically good and that people will be allowed to do said work. And even if those in charge of the economy allowed it to work, “work=eat” is a very low standard.
Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda