Sunday, September 05, 2004

Economics is an Extension of Warfare by other Means

It is amusing to see Mr. Bush try to put a positive spin on the recent employment statistics. And even more amusing to see gullible Americans gobble it up like so much chicken feed.

The sound-bite numbers: 144,000 new jobs. Unemployment rate down from 5.5 to 5.4%

The meaningful numbers: The percentage of adults in the labor force is down from 66.2% to 66.0%. The growth rate of the labor force is down to 0.5%, compared to 1.5% last year. Looking at just the prime-age workers -- those between ages 25 and 54 -- the rate of growth dropped from 1.6% to 0.5%.

Part of the boost in new jobs reported came from workers returning to plants that shut down for retooling in July. Thus, those were not really new jobs. When you consider that growth in domestic automobile sales is declining, some of those jobs are not going to last.

Last month's wage increases almost, but not quite, kept up with inflation. Some workers were able to make up the difference by working extra hours, so the average weekly pay has kept up with inflation. Of course, with new overtime rules in effect, it will be harder to make up the difference by working more hours, and it will even more tempting for employers to squeeze extra hours out of workers, rather than hiring more workers.

This, of course, will increase the cost of health care:

Always on the Job, Employees Pay With Health
Published: September 5, 2004

American workers are stressed out, and in an unforgiving economy, they are becoming more so every day.

Sixty-two percent say their workload has increased over the last six months; 53 percent say work leaves them "overtired and overwhelmed." [...]

It is enough to make workers sick - and it does.

Decades of research have linked stress to everything from heart attacks and stroke to diabetes and a weakened immune system. Now, however, researchers are connecting the dots, finding that the growing stress and uncertainty of the office have a measurable impact on workers' health and, by extension, on companies' bottom lines.

Workplace stress costs the nation more than $300 billion each year in health care, missed work and the stress-reduction industry that has grown up to soothe workers and keep production high, according to estimates by the American Institute of Stress in New York. And workers who report that they are stressed, said Steven L. Sauter, chief of the Organizational Science and Human Factors Branch of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, incur health care costs that are 46 percent higher, or an average of $600 more per person, than other employees.

"The costs are significant," Dr. Sauter said, adding, "Those are just the costs to the organization, and not the burden to individuals and to society." [...]

Imagine what we could do with that $300 billion dollars. If there were no workplace stress, we could afford to invade Iran!