6th February 2010
There’s a lot of rigging of jobs data, so it’s easy for any new announcement to get my adrenalin pumping. Add to that the way journalists and economists talk about these numbers – and it’s enough to get a girl blogging.
The particular article raising my ire today is James Politi’s in the FT: “US data send out mixed message as 1m more jobs lost”.
In it Politi writes: “Yesterday’s data included revisions to figures from a year ago showing 8.4m jobs were lost since the crisis started, nearly 1m more than earlier estimates, offering a stark (a touch of empathy inserted here) reminder” “of the trouble the labour market finds itself in.”
The labour market? In trouble? Come off it James, the labour market is not in trouble. At least, but likely many more than 8.4 million people and their families have felt the trouble, the pain, humiliation and loss of unemployment, but the market I fear, feels nothing. It doesn’t get that feeling we get when the employer’s email goes around: “Oh, my gawd, I have lost my job. I am in trouble. The credit card. Bills to pay. Healthcare. The children. My elderly mother. Mortgage. I did not see this coming, now I am really in trouble.”
No the market does not feel a thing. It carries on working as markets do. Destroying people’s life opportunities, their incomes, and with that their personal lives, their marriages, their healthcare – and perhaps threatening their present homes as a future abode. Does the market care? Does it hell. Because ‘the market’ is also lowering costs to companies, and strengthening the hand of employers in relation to workers and trades unions. Call that trouble? Pull the other one.
So why do journalists anthropomorphise ‘the market’ – why do they care about whether it is ‘in trouble’ or not? Well, I suppose like doctors and nurses they have to distance themselves from this tragedy, if they are to go on working, and believing in the market. Furthermore, to keep the whole shebang going, they have to distance – and numb – their readers to this immense and quite unnecessary, personal, social and economic tragedy.
Be not numbed, I say. Remember what Roosevelt said: “lay hold of the fact that economic laws are not made by nature. They are made by human beings.” And the law of mass unemployment is amongst the most inhuman of those economic laws.