Peter Camejo's Long Wave, continued

Philip,

The many questions you raise are precisely the right ones and point to a weakness of my original posting(s) for which I must apologize. They assume a level of familiarity with current U.S. economic conditions and statistics that most people, including those who live in the United States, don't have. So, I'm going to go fishing on the web and give this the once over lightly treatment, with not too many numbers, I hope!

And people reading this should be mindful ¤'m not attempting to present either a balanced or carefully researched picture, but just picking up figures and stats from various places on the web, mostly government sites, that illustrate or corroborate or indicate what's new and different in the past few years.

So now the news on the American economy since the end of the Cold War, as it relates to growth, employment, the manufacturing/industrial sectors, with a bit more on productivity.

To start with, though ...

Louis makes a very good point in another post that Wall Street, the Dow 10,000 and all that is esssentially a sideshow. The stock market at best is a distorted picture, at worse, a false one. We should look instead at the real economy.

My theses is that U.S. is now undergoing a "prolonged" period of relatively higher growth in production and productivity thanks first and foremost to the "digital revolution." By "prolonged" I envision something on the order of 15 or 20 years, a few business cycles

The current U.S. expansion is the longest on record in peacetime. Since the end of the "Gulf War" recession in 1991 the U.S. has "officially" not had a recession. For the first few years, until about 1994, growth was good but not out of the range of what might be expected, given past performance.

In 1995 there was a blip -- very little growth for a couple of quarters, which I believe marked the "downturn" or "low point" of that business cycle, even though it was not a full-fledged recession (i.e., a contraction of the economy's output) thanks to the "extra oomph" provided by the digital transformation of the economy.

Coming out of that '95 slowdown, U.S. economic growth has been breathtaking by advanced capitalist country standards. GDP grew 3.4% in 1996, 3.9% in 1997 and 98, and was increasing at an annual rate of 4.3% in the first quarter of this year.

U.S. economists believe the "natural" maximum sustainable growth rate of the U.S. economy is somewhere around 2% or less, 1% or less from productivity gains, 1% from population gains. Go any faster, and the inevitable result is inflation.

There's an emerging school of thought around Fed chairman Alan Greenspan who believe that the introduction of new technologies had made possible faster growth without inflation. Greenspan's gradual acceptance of the idea is interesting to watch and can be traced in his speeches posted on the Fed's web page.

* * *

But I digress. U.S. economic growth has pushed unemployment down to 1960s levels. The "rate" is at 4.2%, but that "headline" figure is very slippery, since only those ACTIVELY looking for work. are counted.

As a result, the unemployment rate was basically unchanged in May at 4.2% from the 4.4% rate of a year earlier, despite an increase of 1,750,000 people with jobs, May 98 to May 99. And this sort of thing has been going on for years. Over the past 9 years, there has been a net increase of 18 million jobs in the U.S. economy, far, far exceeding the rate of population growth.

The boom has brought out many, many workers who were previously not viewed as such. They were considered either retired, or disabled, or housewives or students or nothing at all.

Today the rate of labor force participation (the percentage of adults in the workforce) is the highest it's ever been. It shows how capital keeps drawing into the money economy even broader swaths of the population, even in the most "mature" capitalist economies.

* * *

On the manufacturing sector, from 1992 to 1997, the most recent year for which I've been able to find the breakdown of GDP by sector, it grew by 28% in "chained" 1992 dollars (for our purposes, roughly equivalent to "constant" dollars). For comparison, over the previous 1986-90 period, manufacturing grew less than 5% (I did not include 1991 in either computation because that was a recession year when manufacturing declined about 4%. Including 1991 would have artificially inflated the uptrend of the following years, and dragged down artificially the figure for the earlier period).

This means the productivity gains of the recent period in manufacturing -- as opposed to those of the 1980s, do take place against a backdrop of rising output, and aren't simply the result of closing older, less efficient plants.

They are not, however, accompanied by much of an increase in manufacturing employment. Virtually all the gains in output are coming from productivity increases and efficiencies.

The U.S. central bank, the federal reserve, publishes its own set of indexes on what it considers the industrial sector of the economy. I believe these may be less exhaustive in their data gathering, but nevertheless are very useful because they are near real time, i.e., updated through May 99. They show industrial production at an index level of 134.1 in May (1992=100). The figure is not strictly equivalent to the manufacturing sector of the National Income and Production Accounts (the GDP folks) because the fed considers utilities part of the industrial sector, whereas the national accounts people for some inexplicable reason put them in with services. According to the fed's index, capacity utilization is relatively low by historical standards, at just over 80%, compared to 82% a year ago. Virtually the entire increase in capacity this reflects is in manufacturing, and in particular a sector the fed calls "advanced processing" and which includes the electronics industry. Also according to the fed, manufacturing output has grown relatively little over the past 12 months, 2% or so, due to reduced demand from abroad, so part of the additional capacity, we might surmise, is actually a result of a miscalculation by enterprises. It may also be part of the typical sort of thing that leads to a downturn in the capitalist business cycle, although a good, solid recession is usually preceded by a large runup of inventories and that hasn't happened yet. But we're just about due for a slowdown. The last one was in 95, by my reckoning, and they tend to happen every 4 years.

* * *

In other posts I've gone over the labor productivity trends, including why I think the OVERALL productivity figure should be ignored, basically that it is two unreliable.

I cited recent BLS studies, forgetting that Greenspan has made very similar points a couple of years ago in relation to he difficulty of measuring prices in the service sector, so I want to quote that here.

Greenspan was speaking about the "Boskin commission" -- a blue ribbon expert panel that said the CPI was overstating inflation by about 1% a year:

Anyways, Greenspan came out with this comment:

"The Boskin commission, along with most other estimates of bias in the U.S. CPI, have taken a microstatistical approach, estimating separately the magnitude of each category of potential bias. Recent work by staff economists at the Federal Reserve Board has added corroborating evidence of price mismeasurement, using a macroeconomic approach that is essentially independent of the microstatistical exercises." "Specifically, employing disaggregated data [i.e., they got a hold of the service sector productivity data the BLS is too embarrassed to publish] from the national income and product accounts, this research finds that the measured growth of real output and productivity in the service sector is implausibly weak, given that the return to owners of businesses in that sector apparently has been well-maintained. Indeed, the published data indicate that the level of output per hour in a number of service-producing industries has been falling for more than two decades. "It is simply not credible that firms in these industries have been becoming less and less efficient for more than twenty years. Much more reasonable is the view that prices have been mismeasured and that the true quality-adjusted prices have been rising more slowly than the published price indexes. Properly measured, output and productivity trends in these service industries might be considerably stronger than suggested by the published data. Assuming, for example, no change in productivity for these industries would imply a price bias [i.e., an overstatement of inflation] consistent with the Boskin commission findings."

However, such a miscalculation would affect not only productivity, but also production, i.e., the GDP figure is skewed downward.

* * *

I think this evidence, while perhaps not conclusive, as this is anything but an exhaustive study, demonstrates what is going on. It still leaves the question, "so what"?

First, let me say once again that I reject the theory that you can or should draw conclusions regarding tactics and orientation from a bare economic analysis.

But I do think the reality of the country should be taken into account in formulating political approaches. For years, many on the left have been hanging on to this idea and propaganda line that the standard of living of the average worker is declining, that before we were better off. I think this sort of rap is counterproductive, because, even if the statistics are right, it isn't true about most workers. Most people earn much more at 45 than they do at 25. Even if the average wage of a 25 year old today were really lower in real terms than, say, 20 years ago, the 45 year old worker is probably earning much more today in real terms than he did when he was 25, and has probably enjoyed a gradually rising living standard.

But if Boskin and Greenspan are right, then even the somewhat rarefied argument that a 25 year old today makes less than you did two decades ago is likely to be false, and the trend probably got reversed at some point in the 80s.

This would explain why this kind of propaganda finds so little response among working people, why there is so little response from the working class to the continuing assault on their living standards and so on.

It also thoroughly and definitively trashes all this bunk about the U.S. social security system going bellyup in 30 years, which is predicated on the idea that labor productivity growth is microscopically small. It also helps explain the curious phenomenon that the same kinds of economic projection that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the boomers will be condemned to pauperized retirements, when applied to federal budgets over a 10 or 15 year period, are so inaccurate that six month's additional data are enough to blow a trillion dollar hole in the projections. And in case anyone is wondering, yes, a trillion dollars is real money.

* * *

The picture that emerges from the more reliable official statistics and the debunking of the spurious ones is that of an economy rocketing like a bat out of hell in a vigorous expansion, in which manufacturing and the industrial sector are participating in most regards. This happens to be a particularly favorable period, from a narrow, economic point of view, for the capitalist economy and is likely to remain that way for some years yet. Sooner or later, the lucky breaks that allowed for this boom will exhaust themselves, and the very achievement of the boom -- a much larger capacity to produce -- will become the root cause of recession, depression, prolonged economic malaise or some other form of capitalist economic unpleasantness we can't even imagine yet. And that will likely stick around for quite a few years, too.

The point is, those who would like to play a role in transforming a society had better have a fairly good grasp of what's going on in that society which they're trying to change. Most people just plain aren't going to listen to some group that says the sky is falling, because most people go outside every day and know damn well it just plain ain't so.

* * *

Whew! Another too long post. I think there's a bit of a polemical touch here and there, aimed, really, not at you, Philip, but at the traditional left groups who are still living in the 1970s, or perhaps even the 1930s.

I know there are many of your observations I haven't addressed, but my time has run out!

Jose G. Perez


One shouldn't ignore the character of the historical bloc in force. The present ruling coalition is governed in their policies by a different logic and this is why the character of the domestic distribution of growth in the US is different than during the post-World War II boom. The focus of the New Deal regime, contrary to the wishes of many fractions of the capitalist class, but given the extraordinary situation, was on holding the line on the degree of inequality, and the effect, despite massive GDP growth and accumulation, was that the degree of inequality was held constant, at the same time poverty was dramatically reduced, officially from over 30 percent in 1950 to 12 or so percent by the end of the 1960s. This was accomplished through various government mechanisms (progressive income tax, social spending). Different story today, different historical bloc, different class fractions, different geopolitical situation, different phase of capitalist development. The fact that the present ruling coalition doesn't redistribute their surpluses in the fashion of the 1950s-1960s doesn't mean that capital is vulnerable.

Andy Austin


Andy, didn't the story shift because the New Deal regime was drifting toward socialism by the late sixties ? By this I mean, that objectively capitalism must have mass poverty ,unemployment and discrimination (split labor market). imperialism ( dual labor market). The liberal programs not only reduced actual poverty, as you say, but the ideology and rhetoric implied taking the war on poverty, and for full employment , civil rights and anti-imperialism to their logical conclusion: eradicating poverty , unemployment discrimination and war.

The shift in historical bloc was necessary for capitalism to save itself.

Charles Brown


Charles,

The New Deal historical bloc fragmented in the 1970s because globalization reached a qualitative point in its development and the post-War boom fizzled. Capitalism became unstable in the breach. Whether this period was a crisis depends on how one defines crisis. Certainly at some levels it was a crisis, though not nearly as severe as the 1930s. I wouldn't say that the historical bloc gave way in order for capitalism to save itself. I don't think capitalism was in danger of collapse during the 1970s-80s. Rather the economic instability created the opportunity for ultracapitalist forces to organize a (successful) assault on the regulatory and social welfare culture that had emerged during the 1950s-early 1970s. This counteroffensive has led to the development of a new historical bloc, what I call the New Right.

I would disagree that the country was moving towards socialism during the 1960s. Certainly the business class believed this, and a series of conferences they organized during the early 1970s warned of "creeping socialism." But I don't think that white liberals had any intention of ending job discrimination or the material conditions of racism. Legislation passed during the 1960s was mainly aimed at political liberties, with the economic reforms carefully structured so as to permit future abandonment (which should be accomplished in another 5 years or so through various mechanisms). Black leaders understood this, including MLK, and began agitating for economic justice. This is what led to the utilization of the coercive side of the state's hegemonic weaponry in the late-1960s-1970s. The black movement was crushed and the split labor market was secured (not returned, since it never left).

As for the split labor market itself, it was being reconstructed throughout the 1950s and 1960s to decrease white unemployment and increase black unemployment. Prior to the great depression, unemployment among blacks was less, since employers in many important industries preferred black employees. After 1940, the federal government in its reconstruction regime ranked neighborhoods according to desirability and began paying whites to move out of the central cities in the millions. They also subsidized industry to move out of the North. This was after white employers in the North had lured millions of blacks from the South into the North's central cities. Unemployment began to fall for whites throughout this period, and because whites make up a large majority, and with government FHA loans, the GI Bill, and other subsidies in their pockets, poverty fell dramatically among whites. The trend was the opposite for blacks, and continues to be, despite cyclical fluctuations.

So, whereas the 1930 census shows the white-black unemployment ratio at 92, by the 1947-49 period it was 160, and by 1954 it was 200, and it has remained between 200 and 300 (depending on economic conditions) ever since. This has very much to do with the transformation of the US economy into a more profound dual labor market, with rising organic composition of capital creating a high-wage sector of white workers (and a handful of skilled minorities), a low-wage labor market for unskilled workers, disproportionately minority, and a surplus population, overwhelmingly minority. The split labor market cuts across this dual labor market situation.

I am not arguing that it was a conspiracy that whites lured blacks by the millions into the central cities and then paid whites by the millions to move out and abandon blacks in ghettos, but this is what happened nonetheless.

Therefore, in the period that is often credited as the most progressive period in US history, and was in certain respects, especially for certain racialized groups--i.e., whites--it was also a period where capital and the state reorganized the racial system of domination. They did not try to eliminate it. The same is true with the redistributive policy of the state and leading/dominating fractions of the capitalist class during the 1950s and 1960s--the economy was being globalized, the North South relations transformed, under the rubric of West-East confrontation. This required securing the legitimacy of capitalism in the wake of its worst crisis (at least in the 20th century). Nothing has ever been done--nothing of any substance, anyway--to address the underlying problem of racism or inequality. And clearly, any reforms that were made were to strengthen capitalism over against the people, not to move the country in the direction of socialism.

Andy Austin


Hi Jose,

thanks for your excellent post. I found it very useful. I didn't take it at all as polemical against me, since I had already indicated agreement with you that left rhetoric about imminent collapses was a waste of time. My main point to you, had been that the original figures you posted about productivity gains were not, by themselves, enough to indicate the validity of the main point you were making about US economic growth and stability. Your new post, however, does provide a lot more evidence and is very useful for just that reason.

I also found the points you made about rising living standards for many workers in the US interesting, because that is certainly not the case in New Zealand.

In the current issue of the magazine I'm involved in here, 'revolution', we ran an article by a young bakery worker in Christchurch. His experience was that more and more young workers cannot even get directly hired for factory work, but have to go through employment agencies, work as temps with poor pay and conditions, then go on short-term contracts, casualised work, and so on.

One of the editorial collective members then did some research to get some stats to run with the article and found that real wages in NZ for the bulk of workers were lower than in the 1980s, that the average income of 15-19 year-olds had fallen *astronomically* (by about six-sevenths!), and that out of about ten age groups, the incomes of all age groups except two - one age-group in the mid forties and one somewhere in the thirties, if I recall - had fallen.

I tutor in the history department at Canterbury University, and this institution is full of people who are here purely because there are no jobs for them. Student numbers here have almost doubled, and the same is true at many other universities. We have students who are often semi-literate who can get into university because there are no academic standards they have to meet to enroll (market reforms mean dumbed-down education and the removal of academic qualifications for entry), and they can take out loans to pay tuition fees and for living expenses, if they aren't entitled to a student allowance.

Unemployment in New Zealand is about 300 times (yes, three hundred times) higher than it was in the 1960s, in numbers, although the population has only increased by under a million. (And as percentage of the workforce, it is still scores of times higher than in the 60s.)

In the past decade, there has been virtually no growth at all in male full-time employment in this country, but a very noticeable growth in male part-time employment. There has been only a slight growth in female full-time employment, but again a noticeable growth of female part-time employment. (Percentage wise the stand-out statistic is actually the growth of male part-time employment.)

But we are constantly told there is a 'recovery' here as well.

So although I always think it is daft when lefties get carried away with themselves and see imminent collapse of capitalism at every turn (a view only too common on the left these days), I am also highly sceptical when I read accounts of fantastic upturn. It seems to me that the system is ambling along, without much dynamism and with neither crash nor boom around the corner.

However, I do think you have made out a pretty strong case for your argument that in the USA there is a real upturn at present. It'll be interesting to see what response you get from US lefties on the list.

Cheers,

Phil Ferguson


Philip,

Wow!

I had no idea the situation in N.Z. was that drastic. I have been aware for quite some time that things in Europe are hardly ideal, with union-wide unemployment at very high levels, close to nil growth, and, in reality, declining living standards for a good section if not the big majority of the working people. Ditto for Japan.

Which, I think, raises a lot of questions about the nature of the current U.S. economic growth, which, whether one view it a just okay or exceptional by historical standards, is clearly an exception to the post Cold War well-nigh unanimous experience of the capitalist economies on a world scale.

Some factors that might be at play here are:

- The U.S. cashes in the biggest, or perhaps even only significant "peace dividend" from the cold war among major capitalist power, since it was spending so much more than anyone else.

- The U.S. was affected much less by the collapse of the soviet union & European socialist bloc, because it had a lot less trade and so on with them.

For it certainly can't be that the benefits of the digital revolution come packaged in such a way as to benefit only American capitalism. With whatever tweaks, they should benefit just as much or even more any other capitalist economy developed enough to have the necessary infrastructure, capital and human resources to widely deploy this stuff.

The latest BLS stats, BTW, released just a couple of days ago, show growing stagnation in manufacturing in the U.S. This might be another "phantom" recession (a marked, cyclical downturn that doesn't quite make it to recession status) or perhaps the beginning of a "real," official recession. Either way, if so, it would be right on time and the third slowdown of the 90s (90-91, 95, 99). In which case what the fed just did -- increasing interest rates -- might well prove to be a goof that only makes things worse, as REAL interest rates ("real" meaning with inflation factored out) are already high and VERY high if you believe (as Greenspan seems to) that the Consumer Price Indicator is overstating inflation by 1%, perhaps more a year.

Jose Perez


JosÚ: "Even if the average wage of a 25 year old today were really lower in real terms than, say, 20 years ago, the 45 year old worker is probably earning much more today in real terms than he did when he was 25, and has probably enjoyed a gradually rising living standard."

I think you are wrong here Jose. If my rail industry stats are any guide, the average worker is making significantly less in real terms than 20 years ago. Now the family income might be up, since most women are working today, and in the last few years there has been a lot of overtime for everyone.

When the current boom ends, and one or the other spouse loses a job, and the other doesn't get the overtime anymore, then you will see some action.

Keep in mind as well, that when a two-income family is working round the clock, the time for serious thought about politics and changing the world is minimal.

Jon Flanders


Jon,

I do not know what the structure of rates of pay of the rail industry are, nor how stable the labor force is so that one could expect many or most workers who entered the industry in their 20s to still be there two decades later. If most are still in the same enterprises, this would be very atypical of the U.S. economy today, where people in their 20s and 30s change jobs every few years (five or seven, I vaguely remember from a study I saw somewhere, but don't quote it!).

There have been studies done of the average income of 25 year olds versus 45 year olds, 50 year olds, etc. (income of a given generational cohort over time) showing that average real income rises sharply until the mid 40s then levels of. I can't remember exactly where they were, but I recall they were based on census bureau data.

The basic argument is that you find very few people in their 20s in the better jobs, they tend to be toward the entry level. And that you find very few people in the 40s in the entry level, they tend to have a lot of the better jobs. So it's the upward mobility in jobs over time, rather than any upward movement of wages for a given job, that produces this effect.

I should think that what was in the 70s a highly unionized industry which has had to pay all workers well, what you say might well be true. But I believe those cases are a minority, not typical of what has been the experience of the "baby boomers" and following generational cohorts.

Jose


Jose, you expressed some surprise about falling living standards in New Zealand. I would be surprised if workers' living standards had NOT fallen in the USA in some similar way.

In the current issue of 'revolution', we ran an article on temping by a young bakery worker who is part of our political circle. He was recounting his experiences as a recent high school leaver entering the workforce.

With it we ran a box on stats to do with male/female and youth employment and income, which Sharon Jones of the editorial collective put together.

Here is what she wrote:

Worse pay, worse employment: the facts

Between March 1986 and March 1998, the unemployment rate doubled, rising from 4 percent to 8 percent. During the same time the actual number of official unemployed rose from 67,500 to 140,900. Real unemployment, of course, is actually much higher.

Not only has the 'restructuring' consistently delivered more unemployment, it has also delivered more insecure, part-time and low-paid work.

In March 1986, there were 50,400 males working part-time and 860,100 full-time. Twelve years on, part-time male workers almost doubled in numbers, reaching 96,200, while the number of full-time employed males scarcely changed at all, rising only to 862,200. Thus male part-time work rose massively, even in absolute numbers, as opposed to male full-time work. One result is that whereas in 1986 only one in eighteen employed males worked part-time, in 1998 one in ten was working part-time.

The number of women in part-time employment rose during the same period from 191,100 to 281,000, and in full-time employment from 442,500 to 491,800. In other words, female part-time employment rose more than female full-time employment both proportionately and absolutely. Whereas in 1986, one in roughly 3.3 working women was part-time, in 1998 it was one in roughly 2.4.

Average household income has fallen from 1982 to the most recent Household Economic Survey (1996). Measured in March 1996 dollars, average household income in wages and salaries fell from $34,900 in 1982 to $31,500 in March 1996, a decrease of around ten percent.

The average personal income of people in all age groups between 15-40, and in the 55-59 age group, has declined noticeably in these years. For instance, measured in March 1996 dollars, the personal income of 15-19 year-olds fell from $8,000 in 1982 to a mere $2,900 in 1996. For 20-24 year-olds personal income declined from $21,700 to only $14,300.

In 1998, only 126,200 people in the 15-19 age group were employed, compared with 176,000 in 1986. In the 20-24 age group, employment fell from 218,100 to 179,500 in the same years.

It is the decline in working class and young people's living standards, evidenced in jobs and income statistics, which explains the 'recovery'. Improvements in capitalist profitability have come - as they must - out of our hides.

In the absence of a politicised fightback, workers have ended up demoralised and atomised. The employers have been able to push through casualisation and other measures that further weaken the working class and increase rates of exploitation. For young people, it means little chance of work and an independent economic existence. Sharon Jones

Sources: Household Economic Surveys, Household Labour Force Surveys (both Statistics New Zealand).

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

For readers outside NZ, a NZ dollar is about 55 cents US.

Socio-economic gaps between Maori and pakeha have also been increasing. I wrote a feature article on this in 'revolution' #7 (August/September 1998). It had about 7 or 8 tables and graphs, so is not really reproducable here. Moreover, these rising gaps take place in a context in which pakeha working class living standards are being eroded.

In the 1960s, official unemployment in New Zealand was a couple of hundred - so it has increased from several hundred to over 140,000. That's actually about a four hundred-fold increase. And we are, so the government tells us, in 'recovery' mode. Heaven helps when the 'recovery' expires!


Philip,

Thanks for the detailed information on the labor situation. What you're describing is similar, in its main thrust, to the picture painted by official U.S. statistics in the 80s and even into the early 90s, at least as they were reflected in the news media.

Since then the U.S. economy has boomed in a remarkable way, creating an average of about 2 million jobs a year, i.e., roughly double the increase in the growth in the number of people in the corresponding age groups. This has been accompanied by a slow increase in real wages, although the figure is suspect, since it is based on a CPI that is suspected of overstating inflation by up to 1% a year, in other words, growth in wages may have been stronger. GDP growth has been vigorous by advanced capitalist country standards, though, here again, this may be an understatement: If inflation is overstated, part of the real increase in output is being counted instead as inflation. Productivity growth has doubled, to nearly 2% from 1%, but again it seems to be now conceded that this figure -- for the business sector of the economy as a whole-- is terribly flawed, as it incorporates implausibly low productivity figures for much of the service sector of the economy, where anecdotal evidence of increased efficiency (a different concept that productivity but a close cousin) is everywhere to be found, especially in the "hard to measure" financial sector and the rapidly evolving wholesale and retail trade sectors.

Probably the most accurate measure of the U.S. economy at this point would be a figure for total FTE (full-time equivalent) employment, since the national account aggregate measures are all under a cloud due to the evidently nonsensical service sector output series. I'm not sure right now whether aggregate figures on employment are kept on this basis. I'm going to go to BLS and the Census Bureau sites and see what I can find.

(Imagine me scrambling through download after download of PDF tables, etc...)

Back again. I couldn't find a series that shows the total aggregate part time/full time. But the figures I did find are striking enough. Over the past fifteen years (1983-1988), the "non-institutional" 16 & over population has increased by almost 18%. The rate of participation in the labor force of this population has increased from 64.0% to 67.1%. The percentage "officially" unemployed has declined from 9.6 to 4.5%; the number from 10,717,000 to 6,210,000. The number of "employed" has gone up 30%, from less than 101 million to more than 131 million. And the latest (June) figures show employment at 133.4 million, and unemployed at just less than 6 million. The last time there were less than six million officially unemployed, Richard Nixon was still president a quarter of a century ago!

A very interesting figure -- I was surprised by it -- is that in the U.S.the total employed in agriculture has dropped from 10 million in the mid 30s, when it was 20% of the labor force, to 3.78 million today, about 3%.

I'm wondering if anyone here has any hard data on the contribution of the decline in U.S. military spending to the 90s "boom" -- since military spending is just like taking gizillions of dollars in goods and services and flushing them down the toilet, in the best of cases (for a bad case, consider, purely as a conjunctural economic phenomenon, the war on Yugoslavia, and for the worst of cases consider the amount of GDP left in pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945). I remember from Vietnam antiwar agitation people had done some sort of "multiplier" calculation on $1 spent by the Pentagon versus $1 spent by a consumer. That would be the sort of thing I'm thinking of).

My suspicion is --the more I think about it-- that the end of the Cold War allowed the diversion of significant capital from the military to the civilian sector, and that, fortuitously, it came at a time when the army was beginning to "digitalize" so that any capacity freed up there was greedily swallowed up by the civilian economy, helping to detonate what I believe is a "digital" boom in the U.S. economy.

At any rate, it's quite clear from the respective set of figures that we have very, very different economic situations, indeed, it would seem that the U.S. has a unique economic situation right now, and has had for some years.

Jose

P.S. is the publication you're associated with online yet?