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Why unemployment should not be a policy tool


As I noted the other day in this blog – What is it really about? – we spend a lot of time discussing and analysing growth rates and ratios and all sorts of things and sometimes lose track that what really matters are the people underneath the mass of statistics.

So that requires constant attention to labour underutilisation rates etc so that the “we are at full employment” mantra (when 12.5 per cent of willing labour resources are idle) does get too much traction.

But deeper down is the concern that unemployment and the economic hardship it brings impacts on our personal relationships within our families and beyond. And the more I think about it the only thing that matters is how “well” we fare at that level. And at that level, all the financial ratios and growth rates pale into insignificance and you are confronted with other realities that are much more important.

Mitchell then goes on to quote Shakespeare (which others now seem to be doing).

On this theme, I have been reading some poetry this week. I have always believed that economics students should take liberal arts courses to pre-dispose them to more gentle feelings about humanity before they launch into providing policy advice that harms their fellow humans.

Of course, to our elites -- and this includes those who service the elite, like "Democratic strategists," "scholars" at think tanks, mainstream economists and, let us not forget, our career "progressives" -- the issue is not "fellow humans," but human resources: Peasants, slaves. Or animals. "As flies to wanton gods are we...."

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basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

It's been nice. I like retail. It's been enough to put groceries on the table and keep the lights on. Most of the time. :)

Anyway, they've recently increased the staff. There are no full time sales associates, only part time. The concern was that at the staffing level we were at, some of the associates were working five hour shifts and would have to take lunch breaks - it's the law. And if someone takes a lunch break, that means the floor isn't fully staffed for the half hour they're gone. This is only occasionally a problem - once or twice a month. But because they don't ever want to have customers waiting more than a couple minutes to be rung up, we've all had our hours cut from about 20 - 25 a week, to 12 per week. This isn't the end of the world for me, but for some of the people who work there, it's a disaster.

We're doing fabulous business - 30% over last year. We have smart customers. We have a great staff of people - all of whom this retail gig is a way station while they pursue other, more interesting, ventures. Customers just don't get mad if they see the staff working hard, and that we are legitimately busy.

The impact is just so needless. And of course, they will lose staff because people won't hang around for 12 hours per week at $9.25 an hour. Why bother? American business is just so out of touch with human cost.