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Job market stumbles in April

By Masao Suzuki

San José, CA – On Friday, May 7, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that businesses added 266,000 workers. This was only one-quarter of the additional 1 million jobs that economists had predicted. This left the economy down more than 8 million jobs from February of 2020, right before the economic crisis started. At the current rate it will take the economy more than two and half years to gain back the lost jobs Women have been harder hit by the recession, and the gap with men widened in April as all of the net new jobs went to men.

The weak jobs report unleashed a flood of claims by the Republicans that federal unemployment benefits were keeping people from taking jobs. But last fall they opposed expanding federal aid because they said that the job market was strong and was recovering on its own. Republican-ruled states are already starting to cut back on aid to the unemployed. South Carolina and Montana have blocked the extra $300 per week from the federal government. Both states will also be ending their participation in the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, or PUA, in June. The PUA is for self-employed and gig workers.

But this doesn’t explain why 400,000 more workers started looking for work last month, and why the unemployment rate went up last month to 6.1% as more people started looking for work. Nor does this claim explain the more than 200,000 jobs cut by businesses last month. In fact, this is the same old austerity program of trying to cut government spending, and pushing the burden of the crisis onto the backs of working people.

The unemployed also face a growing threat of evictions, as a federal court overturned the nationwide eviction ban by the federal Centers for Disease Control. Only 16 states out of 50 have their own eviction bans for those hurt by the recession, and all but six of them end in May or June. This will put millions of people in danger of eviction and many will end up joining the growing ranks of homeless.

The official federal count of homeless people – of a little more than 500,000 – is a vast undercount based on counting people in the street and shelters. Schools reported about 1.5 million students without their own home. If each unhoused student has a parent sibling not in school, this would be about 3 million homeless, or about 1% of the U.S population.

This shows another of the glaring inequalities of life under capitalism: while the average price of homes went up over 9% in 2020, millions of people cannot afford to pay for their own place to live.

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