Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Une - Unh   —

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has many statistical series for unemployment rates. The “U-3” series, is the official unemployment rate, and the series that the government is willing to let the public see. It is therefore the series which the bourgeois media gives almost exclusive attention to. But this official unemployment rate does not include the millions of unemployed people who have gotten so discouraged by the job situation that they have not looked for work in the last few weeks. Nor does it include people who want to work full time but can only find part-time work. The “U-6” series does include many of the people in these two categories, but still excludes many other people who are actually unemployed, and who would get a job if work was available for them.
        The BLS uses these official definitions:

U-3 Series: “Total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (official unemployment rate).”
         U-6 Series: “Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.”
         Marginally attached to the labor force: “are those who currently are neither working nor [currently] looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months.”
         Discouraged workers are “a subset of the marginally attached, have given a job-market related reason for not currently looking for work.”
         Persons employed part time for economic reasons “are those who want and are available for full-time work but have had to settle for a part-time schedule.” —From the notes to each month’s BLS Unemployment Report.
         [Note that every one of these “definitions” distorts the truth. U-3 is not at all the “total unemployed” (as they go on to tacitly admit themselves!); U-6 does not include all those who would work if jobs were actually available; “discouraged workers” actually excludes a large number of those who really are discouraged about finding work; and so forth. Even the BLS’s definition of the size of the
labor force itself seriously distorts things (and tries to make the unemployment situation look much better than it is) by simply not counting millions of unemployed people as being in the labor force at all! —S.H.]

[Refer to the graph at the right.] “The seasonally-adjusted SGS Alternate Unemployment Rate reflects current unemployment reporting methodology adjusted for SGS-estimated long-term discouraged workers, who were defined out of official existence in 1994. That estimate is added to the BLS estimate of U-6 unemployment, which includes short-term discouraged workers.” —John Williams, on his Shadow Government Statistics website at http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/unemployment-charts

See also: COMPUTERS—and Unemployment

UNEMPLOYMENT — African-American

“The unemployment rate for blacks has always been at least 60 percent higher than for whites.” —Philip Bump, “The Unemployment Rate for Blacks Has Always Been at Least 60 Percent Higher Than for Whites”, Atlantic (The Wire), March 7, 2014.

In recent decades the United States government has been lying more and more outrageously about the unemployment rate (and other economic statistics too). They claim that the unemployment rate is “falling” because they are simply not counting growing numbers of able people wanting work as being in the “labor force” at all!
        See also the entry above for some of the details, and:

“If you, a family member or anyone is unemployed and has subsequently given up on finding a job—if you are so hopelessly out of work that you’ve stopped looking over the past four weeks—the Department of Labor doesn’t count you as unemployed. That’s right. While you are as unemployed as one can possibly be, and tragically may never find work again, you are not counted in the figure we see relentlessly in the news—currently 5.6%. Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Trust me, the vast majority of them aren’t throwing parties to toast ‘falling’ unemployment.
        “There’s another reason why the official rate is misleading. Say you’re an out-of-work engineer or healthcare worker or construction worker or retail manager. If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least twenty dollars—maybe someone pays you to mow their lawn—you’re not officially counted as unemployed in the much-reported 5.6%. Few Americans know this.
        “Yet another figure of importance that doesn’t get much press: those working part time but wanting full-time work. If you have a degree in chemistry or math and are working ten hours part time because it is all you can find—in other words, you are severely underemployed—the government doesn’t count you in the 5.6%. Few Americans know this.” —Jim Clifton, head of the Gallup polling organization, “The Big Lie: 5.6% Unemployment”, Gallup.com, Feb. 3, 2015.
         [Auxiliary question: Just why does the media cooperate in spreading government lies such as this? The answer is simple: The media, like the government, represent the ruling capitalist class and therefore it is in their interests to lie about things like this. —Ed.]

UNEMPLOYMENT — Men vs. Women
See also:

UNEMPLOYMENT — Social Impact Of

“We turn now to the 1930s and 1940s, a period of great relevance for Americans today, perhaps more than any other. Then, even more so than today, unemployment was extremely high by historical standards. In such an environment traditional policies fail and are discredited, and the center collapses. Unemployment has a way of getting a person’s attention more than almost any other issue and has inspired new social forces demanding reform or revolution.” —Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy (2016), p. 173.


“For young people it is arguable that the employment picture is as dismal as it has been at any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and for college graduates it may be worse. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2014 determined that 46 percent of recent college graduates were working at jobs that did not require a BA. That is bad news not only for college graduates but for high school graduates, ‘who find themselves competing with college graduates for basic jobs in service businesses.’ Even before the Great Recession of 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecast that two-thirds of the jobs available between 2008 and 2018 would not require any post-secondary education. As the journalist Derek Thomson concludes, ‘The job market appears to be requiring more and more preparation for a lower and lower starting wage.’ The Economist [magazine] announces that young people are experiencing an ‘epidemic of joblessness.’ Newsweek characterizes young Americans as constituting ‘Generation Screwed.’ There are nowhere near enough jobs, and the jobs that do exist, to employ the vernacular, suck.” —Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy (2016), pp. 69-71.

“Most of the measured declines in employment participation have been coming from younger men, not early retirees.... Adult males are seceding from the workforce—or being kicked out—in frightening numbers.” —Tyler Cowen, a bourgeois economist, Average Is Over: Powering America Past the Age of the Great Stagnation (2013), p. 51. [Thus, not only are the employment rates of young adults extremely high, they are actually much worse than the statistics show because more and more young adults are not being counted as being in the labor force at all! In the late 1960s 5% of men aged from 25-54 were not working; by 2014 it had climbed to 16% according to the New York Times (Dec. 15, 2014). —Ed.]

The total unemployment in the entire world, from data before the severe world economic crisis struck in a major way at the end of 2008, was said to be more than 1 billion workers! (One-sixth of the entire population of the world, and a much higher than that percentage of the world’s total work force!) This includes both the totally unemployed, and also those who are drastically underemployed (working only a few hours a week, whenever they can find it). [This estimate comes from Charges McMillion, chief economist at MBG Information Services, a Washington D.C. consulting firm. Quoted in The Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 21, 2010, p. 23.]

“Globally, 2.5 billion people are unemployed, underemployed, economically inactive, or engaged in subsistence labor (constituting a global reserve army almost twice the size of the world’s employed labor force). The result is abysmally low wages—with 39 percent of the world’s workers earning less that $2 a day. Meanwhile, multinational corporations are enjoying record profit margins from the super-exploitation of this cheap labor and the robbing of everything under the sun, thereby endangering the planet itself.” —John Bellamy Foster, in a letter to supporters of Monthly Review, Sept. 2011.


“Ultimately it is the unequal development of the productive forces under conditions of world domination by capitalist production relations that is the basic fact explaining the international economic inequality of wages. This is what manifests itself in the form of ‘unequal exchange.’ This is the basis of the imperialist exploitation (which in turn worsens still further this inequality of development). This is what, finally and above all, manifests itself in the form of a ‘blocking’ of the productive forces of the less developed capitalist countries.” —Charles Bettleheim, “Economic Inequalities Between Nations and International Solidarity”, Monthly Review, June 1970. (Also reprinted in the June 2020 issue, p. 20.)

A law of capitalism, which is greatly intensified in the modern imperialist era of capitalism, is that different enterprises, different industries, different sectors of the economy, and production in different capitalist countries as a whole, develops very unevenly. Moreover, in different time periods there is also uneven development, including among different capitalist countries. A country which zooms ahead of others during one period may well fall behind at a later period. And it is with regard to countries, and especially countries in the imperialist era that this uneven development becomes especially significant, for it is one of the underlying factors which lead to terrible wars between imperialist countries (including World War I and World War II).
        There are a wide variety of reasons which explain this uneven development among countries. Some imperialist countries may possess colonies or have rights in their neo-colonies that others do not. Some may be better prepared to export capital to other countries. Other countries which were once more victimized by outside imperialism may break free to some extent and become better able to develop their own national economy. Some countries may already be deep in debt, while others have more freedom to expand production by promoting further debt growth. Even differences in the
superstructure of society may be significant, as when one country has a better developed legal system which promotes the sanctity of business contracts. Similarly, one country may have a superior educational system to another. These are just a few of the great many reasons why one capitalist country, during some given period, may be able to far outstrip the economic development of another capitalist country.
        Historically, capitalism first developed in a really intensive way in Britain. This led to Britain becoming more powerful and dominant than countries like Holland and France. In 1850 the U.S. share of world industrial production was only 15%, while Britain’s was 39%. Germany’s share was also far below Britain’s. As capitalism developed into its imperialist form in the last part of the 19th century, other capitalist countries began to catch up, especially Germany and the U.S. From 1870 to 1913 British output expanded only 2.25 times, while Germany’s increased almost 6 times and the U.S. by 9 times! Britain lost its status as the sole “superpower” of that age, and World War I developed among the two contending groups of imperialist countries to see which would dominate the world. World War II was really “round two” of that contest. The U.S. emerged as by far the most powerful imperialist country, both militarily and economically. Nevertheless, in the aftermath of World War II many other capitalist countries, including defeated Germany and Japan, began developing faster than the U.S. (in large part because of the greater destruction of productive capital in those countries during the War).
        Then, too, in the mid-1950s the Soviet Union was captured from within by a rising new bourgeoisie. At first, based on its tremendous economic advances during its socialist period, the Soviet Union, even as a capitalist country, continued developing faster than the U.S. But then, because of its destruction of socialism, the masses turned against the Soviet system. And the greater degree of monopoly, bureaucracy, and the growing corruption in the U.S.S.R. led to a great fall in its rate of GDP expansion. It was hopelessly losing out to the U.S. and the “Western World”, and it knew it. For a while it looked very much like there would be a new world war, involving nuclear weapons, to settle the issue. (The world is very fortunate that this did not happen, because we certainly came close to it!) But then Gorbachev and the other new rulers of the Soviet Union recognized that they could not prevail that way either. The only path left to them (within the overall framework of capitalism, which is all they could comprehend or aprove of) was to switch over to Western-style monopoly capitalism. This final destruction of the Soviet Union led to an unprecedented further collapse of the economy, and even a quarter century later it has not fully recovered.
        Meanwhile, the other great socialist country, China, was also captured from within by capitalist-roaders. In the socialist era China had overall been expanding its economy much faster than that of the U.S. and the “West” generally. This continued during the transition period, and then over the past couple decades has possibly even further speeded up. The Chinese revisionists have proven to be much more successful than the revisionists in the Soviet Union were in switching over to Western-style monopoly capitalism (for reasons we won’t get into here). So the world today, even in the midst of a growing overall world capitalist economic crisis, is still made up of one rapidly rising imperialist power—China. This strongly suggests that there are some real dangers of a major war between China and the current top-dog imperialist country, the U.S., at some point over the next few decades.

“Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism.” —Lenin, “On the Slogan for a United States of Europe” (Aug. 23, 1915), LCW 21:342.

“The uneven distribution of the railways, their uneven development—sums up, as it were, modern monoplist capitalism on a world-wide scale.” —Lenin, “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”, Preface to the French and German Editions, (July 6, 1920), LCW 22:190.

“It goes without saying that if capitalism could develop agriculture, which today is everywhere lagging terribly behind industry, if it could raise the living standards of the masses, who in spite of the amazing technical progress are everywhere still half-starved and poverty-stricken, there could be no question of a surplus of capital. This ‘argument’ is very often advanced by the petty-bourgeois critics of capitalism. But if capitalism did these things it would not be capitalism; for both uneven development and a semi-starvation level of existence of the masses are fundamental and inevitable conditions and constitute premises of this mode of production.” —Lenin, “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”, Ch. IV, (1916), LCW 22:241. [Although capitalism has now finally “developed agriculture” in the form of giant agribusiness, it has not done so for the benefit of the people, vast numbers of whom still starve to death every year around the world. —S.H.]

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