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Unexpected Update To Unexpected Unemployment News

A Labor Department report released today reveals job creation in November was down by 133,000 jobs from October, bringing the total unemployment rate up to 9.8 percent. 

This was a declared the most recent Unexpected Development in our long unemployment saga by the media.  Private-sector job creators are facing massive tax hikes, which the President and his Party say they will defend to the bitter end.  The cost of labor has skyrocketed due to a poorly designed, constantly mutating health care bill, which keeps spitting out unforeseen, but universally expensive, consequences.  Somehow there are “analysts” who think they will respond to these factors by expanding their operations and hiring more people.  Such analysts now live in a constant state of surprise.

Only 39,000 jobs were added in November, which makes it the sixteenth consecutive month in which unemployment has remained above 9.5%, the worst record since the Great Depression.  You may recall that the Democrats predicted 7% unemployment by now, after a peak below 8%, if their trillion-dollar “stimulus” bill was passed.  The Republican House Ways & Means Committee certainly does, and put out a press release to that effect this morning.

The ABC News report of the new unemployment figures contains an interesting quote from Daneil Pedrotty, director of the AFL-CIO’s Office of Investment, who thinks employers are squeezing more work out of few people by exploiting a “climate of fear”: “There are five applicants for every opening.  You have to work harder, or your job either will be done away with or outsourced.  Companies would just as soon open a factory in India as Peoria.” 

No, they wouldn’t, or they already would have done so.  No CEO looks at pins in Peoria and Calcutta on a world map, shrugs, and says “Whichever.  I don’t know, flip a coin.”  They choose Calcutta because they have to.  They outsource when hiring American workers, or building facilities on American soil, no longer makes economic sense.  Both sentiment and practical considerations cause them to prefer American locations.  No sane executive would prefer to manage facilities on the other side of the world, commuting thousands of miles for meetings or inspections.  If companies truly would “just as soon open a factory in India as Peoria,” there has been very little stopping them for decades.  Are we supposed to believe America just keeps winning those coin tosses?

Furthermore, the idea of reducing personnel needs by enslaving current employees through a “climate of fear” is ignorant rubbish.  Anecdotal cases surely exist, but the bulk of job creation, on a national scale, is a response to demand.  The ABC report makes much of the contrast between falling job creation and rising corporate profits, missing the point that long-term hiring decisions are made in anticipation of future opportunity.  Uncertainty breeds hesitation and thwarts expansion.

Look at it this way: suppose the government simply hired everyone, and guaranteed them a splendid income.  What would they all do?  The government could give them make-work jobs, but this would not be a response to demand, so it wouldn’t last very long.  Every aspect of the economy, from consumer prices to interest rates, would be thrown wildly off kilter by a horde of people getting paid $30,000 per year to do whatever a government bureaucrat can think up… or more likely do nothing at all while waiting for the Federal Bureau of Imaginary Jobs to come up with something.  The government would quickly go bankrupt, while citizens waiting in line to buy ten-dollar loaves of stale Wonder Bread.  You don’t have to imagine what this looks like – just crack open a history book and look up “Soviet Union.”

Only demand and opportunity sustain job growth.  People need each other.  The only way government can help them hook up, and generate wealth through commerce, is to get out of the way.  Wise observers will expect robust, sustained job growth when they see signs of that happening.

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Written By

John Hayward began his blogging career as a guest writer at Hot Air under the pen name "Doctor Zero," producing a collection of essays entitled Doctor Zero: Year One. He is a great admirer of free-market thinkers such as Arthur Laffer, Milton Friedman, and Thomas Sowell. He writes both political and cultural commentary, including book and movie reviews. An avid fan of horror and fantasy fiction, he has produced an e-book collection of short horror stories entitled Persistent Dread. John is a former staff writer for Human Events. He is a regular guest on the Rusty Humphries radio show, and has appeared on numerous other local and national radio programs, including G. Gordon Liddy, BattleLine, and Dennis Miller.

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