Despite the recent statistics showing that unemployment in the U.S. is near five percent, U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said he is still pushing his full employment bill to insure that any American that wants work will be able to.
Conyers is the author of “The Humphrey-Hawking Full Employment and Training Act of 2015,” which is designed to ensure that unemployed Americans will be able to use their labor and talents to rebuild America’s roads, bridges, parks and electrification systems. He convened an issue forum titled “Why We Need Full Employment Now” Sept. 15 at the Washington Convention Center as a part of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 46th Annual Legislative Conference.
He said the recently released positive unemployment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) are a deception. Conyers, the longest-serving member in the U.S. Congress, is also dean of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Michigan delegation.
“The nearly five percent unemployment is good but we aren’t talking about our [Black] communities,” the representative said. “That is why we need full employment right now. To me, full employment is a fundamental human right.”
The issue forum panel was moderated by Isaiah J. Poole, who works for the Campaign for America’s Future and featured Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy; Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research; Philip Harvey, professor at the Rutgers University School of Law; Connie M. Razza, director of Strategic Research, Center for Popular Democracy; David Stein, lecturer at the UCLA Department of History and African American Studies; Juan Garcia, global leader for Career Advancement at Amazon.com and Anand Vimalassery, policy director of the National Job Corps Association.
Poole said that the real jobless rate is almost 12 percent, including people who have become discouraged from looking for work and people who can’t find full time work. “The rate is upwards of 25 percent in some communities of color,” he said.
Harvey produced data from the BLS that showed that while the unemployment rate is 4.9 percent for all Americans; Blacks have an 8.1 percent rate while Whites are at 4.4 percent. For Black youth aged 16-19, the jobless rate is 26.1 percent while for White youth it is 14 percent, according to Harvey’s data.
Harvey’s data shows that people who have bachelor’s degrees and higher have a 2.7 percent unemployment rate while those who have less than a high school diploma are at 7.2 percent. Harvey said that the BLS statistics shouldn’t surprise anyone.
“Anyone who has a disadvantage tends to be unemployed,” he said. “That’s why we need full employment because every person who wants a job will be able to have one.”
Baker said that many Americans are working involuntarily at part-time jobs that they don’t want and that men during the prime working ages of 22-55 are dropping out of the labor force because of the lack of full-time employment.
“The idea that men are sitting in their homes playing video games or watching pornography is simply not true,” Baker said.
Wilson said that her research shows that full employment would be a benefit for the country.
“Full employment would produce stronger wage growth, people would make more money per hour and it would increase household income and decrease poverty,” she said.
Vimalassery said that full employment may be able to curtail one of the most unusual aspects of the present employment picture.
“Many Americans are over-skilled for the jobs that they have,” he said. “People do have jobs but those jobs don’t fit with what they are trained in. That is why the Job Corps is investing in job training for work that will be needed in the future.”