The Changing Nature of Employment

I found this article from the LA Times interesting:

A short gig doing security for the True Blood television show. A stint driving for a rental car company. A week as a customer service representative at a retail store.

This is how Delvontaie Antwine, 34, makes do in California’s economic recovery — earning a few scattered paychecks a month from odd temp jobs while living with relatives in Silver Lake.

Each week, he goes to a career center, where recently he was looking into positions transporting patients for Kaiser Permanente.

“I just need something consistent; otherwise, I’m like a puppy chasing its tail,” he said. “I’m at the bottom of the totem pole right now.”

It’s a purgatory sometimes called the gray economy. Although the official state unemployment rate dropped to 7.4% in June, 16.2% of Californians — or about 6.2 million — were either jobless, too discouraged to seek work, working less than they’d like or in off-the-books jobs.

The unemployment rate isn’t measured. It’s polled. What you read in the newspapers is determined by an arcane combination of the establishment survey (polling businesses), the household survey (polling households), and guesstimation. I have complained many times in the past that the fudge factors introduced in the guesstimation process are so much larger than the numbers actually polled that they strain credulity.

This article highlights how the nature of employment today may have rendered the establishment survey incredible if not irrelevant.

47 comments… add one
  • Guarneri

    Imagine a multi variable mathematical equation. Imagine that one variable dominates all others. Imagine that you guess at that variable. Imagine, oh, I don’t know, that you are sighting a rifle shot and your life depends on being accurate. Would people be so blasé about that big variable and it’s effect on the measurement?

  • Guarneri


    A bit dramatic, I admit. But would the hosts at MSNBC be so cheerful in reporting if that was their reality?

  • Imagine, oh, I don’t know, that you are sighting a rifle shot and your life depends on being accurate.

    I think one of the problems is that their jobs don’t even depend on their being accurate.

  • CStanley

    I think one of the problems is that their jobs don’t even depend on their being accurate.

    Or worse, their jobs may depend on them being inaccurate.

  • TastyBits


    Imagine a multi variable mathematical equation.

    Are you serious?

    These are the same people who cannot pass Algebra. That sentence could be written in another language, and there is no way to re-phrase it. They do not understand the concepts.

  • Guarneri

    I’m not sure algebra has much to do with it. We have business birth and death rates in employment. We have inventory swings in GDP. We have mysterious seasonal adjustments. And worst of all, we just had flat out failure to report in June to report that every single one of the 288k net jobs was a temp job.

    These are not difficult concepts.

    I noted a while back that I get weekly economic reports from JP Morgan and other big financial institutions that always seem rosy and predict better conditions, but four four years now inevitably get revised for the worse “unexpectedly.” They would makes Menzie Chins excuse machine overload.

    Let’s see. Big banks need favorable regulatory treatment……big banks write optimistic reports for the administration, media types wipe the drool from their chins and report what they are fed.

    Coincidence, I’m sure.

  • ...

    Welcome to the Obama Recovery: of, by and for the rich. No one else need apply.

  • ...

    The worst of it is the cheering from rich Obama supporters about what an awesome job he’s done. Yeah, for you guys. And he’s pissed on the rest of us. Bring back the guillotine.

  • michael reynolds

    You people are so full of it. Look at a table of real GDP per capita and you know what you see? The bottom two quintiles have barely budged since the 60’s. Did Drew or Ice give a damn then? No, only Democrats did. The third lowest quintile barely improved on that. What’s really striking is how, right around 1980, the top group started rocketing upward.

    Gee, I wonder who was in power then? Let me check Wikipedia. Oh, right, it was Drew’s hero.

    And were you complaining about it then, Ice? Nah. How about in 1990? No. 2000? Nope. When did you suddenly start giving a shit? When it stopped being about Mexicans and blacks and Appalachians and started being about YOU.

    You discovered a social conscience about income distribution and the unemployed and all the rest precisely when it became about you. And if tomorrow it stopped being about you, you’d stop caring. If you got a 100k job tomorrow you’d be a corporate stooge like you were right up until, Oh My God, it’s me this is happening to! Me! An educated white male!

    Guillotine my ass, you’re just like Drew, another guy who sees the world solely through the prism of narcissism.

    And Drew, of course has The Solution. Why it’s as simple as giving Drew more. Plain as the nose on your face. can’t you all see that if you would just make it easier for Drew to get richer everyone else could caddie for Drew?

    Ever off-shored a job, Drew? Betcha dollar you have. In your line of work? Yeah, you have. Ever tell a CEO he was going to have to lay off some people in order to raise his profit margin? Did you have a good chuckle about it on the golf course later? You know damn well you did.

    If this is some conspiracy between Republicans and Democrats, how is it that it’s happening everywhere in the developed world at once? Magic? A lot of developed western countries are already back to losing jobs, not gaining temps, losing ground. All that is, what, the result of an Obama-Trump conspiracy?

    I’m in Sicily right now. I think their nominal unemployment rate is about 20%. Real rate? Probably 50%. And it looks like it. There isn’t a new car on this island. Pretty sure that wasn’t our doing. Pretty sure when you see a phenomenon that transcends national borders, it’s kind of ridiculous to start spouting conspiracy theories about the US. Although, it would be very Sicilian to want to blame dark and shadowy forces. That kind of conspiracy mongering has certainly worked well for them.

    You’re both dishonest frauds.

  • ...

    The Democratic response to wage stagnation has been to elect more Democrats to import more cheap labor from the Third World. It’s worked out exactly as one would expect.

    Secondary responses have included actions such as encouraging people to take on non-dischargable debt and increasing domestic environmental regulations to force more extraction and manufacturing work overseas.

  • ...

    And Michael, for someone who has admitted to being a congenital liar, a bully and who has a nasty drug habit, I don’t think you’re much of a judge of character.

  • ...

    Seriously, someone who “needs” to drink a bunch of scotch to get to sleep every night isn’t an insomniac, they’re a drunk. Saw enough of that with my dad growing up. Someone who needs prescription meds to get to sleep every night isn’t an insomniac, they’re an addict with a doctor for a dealer. Someone who needs to smoke pot every night to sleep every night isn’t an insomniac, they’re an addict pretending their dealer is a doctor.

    Someone who needs all three? Every night? That’s a nightmare of personal dysfunction.

  • michael reynolds

    You know who has some pretty impressive job and economic growth? The People’s Republic of China. Did one of you economic savants recommend that path for us? You know, totalitarian state with businesses run by cronies and the army and the state? Because that seems to kind of work.

    Drew, was that your Big Solution?

    I seem to recall you being against government spending and big government and how great it would be if we cut back on all that like Greece and Ireland have done.

    Just let me get my hands on it, why I’ll fix everything with austerity and by eliminating not just environmental regs but the environment itself. Then: jobs! Magic!

    Drew, you don’t know what you’re talking about. All you know is what is good for you. And you are not the unemployed dude in Florida. In fact, if it put another dollar in your pocket, you’d have zero qualms about making sure Ice never got a job.

    So let’s stop pretending, shall we? You’re a fan of the guy who made employees build the stage from which they were immediately fired. That’s you.

    And Ice, Jesus Christ, you’ve been out of work for six years now. Had you taken on a dishwashing job six years ago you could be a restaurant manager by now. Beneath you, I know, you an educated white man and all, terribly demeaning.

    You want to hate on me? I was poor as long as you’ve been alive. I used to do all those jobs you’re too good for. I used to scrape shit out of people’s toilets when I was your age. You can’t mau mau me with your poverty. There are lousy, low-pay restaurant jobs all over Marin County now, I see the signs everywhere. But you wouldn’t lower yourself to that, would you? You wouldn’t keep your black-and-whites in a bus station locker and sleep in a library to hold down a job, would you? I would, and I did.

    You want to know how to get off your ass? You go to a bar or restaurant or hotel or store and you say listen, I’m too old and I’m overqualified, but here is the promise I’ll make to you: I will never fail to show up, I will never fail to bust my balls for you, I will take every single shift, any day, any time, I will cover everyone who calls in sick or pulls a no-show. If I ever fail to do that, fire me. That’s what I used to do when I was in my 30’s. And it is what I would do now despite being 60.

    Of course when I was broke and walking the streets all night because I didn’t have a place to sleep I didn’t realize it was all because of a Huge Government Business Conspiracy to fuck me over.

  • michael reynolds

    When did I get a nasty drug habit? Huh? Scotch or Bourbon?

  • Cstanley

    I’d like to go back to Michaels assertion that the bottom two quintiles’ incomes have barely budged since the 1960s. Why not, if Democrats have cared? It’s not as though their party hasn’t been in power at all. IIRC the graphs show the income divergence taking off in the 90s. Oh, I guess that must have been Newt Gingrichs fault (despite BC feeling the pain.)

    Sorry Michael but I think you are confusing rhetoric with actual policy.

  • michael reynolds

    Oh, that. Right. I weigh 230 pounds, I drink 4 ounces of booze and smoke a third of a joint. Look up the inebriation levels involved. Yes, I’d better get to rehab.

    But you know what, that’s not the point, because let me tell you something, I do whatever the fuck it takes to make my way in the world. You don’t want to do that? That’s your decision, pal, but that’s not a conspiracy.

    Yes, I have lied, stolen and cheated to make ends meet when I had Welcome to capitalism. And if I had to shoot heroin and kick a puppy every day to get my work done, I would do that.

    This is the United States, Ice, we are not the nicest people, we are not the most easy-going people, we are not the kindest, what we are is the hardest working. This is the bleeding edge of the system you loved right up until it kicked you in the teeth.

    A couple times a week I drive by guys lined up on the street who walked a thousand fucking miles to get here and crossed a desert and evaded the law and left their families and sleep ten to a stinking room, and did it all in hopes that some gringo will pay them 4 bucks an hour to haul crap out of a basement. That’s the United States. It has always been that way for a hell of a lot of people about whom you have never given two shits. You are a child of privilege, Ice, an educated white man. And now you’ve lost that privilege. I’m a poor kid from a trailer park with a 10th grade education and a criminal record. Maybe rather than whine about some politician you should figure out how the game is played when you’re one of the little people. Because that’s what you are now.

    You think I did bad shit to survive? Dude, I would do so much more before I spent six years whining.

  • Guarneri

    Excellent commentary. Thanks, “non-ideological” Michael.

    Back to your mind reading and straw man arguments……..

  • ...

    Reynolds, someone who has been out of work for more than a year can’t get hired for anything. I have tried getting work at places such as WalMart and McDonald’s, among others. Can’t even get a meeting with a hiring manager to beg for a job scrubbing toilets.

    So spare me the “you think it’s beneath you” crap. The only jobs I haven’t tried to get are drug mule or giving blow jobs in the bathroom at the Parliament House. I will refrain from those thank you, for health reasons.

  • Ice, I only got that hotel job because I was a friend of the general manager’s wife. And it was part-time.

  • Too many companies hire online these days. I put in apps in Jan 2013, and am just now hearing back from some of them.

  • If you haven’t been working in the marketplace, people think there’s something wrong with you.

  • How long before your little girl goes to school, Ice?

  • Yes, it was a very good lunch. Taste of India. Lovely people.

  • TastyBits

    @michael reynolds

    … You go to a bar or restaurant or hotel or store and you say listen, …

    Maybe. Maybe not.

    Years ago, I got a job as the dishpig because my friend knew the owner of a restaurant. His regular dishwasher quit, and he needed somebody fast.

    When I quit, the owner told me that he usually did not hire white guys as dishwashers because they could not keep up, but I was better than any of the black dishwashers he ever had.

    That may have been true, but the real reason was because he thought it was demeaning for a white person to be washing dishes. My guess is that everywhere else my application was thrown away as soon as I left for the same reason.

  • $10.

  • Janis Gore

    I was never going to be fast enough for McDonald’s. I did get along well with the staff, though.

  • I’m just too old for that pace.

  • Janis Gore

    It was a good place. Many of the black women and men were career fast food workers. They were proud of their jobs.

  • Schocked, are you? I didn’t want my brother to die!

  • Ahem, “shocked.”

  • Anyway, I was a whipped kitten after a couple of days. And I wasn’t even doing the whole job.

  • Family Dollar? Online.
    Stine’s? Online.
    Penney’s? Online.

  • ...

    Janis, I’m going to home school her. I don’t have the money to move into a zone where the public schools aren’t shitty, and can’t afford private schools either. Besides, I have a strong aversion to big box schooling.

    My only regret is that I haven’t learned Magyar so as to follow Laszlo Polgar’s program. (The good stuff never got translated into English.)

  • There’s a great job. If you can afford it.

  • ...

    And I gotta laugh at the child of privelege crap, as though I were the son of a doctor or lawyer, and not the son of a drunken construction worker who was absent more than present. Some privilege!

  • ...

    That caveat is the size of the world, Janis.

  • I bet you’d be a great teacher.

  • Now I’m going back to read more about sheriff Dan Rhodes, Bill Crider’s creation.

  • steve

    I have always looked at the UE rate as a trending tool. The exact number doesn’t matter so much as we are fairly consistent in measuring it. That said, their samples are large enough to suspect that they are fairly accurate.


  • their samples are large enough

    I don’t know, steve. When your fudge factor is an order of magnitude larger than the differences you’re measuring I don’t think it matters how large your sample size is.

  • Hotels. Now they have these huge data systems. I was still trying to learn the one at Hilton after six months. That big-ass program was a bitch, and I’m a bright woman with lots of computer skills.

  • Had to go through a state employment system to finally get that job, EEOC and all, even though I knew the job was mine.

    Same for Holiday Inn. They opened a new Express in Natchez while I was looking. They wanted people with experience. And had a pretty good-sized pool to choose from in a tourist town.

  • You couldn’t pay me $20 an hour to work with that bitchy program now, forget about the public service aspect of the job.

  • Lord, I hated that thing.

  • And I’d rather blow my brains out than have to travel as you do, Michael.

  • I wonder what those medical records systems look like, from a user standpoint?

  • From Murder in Adland, Bruce Beckham:

    ‘By the way, Guv,’ she said. ‘What was that bit about the corporate ladder?’
    ‘Look down and all you see is brains,’ replied Skelgill.
    ‘And what if you look up?’
    ‘That doesn’t apply in our case.’

Leave a Comment