W speaks

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Sat Aug 19 10:55:34 PDT 2000

Carrol Cox wrote:

>(I think you've published some
>material in LBO about worker confidence not rising as rapidly as in past

Drawing on a paper Stefanie Schmidt did for the Milken Institute (yes, that Milken), I cited surveys showing a high level of general anxiety about job loss coexisting with relatively low evaluations of the risk of personal job loss. Anxiety levels were slower in coming down during the 1990s than they were in earlier expansions, though, but by the late 1990s, were down to customary levels. Responses to the Conference Board's questions about the easiness or difficulty of finding a job (part of their consumer confidence survey) show that workers have never found it so easy to get a job in the almost 30 years they've been asking the question.

Average job instability, as they say, has risen a bit over the last 2 decades, but nowhere near as much as you'd guess from the press it's been getting. (And beneath the averages, women's job stability has increased, though not enough to offset the decine in men's, meaning that the ungendered average has been tending towards slightly greater instability.) What has happened, though, is that the risk of job loss has recently affected demographic groups that were relatively insulated in earlier times - white men, white-collar workers, and service industry workers came to face the same instability that has long been known to pink- and blue-collar workers. Not to disparage their anxiety, but I think that's why the matters gotten a lot more popular attention than it used to. Perversely, all the attention magnifies the apparent instability, leading workers to overestimate their risk as a group.

>I think I'll stick to my opinion of 1982. *If* the present boom continues for
>another half decade or so, the outlook for the left will be positive.

Yup. Of course Alan Greenspan & other central bankers understand this, even if some of our comrades don't.


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