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Are The Gobs Of Jobs Here Or There?

Are The Gobs Of Jobs Here Or There?


WOW! U.S. non-farm employment rose by 308,000 for March while January and February 2004 figures were revised (click here) by 159,000 and 46,000, respectively. Now that we’ve heard the oohs and aahs, let’s get down to the looking at the real numbers.

The civilian labor force (Household Data) increased by 179,000 from 146.471 million in February to 146.650 million in March, which is comprised of the following:

-A decrease in employment on the Household Data of (3,000)
-An increase in the number of unemployed persons of 182,000

The number of persons employed in the US, per the Household Data Survey [this is the survey that is mailed out to approximately 60,000 US households by the Census Bureau] went from 138.301 million in February to 138.298 million in March, which indicates that 3,000 fewer people were employed during the month of March than in the month of February.

The number of unemployed persons, per the Household Data Survey, increased from 8.170 million in February to 8.352 million in March. So, while we’re all cheering about the possible ½ million new jobs created over the past three months, another 182,000 people are out of work.

The reason I used the word possible ½ million new jobs is simple. For some reason the BLS is using preliminary figures for both the month of February 2004 and the month of March 2004.

Let’s take a look at these “preliminary” figures and see if we can determine what’s happening.

The report is indicating that the largest increase in jobs is in the construction industry with a gain of 71,000, and a note that it is an “unusually large gain”. We’ll put our “unusually large gain” on hold for a minute, while we review the balance of the numbers.

The next highest gain is in retail trade with an increase of 47,000 jobs. We know for a fact that 13,000 of these jobs were in food stores, indicating that striking workers have returned to work.

Health care and social assistance fields accounted for a 36,000 job increase, with major changes indicating hospitals gaining 12,000 employees, physician offices 9,000 employees and residential care facilities 7,000 employees.

Financial services added 11,000 jobs with the majority in credit intermediation. This increase is a reflection of an increase in mortgage refinancing.

Professional and business service fields gained 42,000 jobs in March. This is the same sector that added 212,000 temporary jobs over the past eleven months.

The final large increase is in the leisure and hospitality sector indicating an addition of 27,000 jobs in food services and drinking places.

Click for big version

The one area where jobs are desperately needed in this country is unchanged. Manufacturing jobs for the month of March remained at 14.3 million, which is most unusual since manufacturing jobs for the month of February 2004 were also exactly 14.310 million.

The jobs appear to be spread out pretty evenly across the various employment sectors so now all we have to determine is where all these jobs are. If there are 308,000 more jobs in March, why are there 182,000 more people unemployed in this country?

Perhaps the jobs that we are jumping up and down and cheering about aren’t even in this country and may not even be held by Americans.

What do we know for a fact? We know that the U.S. Congress appropriated 18.4 billion dollars for the reconstruction of Iraqi infrastructure. We know that in January of 2004 2/3 of this money, or 12.4 billion dollars, was earmarked for 2,300 different construction projects in Iraq (click here). We also know that in January of 2004, the Project Management Office (PMO) of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) began work on the Tadji project.

The Tadji project is a $28.3 million dollar project for the renovation of the Tadji Military Base and Iraqi Armed Forces Recruiting Stations and includes building renovation, renovation and construction of medical facilities, repairing a wastewater treatment plant and installing sewage distribution lines. The work is being performed at the Tadji Military Base and the Iraqi Recruiting Stations at Al Hillah, Kirkuk and Baqcuba and is scheduled for completion in early June 2004. Parsons Infrastructure & Technology Group of Pasadena, California is the prime contractor and it would be safe to assume that whether the construction workers are American or Iraqi they are on Parsons payroll.

Three other projects were awarded in January to U.S. companies. A $10.3 million dollar project was awarded by the PMO to Weston Solutions, Inc. located in West Chester, Pennsylvania. This contract is for building renovation, construction of electrical, water and sanitary sewage systems, security improvements, dock repair and dredging at the Iraqi Naval Base located in Umm Qasr. This project is scheduled to be completed by mid-May 2004.

Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure, Inc., Baton Rouge LA, was awarded a $46.7 million dollar contract to renovate the Al Kasik Army Base. By mid-March the work was expected to be completed to support one Iraqi Army brigade, with additional work to be completed by mid-May to support a second Iraqi Army brigade. This work is being done at the Al Kasik Army base which is located in northern Iraq, west of Mosul.

The largest, of the initial contracts, was awarded to Earth Tech, Inc. of Long Beach, California for $65.4 million dollars to rebuild the Iraqi military base at An Numiniyah, which is located southeast of Baghdad. In addition to renovating existing facilities and infrastructure, there will be construction of new facilities to support operations and training, as well as work on water supply, wastewater treatment and power services. This job is scheduled for completion in mid-April 2004.

Is it any wonder that the payroll figures from the Establishment Survey would increase dramatically after we awarded more than $150 million dollars in contracts, to be completed no later than mid-June 2004?

The BLS Employment report for the month of March 2004 provides a few additional keys that indicate the job increases may not be in the U.S.

The average workweek decreased by 0.1 percent in March for production or non-supervisory workers, and the average weekly earnings fell by 0.2 percent, which certainly is not indicative of a booming economy. The number of discouraged workers increased by 40,000 and, the unemployment rate increased from 5.6% in February to 5.7% in March.

We may be anxious to get the bells and whistles out in celebration, but the 308,000 increase for March may simply turn out to be wishful thinking, a calculation error, or the end result of spending the first $150 million on Iraq contracts.


© 2004 Patricia Johnson

Patricia Johnson is a freelance writer residing in the Midwest.

© Scoop Media

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