On the September 14 anniversary of the collapse of Lehmann Brothers, Obama gave a speech to Wall Street declaring that the global economy had been pulled “back from the brink”.
The US is officially out of recession, with an expected growth rate of 1-2 per cent during the third quarter of 2009.
But the situation for workers continues to worsen.
In September, 263,000 jobs were lost, taking unemployment to 9.8 per cent, over 15 million people—the highest level since 1983. Official unemployment is expected to reach 10 per cent by the end of 2009. The average working week stands at just 33 hours, matching a record low.
Recent figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show clearly that the slight recovery in the US economy has come off the back of a marked increase in the rate at which workers are being exploited.
While the average number of hours worked per employee fell by 7.6 per cent between the first and second quarters of 2009, total output only fell 1.7 per cent. Terrified of losing their jobs, workers across the country were working harder and faster, picking up the slack of colleagues who had been fired.
Despite a resulting 6.4 per cent increase in labour productivity, the BLS also noted a 1.1 per cent decrease in the real wages taken home by workers.
There have been similar trends in Australia.
In July, the “Fair Pay Commission”, created as part of the Howard government’s WorkChoices regime, froze the minimum wage, despite an official inflation rate of 2.5 per cent. And a recent pole by Essential Research showed that 40 per cent of workers earning under $1000 per week had had their working hours cut over the previous year.
By Paddy Gibson

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