In its discussion of historical middle class societies, The Economist reports, “Their members are neither rich nor poor but somewhere in-between…’Middle-class’ describes an income category but also a set of attitudes…An essential characteristic is the possession of a reasonable amount of discretionary income. Middle-class people do not live from hand to mouth, job to job, season to season, as the poor do.” Some argue that the most sensible income amount to attach to the middle class would be the median household income, of around $54,000.
In the upside-down, topsy-turvy world of jobs these days, even an advanced degree can’t protect some Americans from tumbling down the economic ladder. The conventional wisdom that more education bears fruit in the labor market gets turned on its head when it comes to unemployment. For people with masters and even doctoral degrees, long-term unemployment is especially insidious.
Over the past 5 years, the shale industry, fabricated or real reserves notwithstanding, has been a significant boon to the US economy for four main reasons: it has been the target of billions in fixed investment and CapEx spending, it has resulted in tens of thousands of high-paying jobs, its output has been a major tailwind for the US trade deficit, and has generally been a significant contributor to GDP (not to mention various Buffett-controlled or otherwise railway corporations). And perhaps, most importantly, it has become a huge buffer to the price of global oil, as the cost curve of US shale is horizontal, with a massive 10,000 kbls/day available within pennies of $85/bl.
Should we be concerned that the percentage of Americans that are either working or looking for work is the lowest that it has been in 36 years? In August, an all-time record high 92,269,000 Americans 16 years of age and older did not “participate in the labor force”. And when you throw in the people that are considered to be “in the labor force” but are not currently employed, that pushes the total of working age Americans that do not have jobs to well over 100 million.
Employers have been creating jobs at a good clip this year, but Americans are too exhausted and discouraged by the pain of the recession and slow recovery to see much cause for optimism. That’s the conclusion of a new report surveying the economic sentiment of workers, released Thursday by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.