Unemployment Claims Spike Again As We Get More Scientific Evidence The Middle Class Is Shrinking

Despair And Unemployment - Public DomainAs the U.S. economy slows down, we would expect to start to see evidence of this in the employment numbers, and that is precisely what has begun to happen.  During the week before last, initial claims for unemployment benefits jumped by 17,000, which was the largest increase that we had seen in over a year.  Well, last week we witnessed an even bigger spike.  Seasonally adjusted initial claims shot up 20,000 more to a total of 294,000.  Of course it makes perfect sense that more Americans are applying for unemployment benefits, because firms are laying people off at a much faster pace these days.  Just a couple days ago I reported that job cut announcements at major firms are running 24 percent higher this year compared to the first four months of last year.  So we should fully expect that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits will continue to accelerate.

Personally, I am a bit surprised by how quickly these numbers are getting worse.  The following comes directly from the Department of Labor

In the week ending May 7, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 294,000, an increase of 20,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 274,000. This is the highest level for initial claims since February 28, 2015 when it was 310,000. The 4-week moving average was 268,250, an increase of 10,250 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 258,000.

For a long time, initial claims for unemployment benefits were running quite low, and this was one of the few bright spots for the U.S. economy.

Unfortunately, that is now changing, and this is just more confirmation that a significant economic slowdown has already started.  For many more numbers that back up this claim, please see my previous article entitled “11 Signs That The U.S. Economy Is Rapidly Deteriorating Even As The Stock Market Soars“.

But whether the economy has been doing good or bad in recent years, the long-term trend of the decline of the middle class in America has continued unabated.

This week, we got even more evidence that the middle class is steadily disappearing from the Pew Research Center

The American middle class is losing ground in metropolitan areas across the country, affecting communities from Boston to Seattle and from Dallas to Milwaukee. From 2000 to 2014 the share of adults living in middle-income households fell in 203 of the 229 U.S. metropolitan areas examined in a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. The decrease in the middle-class share was often substantial, measuring 6 percentage points or more in 53 metropolitan areas, compared with a 4-point drop nationally.

Do you understand what that is saying?

It says that the middle class got smaller in 203 out of 229 U.S. metropolitan areas between 2000 and 2014.  This means that the death of the middle class is very widespread and it is happening all over the country.

But it isn’t just the middle class that is suffering.  According to that same report, household incomes have been falling for Americans in all income brackets…

American households in all income tiers experienced a decline in their incomes from 1999 to 2014. Nationally, the median income of middle-income households decreased from $77,898 in 1999 to $72,919 in 2014, a loss of 6%. The median incomes of lower-income and upper-income households fell by 10% and 7%, respectively, over this period.

The systematic evisceration of the middle class has been a continuing theme that I have been writing about for many years.  And without a doubt, one of the biggest reasons for the decline of the middle class has been the disappearance of middle class jobs.

Thanks to “free trade agreements” that have been pushed by Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the U.S. economy has been steadily merged into the emerging one world economic system.  As a result, U.S. workers are now forced to directly compete for jobs with workers on the other side of the planet that live in countries where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.

It was inevitable that good paying jobs would leave areas where labor was expensive and go to places were labor was very cheap.  Over the past couple of decades, the U.S. has seen tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities shut down and we have lost millions of middle class jobs.

One of those middle class jobs was lost by a factory worker named Wendell Nolen

Wendell Nolen, 52, has experienced the slide from middle-class status first-hand. Eight years ago, he was earning $28 an hour as a factory worker for Detroit’s American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings, assembling axles for pickup trucks and SUVs.

But early in 2008, the good life unraveled. After a three-month strike, Nolen took a buyout rather than a pay cut. Less than a year later, the plant was closed and American Axle shipped much of its work to Mexico.

Now Nolen makes $17 an hour in the shipping department of a Detroit steel fabricator, about 40 percent less than he made at the axle plant.

America is losing jobs because of the free trade stuff,’ Nolen said. ‘They’re selling America out.’

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

If you step back and take a longer-term view of things, what has happened to our middle class is abolutely staggering.

For example, one study found that the middle class in America became a minority last year for the first time in our history.

And if you go back to 1970, the middle class took home close to 62 percent of all income, but today that number has dropped to just 43 percent.

This is a problem that has been crying out for a solution for a very long time, and yet our politicians have been sitting on their hands.

Now the next crisis is here, and the plight of the middle class is about to get a whole lot worse.

For months, my regular readers have been listening to me go on and on about how the U.S. economy is deteriorating, but now even the mainstream media is saying it.

For example, a Bloomberg article that just came out admits that “the next president will probably face a recession” no matter who wins the election…

Talk about a poisoned chalice. No matter who is elected to the White House in November, the next president will probably face a recession.

And an article that was just published by CNBC is even more pessimistic about the economy…

We are in the midst of a deceleration in the economy, and the chain of dominoes leading to a recession has started to fall. First, it was a weak global economy. Then, multinationals and business-to-business companies were hit by the resulting decline in global trade and commodity prices. Now, consumers are starting to feel the repercussions as they draw down their growth in spending on discretionary goods and services, which we saw reflected in the first-quarter GDP report.

This is the foreshadowing of a recession. We saw similar indicators prior to recessions in 2001 and 2008. Although there is potential for economic indicators to flip, the current momentum and indicators suggest that the U.S. economy will get worse before it gets better.

This is precisely what I have been saying.  The exact same indicators that told us that recessions were coming in 2001 and 2008 have been flashing bright red, but most people don’t seem to understand what is happening.

It doesn’t matter how much faith you may have in Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump.  None of them can stop what is already in the process of happening.

Without a doubt, we truly are “in the midst of a deceleration in the economy”, and it is most certainly true that “the next president will probably face a recession”.

In fact, we would be exceedingly fortunate if it is just a recession that we will be dealing with.

The largest and most important economy on the planet is teetering on the brink, and it is not going to take much to push us into a full-blown disaster.

So let us hope for some sort of economic miracle to take place, because we could really use one right about now.

The Next Employment Crisis Is Here: Job Cuts At U.S. Companies Jump 35 Percent In April

Layoffs - Public DomainShould we be alarmed that the number of job cuts announced by large U.S. companies was 35 percent higher in April than it was in March?  This is definitely a case where the trend is not our friend.  According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, U.S. firms announced 65,141 job cuts during April, which represented a massive 35 percent increase over the previous month.  And so far this year overall, job cut announcements are running 24 percent higher than for the exact same period in 2015.  Meanwhile, on Thursday we learned that initial claims for unemployment benefits shot up dramatically last week.  In fact, the jump of 17,000 was the largest increase that we have seen in over a year.  Of course the U.S. economy has been slowing down for quite a while now, and many have been wondering when we would begin to see that slowdown reflected in the employment numbers.  Well, that day has now arrived.

At this point, U.S. firms are laying off people at a rate that we have not seen since the last financial crisis.  Here is what Zero Hedge had to say about these latest numbers…

While one can debate the veracity of the BLS’ seasonally adjusted data, one thing is certain: when a company announces it will layoff thousands, it will. So for all those who suggest that all is well with the US jobs picture based on initial claims reports, here is the latest report from Challenger according to which the pace of downsizing increased in April jumped by 35% to 65,141 during the month of April, from the 48,207 layoff announcements in March.

Looking further back, in the first four months of 2016, employers have announced a total of 250,061 planned job cuts, up 24% from the 201,796 job cuts tracked during the same period a year ago. This represents the highest January-April total since 2009, when the opening four months of the year saw 695,100 job cuts in the aftermath of the biggest financial crisis in modern history.

So what is causing this?

Why are firms laying off so many people all of a sudden?

My readers are very well aware of the pain that the energy industry is experiencing at the moment, but surprisingly it was not the energy industry that announced the most job cuts in April…

Computer firms announced 16,923 job cuts during the month; the highest total among all industries. That total includes 12,000 from chipmaker Intel, which is shifting away from the traditional desktop and laptop market and toward the mobile market. To date, computer firms have announced 33,925 job cuts, up 262 percent from a year ago, when job cuts in the sector totaled just 9,368 through the first four months of the year.

Yes, the U.S. energy industry has lost well over 100,000 good paying jobs since the beginning of last year, but the downturn is so much broader than that.  All over America corporate earnings are down, and when earnings fall it is inevitable that layoffs will follow.

As I have written about previously, earnings for companies listed on the S&P 500 have fallen a total of 18.5 percent from their peak in late 2014, and it was being projected that corporate earnings overall would be down 8.5 percent for the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period a year ago.

And in the chart that I have posted below, you can see that corporate profits after tax have been falling precipitously since peaking in mid-2015…

corporate profits

As this new economic downturn intensifies, the layoffs will accelerate.

In plain English, that means that a whole lot more people will be losing their jobs.

Unfortunately, a very large percentage of Americans didn’t learn anything from the last crisis and are living on the financial edge.  In fact, the Federal Reserve says that 47 percent of all Americans cannot even pay an unexpected $400 emergency room bill without borrowing the money or selling something.

So just like back in 2008, we are going to see huge numbers of people unable to pay their bills when they lose their jobs.  Foreclosures are going to skyrocket, and lots and lots of families are going to be put out into the street.

This is why I have been preaching the importance of having an emergency fund for years.  It is absolutely imperative to have an emergency fund that can cover your bills for at least six months in the event that there is a job loss or some other sort of major disaster strikes.

If you have not done this already, you are probably already too late.

The cold, hard reality of the matter is that it would take most families quite a while to save up a six month emergency fund if they are starting from zero.

So if you are in this position and you lose your job, you may have to move in with family or friends when your money runs out.

I don’t mean to be cold, but this is the situation that we are facing.  The next employment crisis is already here, and it is going to get much, much worse.  No matter who becomes “the next president”, job cuts are going to accelerate and good jobs are going to become exceedingly difficult to find.

I am certainly not advocating that anyone give up.  If you still have a good job for the moment, tighten your belt and use this time to feverishly prepare the very best that you can.

Sadly, tens of millions of Americans believed that this bubble of false prosperity would keep on rolling, and so they wasted immense amounts of precious time and resources.  Now the day of reckoning is here, and vast numbers of our fellow citizens are going to discover the horror of being unprepared.

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