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The jobless recovery, explained

Annie Lowrey brings the data:

Wondering what’s behind those recent jobless recovery numbers?

1. Fortune 500 companies tripled their profits to $391 billion in 2009.

2. They also slashed their payrolls by more than 800,000 jobs.

There's been a lot of talk about productivity growth lately, and I think this does a good job explaining what's going on: Corporations are getting more from fewer workers.

By Ezra Klein  |  April 15, 2010; 11:26 AM ET
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Do those numbers include overseas profits, and do we know how much that is?

Posted by: jduptonma | April 15, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

And they have increased payouts at the top. Productivity gains in the past 20-30 years have gone disproportionately to the people at the top. Not the shareholders (via dividends) so much as to top management. Compensation to top management has increased vastly due to a combination of tax changes (lowered marginal rates and preferential rates for dividends and capital gains) and old-boy network compensation setting, in which everyone including the directors who set compensation make out like bandits at the expense of workers and, to a lesser degree, ordinary shareholders.

Posted by: Mimikatz | April 15, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Time for a worker's "slow down"? Unless those 800,000 jobs were just unnecessary, make-work padding (which I doubt), it's the only way I can see to reverse the practice of squeezing more productivity out of fewer workers.

Posted by: JJenkins2 | April 15, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Please refer back to your interview with Andy Stern.

Posted by: Jaycal | April 15, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Yea, but most of us "very productive employees" are getting very burned out! You can't perform the job of 2-3 people for such an extended period of time w/o going thru some type of mental/emotional/physical meltdown.

Sidebar, I really would love to know if the jobless recovery is also because the jobs that were lost are being replaced with jobs offshore. Is there any place where we can find out that information?

Thank you.

Posted by: JERiv | April 15, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Oh, then there's always the quote, "never waste a good crisis."

Posted by: Jaycal | April 15, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

you're right Ezra.

I want my money back. The stole it from me!

but seriously if you really think that the only answer to this is companies are screwing employees then you're short-sighted. Did we not see statistics recently that showed that the average work week that had gone down last year now went up? Employers will lengthen the work of those employees they have prior to hiring new employees.

And mimikatz,

For the last several years (whether you like it or not) CEO compensation has gone down. If you want to adjust your time frames to fit your point then so be it but the facts are still the facts.

Posted by: visionbrkr | April 15, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I'm looking at our proxy statement right now and let me tell you it's amazing. I can't get permission to backfill positions but we evidently are awash in cash because you should see the millions going out the door in the form of executive compensation.

Posted by: luko | April 15, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

CEO pay rates 1995-2005:

Nonetheless, what's the purpose of fostering an economy that frequently produces "jobless recoveries"? What exactly are we getting in lieu of well-paying jobs that's so damned great? Thirty six kinds of Cheez Whiz? What? Seriously, I don't get it.

Posted by: slag | April 15, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

>>what's the purpose of fostering an economy that frequently produces "jobless recoveries">>

The purpose is to benefit the owners and senior managers of businesses and the politicians and pundits who support them.

Isn't this obvious?

Posted by: fuse | April 15, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

This is why many freelancers (like me) are currently enjoying a huge burst of business. As headcounts get smaller and work remains the same or increases, that extra work has to go somewhere.

Posted by: gmarasco | April 15, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

My mother called this strip-mining workers.

Posted by: lroberts1 | April 15, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

What journalists do not investigate is whether the jobs slashed here appear overseas.

I don't think we are "producing more with fewer workers." I think we are "producing more with fewer American workers."

What is the matter with the journalist profession that they fail to follow the money on this important issue?

Posted by: mminka | April 15, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse


If Ezra could just accept that we are living in a market economy, he would make a lot more sense.

Posted by: staticvars | April 16, 2010 12:33 AM | Report abuse

I'm quite proud you didn't blame Bush.

Posted by: kingstu01 | April 16, 2010 7:53 PM | Report abuse

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