Several recent reports have painted a depressing view of the condition of the American worker, and indicate that the nation may well be on the verge of a recession, if not already in one.
Though unemployment only rose modestly in March--from 4.8 to 5.1 percent--the quality of work those still employed are able to get appears to have diminished.
According to the Labor Department, the hours worked by those on U.S. payrolls dropped in March when compared with six months earlier. The average workweek in the private sector between March 2007 and March 2008 slipped from 33.9 to 33.8 hours, while overtime for manufacturing workers fell by a larger margin.
The last time this index showed a loss was in February 2001, just before the economy slipped into the depths of the dot-com bust. In August 1990, there was a similar slip when the nation was already in a severe downturn.
The Consumer Price Index--a measure of price changes in consumer goods, also known as the "cost of living" index-- increased by 0.9 percent in March, or 0.3 percent when seasonally adjusted. This was the sixth consecutive month that pay failed to keep pace with inflation.
The number of people working part-time because their hours have been cut or because they couldn't find full-time jobs--4.9 million--changed little in March, but has risen by 400,000 since November and 629,000 in the last year.
William Gamble, an international lawyer and economist, gives a global view of the current economic problems and does not paint a more promising picture for workers.
"We're already in a recession, and it won't be quick to get out of it, as the Fed would like us to believe. The slowdown isn't just in the United States but everywhere--because we're in a global marketplace and inflation is out of control in many countries. It's going to get worse before it gets better," Gamble told eWEEK.