CBS TV — Kennedy on the Labor Market & Unemployment

In a 1963 Labor Day interview with Walter Cronkite, President Kennedy discusses his position on handling the labor market of the United States with around 4 million unemployed (about 5.5% at the time). Kennedy notes that the growing labor force in the United States requires that if the US wants to “stand still,” they still need to move very fast. Kennedy’s main policy focus at the time was retraining workers who had been displaced by technology and making sure that significant amount of workers have the necessary education to handle the growing workforce.

Kennedy also speaks to the lost jobs in “hardcore unemployed” industries like coal and steel and how it’s important to make sure those workers are retrained because those workers are no longer needed. He then laments that there’s a different issue with older workers replaced by technology and younger workers who don’t have the education to handle that technology. Kennedy ends this portion of the interview with a very powerful quote about the fear of automation:

Too many people coming into the labor market, too many machines are throwing people out.

You can view the entire interview, courtesy of the Kennedy Presidential Library, on YouTube.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — Two Jobs Gaffe

 

In an interview segment discussing the economy, primarily the unemployment rate, Ocasio-Cortez dismissed claims that the economy is strong because of a historically low unemployment rate because “unemployment is low because everyone has two jobs. Unemployment is low because people are working 60, 70, 80 hours a week and can barely feed their family.”

The issue with this claim is, namely, that the unemployment rate does not distinguish between the number of hours that people are working, nor the number of jobs they hold. While there are a narrow set of rules to be considered unemployed, only about 5% of Americans currently hold multiple jobs:

While politicians routinely make mistakes regarding the economy (1, 2), this gaffe is particularly note-worthy because Ocasio-Cortez holds a bachelors degree in economics from Boston University.

Billy Paul — Let the Dollar Circulate

I reached out to #EconTwitter and asked what songs they like to use to teach different topics in their classes and the results did not disappoint:

Since I’m not a macroeconomist, I have very little content on the macro side from tv and movies, but apparently music covers a lot of macro topics. The first suggestion was this 1975 Billy Paul song, Let the Dollar Circulate which begs for money to start flowing through the economy and wonders why things have slowed down (Is it all because of Watergate?). Paul notes that “Things are gettin’ higher, makes it hard on the buyers”  (inflation is happening) and “Unemployment on the rise.” The song was released at the end of the 1973-1975 recession. I was curious what unemployment and inflation looked like in the 1970s leading up to the recession, so I went and put together a FRED chart for you:

Thanks to Leo for the song suggestion!

Brooklyn 99 — The Danger of Email

 

Jake and Charles are sent to the US Postal Inspection Services to get help with a case they are working on that involves a mail key. There they meet Agent Jack Danger who identifies the key as being part of a set of old post boxes that are no longer in service. Jake and Charles want the list of people who were responsible for collecting they key and recommend that Agent Danger emails them the list. This clearly upsets Agent Danger since many of his friends were laid off because of the introduction of email.

KRON 4 — Online News in 1981

A look back at a 1981 news segment that covers the Internet and the eventual push to online media. At the time, 8 newspapers were currently part of the network delivering their daily news via this system. The “paper” included all text, but not images or classifieds. Near the end of the segment, they predict that nearly all news will be delivered electronically, but that the time would be a few years away. The segment closes with a look at a newspaper salesman who would potentially become structurally unemployed when the need for physical papers vanishes.

30 Rock — Structural Unemployment

In this scene from 30 Rock, Liz Lemon is faced with the possibility that her job may become obsolete. She meets others (a travel agent, an American auto worker, a saxophone soloist) who are no longer employed because consumers are no longer willing to pay for their services/goods.

Thanks to James Tierney for the clip!

Adam Ruins Everything — Unemployment Rate

 

 

Adam Ruins Everything is a half-hour informational comedy were host, Adam Conover, debunks popular myths. Each episode is divided into 3 segments with some common theme. In the Spring of 2018, James Tierney and I sat down to go through all three seasons of Adam Ruins Everything to pick out examples in each episode that could be used in an economics course. If you’re curious about the paper, you can read about it here.

Adam reviews the requirements for individuals to be considered unemployment under the most traditional classification of unemployment (U3). While he mentions that this isn’t a perfect measure, he doesn’t mention the other types of unemployment. This could be a good introduction to the different types of unemployment counted by the BLS.

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