The economy has fallen into its worst hiring slump in almost 20 years, and many business executives say they remain unsure when it will end.
About one million people appear to have dropped out of the labor force since last summer, neither working nor looking for a job, according to government figures.
The shortage of jobs has also slowed wage growth so that only workers in the most affluent groups are still gaining ground on inflation, ending a six-year streak of broad increases in buying power*.
The possibility of a war with Iraq and an increase in oil prices offers another reason for hesitation [in hiring], they say. Many companies have also used new technologies and management techniques to produce more with the same number of employees.
"This is what I call the new reality," said Robert M. Dutkowsky, the chief executive of J. D. Edwards, a software maker in Denver that has kept its work force at 5,000 people for the last few years. "The environment we're operating in is what it's going to be like for a while."
An unusually large number of today's unemployed have been out of work for months, including Mr. Koehn, the South Bend manufacturing worker, who lost his job last spring. Almost 1.9 million people still looking for work have been unemployed for at least six months, triple the number of two years ago.
The young, the poor, the middle class — all must share in the sacrifice as we hand over our wages to our Republicorporate Chief Executive Overlords, in the form of George W. Bush's $2+ trillion tax cuts to benefit the wealthy.
The administration is astute in its opposition to a draft, because if young people were now being forced to go to Iraq against their will we would have riots. Instead we've been lulled into complacency by fear, weariness, and a rah-rah media that can't wait to go to war for the surge in ratings.
Meanwhile, the economy rots.
*A six-year streak that coincided with the administration of a president impeached by the same people who are botching the economy now.