• Yet Another Meme That Needs Killing.

    Unemployment going down in Alabama! Why is this? Illegal Immigrants are leaving and Americans are getting their jobs. Amazing how law and order works. I wish the Democrats could understand this simple concept!
    This is the meme conservatives tout when exhorting how well Alabama's immigration law is "working." The above relies on a non-understanding of how unemployment rates are counted and the suggestion that Americans are grabbing onto these jobs for dear life.

    From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

    The basic concepts involved in identifying the employed and unemployed are quite simple:
    • People with jobs are employed.
    • People who are jobless, looking for jobs, and available for work are unemployed.
    • People who are neither employed nor unemployed are not in the labor force.

    Persons are classified as unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior 4 weeks, and are currently available for work. Actively looking for work may consist of any of the following activities:

    • An employer directly or having a job interview
    • A public or private employment agency
    • Friends or relatives
    • A school or university employment center
    • Sending out resumes or filling out applications
    • Placing or answering advertisements
    • Checking union or professional registers
    • Some other means of active job search
    Passive methods of job search do not have the potential to result in a job offer and therefore do not qualify as active job search methods. Examples of passive methods include attending a job training program or course, or merely reading about job openings that are posted in newspapers or on the Internet.

    Workers expecting to be recalled from temporary layoff are counted as unemployed, whether or not they have engaged in a specific jobseeking activity. In all other cases, the individual must have been engaged in at least one active job search activity in the 4 weeks preceding the interview and be available for work (except for temporary illness).

    A decrease in unemployment rates does not mean that more people have found work. To wit, if a person simply stops any and all efforts to look for a job, they're not counted as a person looking for employment and are therefore not counted in the statistics. Neither is a person who moved to another state seeking employment. As far as those who do become employed, those who became self-employed or found some form of freelance work may not be counted in the stats.

    Plenty of illegal immigrants have packed their bags and moved out, leaving the jobs they used to work open and available for the taking by legal American citizens. But those folks aren't picking up those jobs, most of which happen to be laborious, backbreaking farm and production plant jobs, jobs that most Americans are woefully out of condition for and not desperate enough to take.

    Conservatives believe that ordinary Americans are falling all over themselves to fill in the jobs left behind by their illegal immigrant counterparts. This may shed some light on why Americans aren't as enthusiastic about the new openings as conservatives believe they are:

    On a sunny October afternoon, Juan Castro leans over the back of a pickup truck parked in the middle of a field at Ellen Jenkins’s farm in northern Alabama. He sorts tomatoes rapidly into buckets by color and ripeness. Behind him his crew—his father, his cousin, and some friends—move expertly through the rows of plants that stretch out for acres in all directions, barely looking up as they pull the last tomatoes of the season off the tangled vines and place them in baskets. Since heading into the fields at 7 a.m., they haven’t stopped for more than the few seconds it takes to swig some water. They’ll work until 6 p.m., earning $2 for each 25-pound basket they fill. The men figure they’ll take home around $60 apiece.

    Most Americans believe themselves to be far more valuable in regards to labor than $60 for 11 hours of work, or $7.50 to $9.00/hr. They have families to support and unlike illegal immigrants, not enough family members in the home able or willing to commit 95% of their time spent to working minimum-wage jobs. At least when the illegal immigrants go home, they'll live very comfortable lives on the U.S. dollars they brought with them (provided they aren't robbed, harassed or killed by one of the many cartel groups prevalent in most areas of Mexico and other Central American nations). Meanwhile, Americans remain mired in a knee-deep morass of debt, with no way of pulling themselves out anytime soon.

    The men lean against the car, smoking cigarettes and trying to figure out how to finish the job before day’s end. “They gotta come up with a better pay system,” says Rayford. “This ain’t no easy work. If you need somebody to do this type of work, you gotta be payin’. If they was paying by the hour, motherf—–s would work overtime, so you’d know what you’re working for.” He starts to pace around the car. “I could just work at McDonald’s (MCD),” he says.

    Now there's an idea. Raising the pay would be a worthwhile incentive to most folk who wouldn't touch these jobs with a ten-foot pole. Most employers won't do this because it will eat into their bottom lines. Others aren't able to do it, since they're already operating on bleeding-edge margins:

    Rhodes says he understands why Americans aren’t jumping at the chance to slice up catfish for minimum wage. He just doesn’t know what he can do about it. “I’m sorry, but I can’t pay those kids $13 an hour,” he says. Although the Uniontown plant, which processes about 850,000 pounds of fish a week, is the largest in Alabama and sells to big supermarket chains including Food Lion, Harris Teeter, and Sam’s Club (WMT), Rhodes says overseas competitors, which pay employees even lower wages, are squeezing the industry.

    Conservatives just don't realize that people won't go for just any job because it happens to be there. A job that entails backbreaking, monotonous work for 12 hours or more per day won't be filled unless it pays a wage that working people can support themselves and their families on. They won't put themselves at risk for developing arthritis, joint pains, back trouble and other health problems unless they know they're getting a working wage that will hopefully compensate them for putting so much wear and tear on their bodies. And a bit of health insurance wouldn't hurt, either. This was why unions came to be in the first place.

    I suspect most conservatives already have jobs -- salaried ones that trend towards the six figures. They already got theirs, and they're scratching their heads over why their poorer fellow Americans won't just shut up and take whatever's given to them. They have no concept of how hard most of these agricultural and factory processing jobs are. No concept of standing on one's feet for 12 hours a day, up to six days a week if necessary, for wages that barely support a single person, let alone a family of four.

    Individual states are grabbing the issue of illegal immigration by the balls because they feel the federal government isn't doing enough to enforce immigration statues. Perhaps President Obama would do good to find a way to put immigration law back under the purview of the federal government before states like Alabama hurt themselves further.