January 07, 2012

That jobs report « LBO News from Doug Henwood Friday morning brought the release of the employment stats (Employment Situation News Release) for December. It was a strong report, though not quite as strong as it looks on the surface. Many of the gains are likely to be reversed in January, but the trend of modest, steady improvement continues—and manufacturing had its best year since 1984. Now some details, edited for radio. Employers added 200,000 jobs in December. Over a fifth of that gain, 42,000, came from couriers and messengers—meaning all those FedEx and UPS folks delivering holiday packages ordered from the likes of Amazon. Online retailers had a great December. Not so much for brick and mortar retailers, who’d apparently expected otherwise and hired ambitiously, adding another 28,000 to the headline figure. Given the ultimate disappointment of the holiday season, retail-store-wise, and the explicitly temporary nature of the courier jobs, these gains—which together accounted for over a third of the total—are likely to be reversed in January. What I’ve been calling the eat, drink, and get sick sector returned to its previous strength after slipping in November, as bars and restaurants and health care together added almost 50,000, a quarter of the total. There are good jobs in health care (and also lots of not so good ones), but with an exception I’ll get to in a moment, the strongest sectors were either evanescent or low wage or both. This is hardly the bold acceleration that some insta-pundits were touting on Friday morning. Maybe they’re Democrats. In the...
Undressing the Academy Just received a couple of intriguing Minor Compositions books from the excellent Stevphen Shukaitis. Hope to read 19 & 20 Notes for a New Social Protagonism (as well another Minor Compositions book I recently got, Ben Noys' Communization and Its Discontents) soon. Did have a chance to read (well, skim) Undressing the Academy, or The Student Handjob a collective product of the University for Strategic Optimism. Gotta say--my first reaction is that the optimism is hard to find; it's being deployed so strategically as to be barely apparent at all. I think for the authors--students--and likely readers--students the optimism might come out of a combination of the expressions of rage and despair in the book and the emphasis on responding collectively, whether through writing, squatting, or protesting--although the book is not naive about the efficacy of protests: it notes the failure of the last decades biggest protests (February 15 2003, globally, and March 26 2011 in the UK). That said, I love the book as a rejoinder and anecdote to the stream of educational propaganda shoveled through my college's listserv. We are constantly being told how to engage students, help them be responsive learners, how we should be co-learners, what skills we need them to develop so that they will become leaders ("leadership" is the new buzzword--but really? who is it kidding? as an object of pedagogical practice it's another vehicle for extend corporate logics more deeply into society, grasping people at younger ages, and disciplining the curriculum). The cynicism...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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