An overseer and his underlings

An overseer and two small grimy boys face the camera in a textile mill.

An overseer and two grimy boy doffers face the photographer in a Birmingham, Alabama, textile factory.

The textile mill epitomized mechanized industry, which made humans servants of machines.  Textile manufacture was one of the earliest industries in the US, one often associated with ‘sweated’ labor.  Exploitative practices reached an apogee in the late nineteenth-century American South, where mills employed black and white workers with no other prospects, drawing in many poor Appalachian families.  Conditions in the mills were such that workers (many of them children) were virtually enslaved.  Despite laboring incessantly, they lived in poverty, without recourse to their employer’s authority.  The overseer in this picture boasted of having 30 doffers to do his bidding.  The doffers’ job was to run to replace full spindles with empty ones to keep the looms running smoothly.

This picture was taken in November 1910.

Library of Congress photograph by Lewis Hine.

The Shape of the Post-Recession Economy

How the Recession Reshaped the Economy by the New York Times (snapshot of graphic)

 

For those interested in the condition of the US economy, I highly recommend the detailed set of interactive graphics that the New York Times published online yesterday.  CLICK ON THE IMAGE OR HERE TO VIEW.  The graphics compile data on almost all the private-sector jobs in today’s economy, depicting how each of 255 sectors has fared since the economic downturn and giving figures for the average pay in each sector and the total number of jobs lost or gained.

Every time I see graphics of this quality, I wonder why the US government is incapable of producing statistical summaries that are as timely and as accessible to ordinary people.  While the government collects an enormous amount of data on almost every aspect of our economy and society, its performance is terrible when it comes to making facts about our country readily available on the internet for everyday use.

Many thanks to Jeremy Ashkenas and Alicia Parlapiano of the New York Times for designing a set of statistical representations that are so beautiful, informative, and easy to read.

The graphics show which sectors of the economy have recovered or never suffered a loss.  Others are newly created and growing (e.g. electronic shopping).  The oil and natural-gas sector, with many high-paying jobs, is growing great guns.  Yet others like air transportation and many sectors relating to homes and home-building are continuing to suffer and even decline.  The recession also accelerated the decline of certain ailing parts of the economy (such as traditional print media).  Overall, it seems obvious that the recession coincided with other major shifts in the economy, such as those caused by globalism and technological developments like the digital revolution.