Pictured in three vignettes from this week's news, here, anecdotally, is what the new American economy looks like.
Want an iPhone? Stiff a homeless guy.
The lines outside of Apple Stores on phone release day, like the lines everyday outside the cronut store, have developed their own informal economies. Paying people to wait in line is such a common occurrence that even CNN is hip to the trend. All the joy of a new luxury item, none of the plebeian line-waiting. (This New York Times article should be read, now, though we're getting far afield.)
For some, though, even upholding a simple wait-for-cash deal confers too much respect. Via Valleywag's Sam Biddle comes this video from KTLA Los Angeles. It was taped outside of an Apple Store in Pasadena.
"There were about 50 of us that are homeless that were camped out all night," the man being interviewed says, promised $20 by a businessman for each ticket they could reserve allowing the purchase of a shiny new iPhone. The guy who promised them the deal never showed up today to collect the tickets or pay his ad hoc employees. "I didn't really need this kind of delay or inconvenience," the man says, rather understating it.
The businessman, whoever he was, probably had similar deals with a number of other homeless people at other Apple Stores, later picking a few to uphold his promise or maybe just losing interest. Who knows. Just another job creator doing his thing. We'll note that the line-waiting in Pasadena also included two arrests and a fight.
Update, Saturday: More details, from the Los Angeles Times. The businessman picked up homeless people in LA, drove them to various Apple Stores, and then will resell the phones overseas.
The homeless man's plan now? See if he's got enough on his mass transit pass to make it back to downtown Los Angeles and "come up with another game plan … or hope something else comes by to help me get some income."
Only women have regained jobs lost during the recession, thanks to the crappy jobs they've gotten.
Last week, the Associated Press reported that women, unlike men, have regained the jobs they collectively lost during the recession.
All told, 68 million women said they were employed last month. That topped the 67.97 million who had jobs when the recession began in December 2007, the government says.
Among men, 76.2 million were employed last month. That was down from 78.3 million in December 2007.
A Bloomberg report helps explain why: those jobs are largely in the much-lower-paying service sector. The article's headline? "Women Waiting Tables Provide Most of Female Gains in U.S."
The downside is that the gains have been largely in lower-paying industries such as waitresses, in-home health care, food preparation and housekeeping. About 60 percent of the increase in employment for women from 2009 to 2012 was in jobs that pay less than $10.10 an hour, compared with 20 percent for men, according to a study by the National Women’s Law Center using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
On the plus side, many of those women are allowed to wear pants at work.
The American manufacturing renaissance employs some people and a lot of robots.
In August, The Wall Street Journal had good news: "After more than a decade of losing ground to China and other export powerhouses, U.S. manufacturers are finally showing signs of regaining their competitive edge." The trade deficit was shrinking; more companies were opening up shop in America.
But that hasn't meant a lot of people heading back to work. The graph at right shows manufacturing jobs, in thousands, since 1990. A little uptick recently, but generally flat.
On Friday, The New York Times helped explain why in its look a return of Southern textile facilities.
Step inside Parkdale Mills, and prepare to be overwhelmed by machines.
Only infrequently does a person interrupt the automation, mainly because certain tasks are still cheaper if performed by hand — like moving half-finished yarn between machines on forklifts. Beyond that, there is little that resembles the mills of just a few decades ago.
Specifically: "The mill here produces 2.5 million pounds of yarn a week with about 140 workers. In 1980, that production level would have required more than 2,000 people."
That August Wall Street Journal article hinted at this.
Boston Consulting Group—a leading proponent of the idea that U.S. manufacturing will come roaring back—predicts a surge in U.S. exports, partly helped by lower energy costs and stagnating wages.
American wages have been flat for a decade. Providing manufacturers the perfect opportunity to bring streamlined, automated systems back on-shore.
If this happened to your job, don't worry. You can get a little extra in your paycheck when Apple refreshes its line of phones next year.
Photo: Apparently voluntary Apple line-waiters. (AP)