On Tuesday, the S&P 500 and the Dow closed at nominal all-time highs. Three days later, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy added a shockingly low 88,000 jobs in March. How bad is 88K? Well, put it this way, we're theoretically in the midst of an accelerating recovery, and 88K new jobs per month won't get us back to full employment for another 20 years, or more.
I suspect that this will be one of the defining national stories of 2013, and beyond: The big, sustained, and accelerating gap between the working opportunities of most Americans and the profits produced at the top.
You could argue that this is a new, and transitory, story. You could say I picked two headlines from the past four days (I did). You could say that firms rushed to technology and efficiency to replace workers in an exceptional, and slowly normalizing, crisis (they did). You could say that the balance between labor and capital might naturally come back to normal as rising Asian wages send more work back into the U.S. (they might).
But when you draw back the lens, you see that this week's stock market/labor market schism isn't a new story, at all. Here's the 40-year look at the growth of corporate profits vs. GDP vs. income that goes to workers, rich and poor. I mean, holy wow.