The most common job in each state in 1978.
Long story short: The most common jobs remaining are the ones that haven’t been automated and aren’t being done cheaper overseas.
The most common job in each state in 1978.
Long story short: The most common jobs remaining are the ones that haven’t been automated and aren’t being done cheaper overseas.
The AFL-CIO has an excellent series of infographics about what’s wrong with the U.S. economy, which I have put into this post. For those who have a little time, I link to four articles explaining the infographics. For those who have more time, I then link to background information on which the articles are based.
My only argument with the AFL-CIO is that they attribute bad economic policies exclusively on Republicans, while ignoring Wall Street Democrats such as Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer and Christopher Dodd.
Walmart is selling TV sets with the label, “Assembled in the USA,” but the Association for American Manufacturing has complained to the Federal Trade Commission that the TV sets are actually made in China.
FTC rules say that a product can’t be labeled as assembled in the USA unless the principal assembly takes part in the USA, and the assembly work is substantial. Walmart’s supplier, Element Electronics, doesn’t do enough assembly to qualify, the complaint says.
One reason American manufacturers have shifted production overseas is to meet Walmart’s demand for low prices. Walmart is the USA’s largest importer. That’s something for American Christman shoppers to think about.
How Walmart Destroyed U.S. Manufacturing by Molly McGrath and Brad Markell for the Walmart 1 Percent.
Walmart Workers Ramp Up Protests for Black Friday by Diane Krauthamer for Labor Notes.
My e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey sent me links to articles with the charts shown above, both from the Economic Policy Institute, whcih the seriousness of the current attack on the public sector and the decline of public employment.
Public employment, unlike in previous economic recoveries, is still depressed, especially at the state and local level. In and of itself, this creates a drag on the whole economy, just like job losses in any other category.
And after a certain point there aren’t enough public employees left to do their jobs adequately. Teachers with too-large classes teach less effectively. Firefighters with too-long shifts and too-small crews fight less effectively. Nurses with too many patients may not be able to keep track of them as they should. Public roads and public utilities aren’t maintained.
While there can be featherbedding in public employment, this is not the situation now. Public services in many places are in dire straits.
Losing Sparta by Esther Kaplan on VQR tells the following story.
A Philips lighting fixtures plant in Sparta, Tenn., was named by Industry Week in 2009 as one of the 10 best factories in the USA.
Workers and managers had worked together to increase output on some lines by 60 percent, lower changeover time between small orders by 90 percent, and reduce defective parts by 95 percent. As a result the plant generated a good profit.
Yet in 2010 an executive showed up from corporate headquarters in the Netherlands and announced that the plant was closing, and its operations moved to Monterey, Mexico.
To people in Sparta, this didn’t make sense. Local business leaders did a study that showed that any savings on wages (which generally are no more than 10 to 15 percent of manufacturing costs) would be offset by increased transportation costs of Philips’ markets in the Northeast and Midwest. They were unable to make contact with anyone in Philips who was willing to listen or who had authority to make the decision.
Esther Kaplan thinks that the decision probably was based not on study of the Sparta plant specifically, but on an overall policy of centralizing manufacturing in low-wage countries.
I know from reporting on business years ago that there are fashions in management. In one era, the fashion was diversification, so that your business is not dependent on any one market; in another, it was divestment and concentration on core competency. And I know there are managers who think that willingness to cause human suffering is a sign of realism and tough-mindedness.
I also know from my own experience that when managers tell employees it is necessary to do X in order to keep their operation going, they almost always will do everything humanly possible to achieve X—provided that they think the statement is being made in good faith.
Workers in Sparta did everything management asked of them, but to no avail. Kaplan wrote that this is the story of American workers as a whole. Americans by many measures are the most productive workers in the world, and U.S. productivity continues to increase, but this does not keep manufacturing jobs in the USA.
The number of Americans with jobs has at long last gotten back to where it was before the state of the recession.
As the chart above shows, this has taken much longer than after any previous recession since World War Two.
But this doesn’t mean the U.S. economy is back to normal. The population has grown since then, and so we still have a higher number of Americans than before who are out of work.
Economists define a recession as two quarters of a year in which GDP (output of goods and services) has fallen, and a recovery as two quarters in which GDP has risen again.
In theory this would automatically mean an increase in jobs. If the output of goods and services is increasing, then supposedly more people are being put to work to produce these goods and services. But this time around, there is a disconnect.
The percentage of working-age Americans with jobs is far below pre-recession levels. Most Americans, based on their personal experience, think the United States is still in a recession.
The world steel industry is going through a shakeout. The world’s steel industry is producing more steel than can be sold on the market, which means some steel producers are doomed to go out of business.
The question is: Which ones? As things stand now, it is the U.S. industry that is at risk, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a pro-labor think tank. They say that’s because the U.S. market is more open to imports than other countries’ economies, and more vulnerable to dumping.
This means the 125,000 jobs in the U.S. steel industry are at risk, plus, according the EPI, up to three times that many whose jobs indirectly depend on the steel industry.
Senators Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, have asked the U.S. Commerce Department for penalty tariffs against South Korea and other countries. This may be necessary to enable the U.S. steel industry survive the current shakeout, but it is not a long-term solution to the industry’s problems.
It is an example of Robert B. Reich, writing more than 30 years ago, called industrial policy by historic preservation. Reich, who later served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, said the U.S. government will spend money to rescue industries on the brink of failure, but not to help make these industries successful in the first place.
Growth in small-business jobs is greatest in Washington state, which has the highest state minimum wage, and in San Francisco, which has the highest urban minimum wage.
That conclusion is based on the Paychex | IHS Small Business Job Index, a survey of more than 350,000 small-business clients of Paychex, a payroll processing firm, in partnership with IHS, a consulting firm.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Overall, the United States had a Small Business Job Index of 101.26, which meant that the number of small-business jobs was up 1.26 percent from 2004, when the survey began.
Washington state, with a minimum wage of $9.32 an hour, had a Job Index of 103.51 and San Francisco, with a minimum of $10.74 an hour, had a Job Index of 104.02.
During the past 12 months, small-business jobs increased by 2.2 percent in Washington state. Seattle’s small-business jobs grew by 2.66 percent, the highest 12-month growth rate among large U.S. cities. Small-business jobs in San Francisco’s increased 1.13 percent during the same period.
Maybe this job growth is due to a higher minimum wage giving workers more money to spend at local small businesses. Maybe it is for reasons completely unrelated to minimum wage.
But it provides an answer to the argument of many economists and the Congressional Budget Office that any increase in the minimum wage automatically results in a loss of small-business jobs.
Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index. Tables of data.
Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index Increases to 101.26 in April. A press release.
Washington state defies minimum wage logic by Katie Loboso for CNNMoney. Hat tip to Barry Ritholtz.
The chart shows how slow the current U.S. economic recovery is compared to recoveries from previous recessions. When and if the number of U.S. jobs returns to the pre-recession level (the 0.0% line on the chart), the jobs recovery will not be complete because the number of working-age Americans will have increased in the meantime.
Why is the current economic recovery so slow? Here is what I think:
I don’t believe in government spending money for the sake of spending money, but there are a lot of things that need to be done that in the long run will add to US economic strength, and this would be a good time to start. One useful way to increase jobs is for governments at all levels to start to repair our deteriorating bridges, water mains and other physical infrastructure.
FORGET THE 1% by J.D. Alt for New Economic Perspectives.
Inequality and the Weak Recovery by Joe Weisenthal for Business Insider.
Americans Shut Out of Home Market Threaten Recovery by Pashant Gopal and John Gittelsohn for Bloomberg Business News.
A smart economist named Tyler Cowen has written a book entitled Average Is Over, in which he foresees a world of advanced technology in which maybe 15 percent of the population will have the ability to keep up and grow rich, while everybody else falls behind.
He said new technology will make the population more legible to the job creators, so that those who have merit will rise more quickly, but those who make bad choices early in their lives will be marked forever. He has no problem with this because, like many economists, he thinks anything is all right if it is the result of market forces.
I don’t have standing to criticize Cowen’s book because I haven’t read it, but I think that, as a general principle, the greater the degree of inequality and the fewer the openings at the top, the less likely that these openings will be allocated on the basis of merit. Rather the gatekeepers will first make sure that their families and loved ones are taken care of, and then will look to do favors for those who can do favors in return.
Equality of opportunity entails risk for those at the top, but that risk is minimized when prosperity is widely shared, and people who miss out on one thing have a fair shot at something else.
Increasing numbers of American businesses are using NSA-type surveillance technology to monitor employee behavior on a minute-by-minute basis. The data gathered by these monitors will be used to create algorithms for judging in advance which employees will be productive and which won’t.
One striking example of this technology is the Hitachi Business Microscope, a device that resembles an employee name tag. An HBM can generate data on how an employee spent their day, when they stood up and sat down, when they nodded their heads, waved their arms, pointed their fingers or stretched, who they talked to and in what turn of voice, when they went to the bathroom or coffee machine and how long they spent doing it.
Hitachi says this data can be used to maximize “employee happiness.” I can think of less benign potential uses.
The HBM is part of a new industry of manufacturers and consultants that purport to use surveillance technology to improve employee productivity.
I question how much improvement will actually take place. Data is only useful to those who know how to interpret it correctly. Having more data than you can comprehend is counter-productive.
What the new surveillance technology will do is to increase managerial control, which most managers fail to realize is an entirely different thing.
Developments like this make me glad I’m 77 years old and retired. The great thing about being a newspaper reporter during the 40 years I worked in journalism was that you were free to do your job as you saw fit, and were judged by results.
I remember talking to some machinists for Eastman Kodak Co. in the late 1970s, who marveled that I in my job as a newspaper reporter was not only free to go to the bathroom without asking permission, but also to get up at will and go to the vending machine for cup of coffee.
Later on I was thankful not to be a telephone operator, telemarketer and customer service representative, who was monitored on whether he or she followed scripts and completed calls within an allotted time, or a data processor, whose work was measured keystroke by keystroke.
But the new technology takes workplace surveillance to a whole new level. It is like the difference between Tsarist Russia and Soviet Russia.
Ian Welsh on his web log pointed out the connection between the decline of farming and the growth of sweatshops. He noted how the connection operated in England during the Industrial Revolution, in Mexico under NAFTA and also in the United States.
After World War II Americans flooded from the farms into the new cities. For this generation, the GI generation, it was a straight upgrade: their lives were better. They worked less hours, they had more food, they had access to power and indoor plumbing, and good jobs with good pay.
Those Americans were treated very well, and if you weren’t black, the 1950s and 1960s are looked back on as the heyday of American prosperity. Good jobs were plentiful and easy to find and they came with healthcare and good pensions. Life was good.
Today, millennials and Gen-Xers don’t have such a good deal. Unemployment is high, if you lose your job you will have a hard time finding as good one, or a job at all, and good pensions and healthcare plans are more and more uncommon, and increasingly restricted to the executive class.
Why? Well, one reason is this, the family farms are gone. The first generation had to be treated well because they had options: they could go back to the family farm. So their jobs, and their lives as consumers had to be clearly superior to being on a farm.
Click on The Disposable Economy to read his whole post.
Here are links to articles I found interesting and you might find interesting, too.
On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber for Britain’s Strike! magazine.
Some 80 years ago the great economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that advances in technology would make it possible to do all the necessary work of society without people having to work long hours at low pay.
David Graeber said that this, in fact, has happened, but the necessary work of society is being crowded out by unnecessary work. He knows people who say frankly that their work serves no useful purpose, and they do it only to earn an income.
How do you distinguish between necessary and unnecessary work? Simply imagine what would happen if all the people doing a particular job went on strike? Society would be seriously inconvenienced if nobody taught school or staffed fast-food restaurants. But if all tele-marketers ceased work, most people would be glad.
Graeber wrote that it is the people who are doing the meaningful work—teachers, factory workers, health care workers—who are under attack in the current economic struggle, and that they are targets of resentment by people trapped in meaningless work. This is a good instrument of social control, he thinks.
An Open Letter to President Barack Obama by Ani McHugh, a high school English teacher in New Jersey.
Ani McHugh appealed to President Obama to abandon corporate school “reform” which, she says, prevents teachers from doing their jobs. She would be an example of people with meaningful and important jobs who are under attack.
How to Become a Part-Time Worker Without Really Trying by Barbara Garson for TomDispatch.
The trend to part-time work is not just a result of fewer factories and more fast-food restaurants. Barbara Garson described how companies are switching from full-time to part-time work, with the same work requiring the same skills and sometimes by the same people, but with less pay, fewer benefits and no job security.
This is true, although in terms of purchasing power, the Australian minimum wage for fast-food workers is more like $12 in the United States. Click on Australia minimum wage for details from the Real News Network.
Many economists say, without any empirical evidence, that an increase in the minimum wage will automatically result in increased unemployment. This is because it is a basic principle of economics that if you increase the price of something, people will buy less of it, and so it is with wages.
Under certain conditions, that would be true. Fewer people would be hired for minimum wage jobs if, say, the U.S. minimum wage was raised to $72.50 an hour. But there is no evidence that any of the actual increases in the minimum wage have had any adverse measurable effect on U.S. employment. Indeed, the number of minimum wage and near-minimum wage jobs has increased dramatically since 2007-2009, when the minimum wage was increased from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour.
The basic concept of economics—that the law of supply and demand describes how people respond to economic incentives—is true as far as it goes. This concept has such beauty and explanatory power that it is easy to forget the other dimensions of human behavior. Economists who forget this wind up like the physicist in the joke, who could infallibly predict the outcome of horse races, provided there were spherical horses racing in a vacuum.