Francine Knowles of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that workers 55 years or older have had more success finding jobs. This trend is also true of workers age 20-24 and those 25-34. This is good news. However, some groups have not been so lucky.
The groups that have seen job loss are 35-54 and teenagers. Teens always suffer during periods of high unemployment. Middle-aged workers are often earning high wages, which motivates employers to lay them off in favor of lower-paid, younger workers.
Overall, the job market is still only ticking up. As I often say, that’s macroeconomics, and it’s important for how we live as a society. For individuals, the unemployment rate is less important. Job churn means that individuals will find job opportunities if they search the right way. Whatever your age, be ready to look for a job and be ready if an employer asks for your resume. When it comes to your career, only two questions matter: Do I have a job? Do I have the kind of job I want? I call that the 100% rule.
Writing in the Nation, Bryce Covert examines how women have faired in the current job “recovery.” She points out problems with government data that muddy a real evaluation of the current employment status of women. What is undeniable is the impact of cuts in public center jobs, which are disproportionately held by women. According to one estimate, women account for 70% of public sector job loss. Covert’s report shows how the war on women goes far beyond the contraception debate. It’s great that the Lilly Ledbetter Law passed. However, equal pay for equal work only matters if there are jobs for women.
Remember the old beer commercial: “Tastes great. Less filling.”? The job market might be on a similar path with more jobs, but lower pay for those entering the job market. Writing in Daily Kos, Meteor Blades outlines this problem and provides two charts that show both the good and bad news of recent employment trends.
The worst news in the study is that entry level wages for high school graduates have “plunged”: Over the last 4 years, the starting wage for men with a high school degree has fallen from $12.70 to $11.68. For women, the wage has gone down from $10.23 to $9.92. More amazingly, the starting wage for men in 1979 was $15.64 and $11.56 for women. This graph is clear evidence of who has lost the most as America has turned from factory jobs to low paying service industry work.
“There are no jobs.”
No statement could be more false. There are always open jobs. The problem in an economy like the current one is that more people are looking for jobs than there are open positions. A recent article on hiring college graduates underscores this point. It cites the Department of Labor as projecting that 1.7 million students will graduate from college this year. It also claims that AT&T will add 20,000 employees without increasing head count (overall number of employees).
Those two statistics are significant in understanding job churn. If 1.7 million people graduate in a year, most will get jobs because new positions are created and existing positions open up. If AT&T is adding 20,000 without increasing its total number of employees, it means 20,000 workers have been laid off, quit, or retired. Job churn means that there will be openings. The challenge for people seeking a new job is to find these positions. It’s not easy. It is possible. Keep the faith.
Is this good news? In a time when many young people can’t get summer jobs because programs have been cut, it is a good thing. As a spokesperson said, McDonald’s $8 per hour starting wage is higher than the federal minimum wage. However, most of the jobs will be temporary and part time. These jobs are greater starter job, but we also need jobs that can let people build a secure life. Too many of those have been lost, and our politicians either don’t know how to bring them back or – worse still – they don’t care.
As the Chicago Tribune reports, the unemployment rate has dropped to 8.8%. Good news is always welcome, but I want to use this occasion to repeat my philosophy on this statistic: Don’t let it rule your job search. Use the 100% rule. Do I have a job? Do I have the job I want? Unless you can answer yes to both questions, you should be looking for a new job. You are not a statistic. Take control of you career!
The Chicago Tribune explores the future of the job market – “the new normal” – and predicts it will be long time until we reach “fuller employment.” Articles like this one are interesting, but not very useful in career planning. We cannot control the macro economic factors that impact unemployment rates. We can, however, manage our careers and keep learning more about the industries we want to work in. Rather than get lost in a forecast that more than likely is going to wrong, focus on your career, not the “new normal.”
Writing in Huffington Post, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich looks behind the rosy job numbers, and what he sees isn’t so pretty. Yes, private sector hiring is up. The unemployment rate is down. However, to move unemployment to 6%, monthly hiring would have to be 300,000 for every month into 2014. That’s not likely to happen. Even worse, new jobs are paying less than those that were lost. Americans who have kept their jobs have often taken pay cuts and are contributing more toward benefits. Reich criticizes conservatives who use deficits to ask workers to accept less and less.
While I agree with Reich, part of the blame also has to go on workers, especially unions that passively accept cuts. The fight in Wisconsin reminds us how important unions and collective bargaining are. Workers who are left on their own have two choices: Take big cuts or go look for work in a very tight job market. Something has to change. Hopefully, Wisconsin is the first step of something much, much bigger.
Postscript: Ed Schultz looks at the decline of unions and the parallel decline in middle class income.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about going to Detroit where I saw Diego Rivera’s murals that celebrate workers in the auto industry. Today, Sandra Guy, the Sun-Time’s technology writer, examines how the industry has changed since Rivera painted his murals in the 1930s. She describes new models for producing steel and parts that rely on technology, not manual labor. New jobs in the industry will focus on engineering, not fabrication or assembly, which are done more and more by robots.
This story underscores how jobs of the future will require education, especially a background in math and science. As President Obama said in this year’s State of the Union speech, our country is facing another “Sputnik moment.” In the 1960s, our country met this challenge and went to the moon. Now, we talk education and cut teaching positions. After-school programs are slashed because they lack funding. In the short term, we save a few dollars on taxes. In the long run, we may be ruining our economy and the future of millions of young Americans. As the Good Book says, we reap what we sow.
Writing in Huffington Post, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich examines the deeper implications of President Obama’s State of the Union address. Noting that the President’s language of “investment” sounds appealing, Reich asks the most basic question: Where’s the money? Corporate America isn’t investing its profits back into this country. Reich says that the President is correct in saying that the economy has improved. However, the speech left out the small point about how little of the economic improvement has “trickled down to ordinary people.”
Reich points out that Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy were in a much better position to use the language of competition and victory. They led in times when the economy was much stronger (and times when the wealthy and corporations paid a greater share of the tax burden). Reich ends by asking if government can look to do what is good for American families rather than profit-obsessed global corporation. President Obama answered Reich’s question when he made Jeffrey Immelt of GE the head of his job growth effort. Just wait, jobs will grow – in China and India.