Prettier Jobs Picture

Virginia Postrel has a NYT Magazine piece entitled, “A Prettier Jobs Picture?

Productivity has risen rapidly over the past year, to the astonishment and delight of most economists. But a lot of people are still worried. What if increased productivity means that jobs disappear? Could the economy get too efficient? All over the world, even in China, factories are producing more stuff with fewer workers. On the Internet, visionaries fret over the rise of robots, while programmers denounce American companies for ”outsourcing” their once-secure jobs to Indian engineers. Is this the recession — or the recovery — that does away with American jobs for good?

Many of the jobs that disappeared in the recent recession have indeed vanished forever, according to a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Those workers will not be recalled as the economy improves. New jobs will have to be genuinely new, created in new or expanding enterprises.

She goes on to list several occupations populated by entrepreneurs or tiny mom-and-pop operations, that account for hundreds of thousands of largely uncounted jobs. This is an interesting dynamic indeed. One would think, though, that government tracking of this type of enterprise would have always been lagging, so I’m not sure why they would be particularly undercounted now.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jalal Abu Jarhead says:

    Many of the jobs that disappeared in the recent recession have indeed vanished forever, according to a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Those workers will not be recalled as the economy improves. New jobs will have to be genuinely new, created in new or expanding enterprises.

    Welcome to the 21st Century. The norms of the 20th Century no longer apply. Never again will jobs lost in a recession be regained in the recovery. Only the nimble will survive, both people and businesses.

    Well, the people may survive. Those who are too stupid or lazy to make it will be coddled by Auntie Sam.

  2. SwampWoman says:

    Yes, and when I went to college, I wrote programs that had to be keypunched by keypunch operators. Another example of jobs gone forever! When I was in high school, one of the the biggest shortages was the secretary skilled in taking shorthand. Where, oh where are the Gregg shorthand course graduates now, and the keypunch operators? Permanently unemployed and living under bridges, begging passers by for change for cheap alcohol? Nah, they learned other skills for new opportunities that were not then existing when they learned the skills for shorthand and keypunching.

    Although the clerical worker field was decimated by automation, I don’t really think I want to trade in my word processor and printer for a secretary with a manual typewriter and 5 onionskin copies with carbons.

  3. SwampWoman says:

    “She goes on to list several occupations populated by entrepreneurs or tiny mom-and-pop operations, that account for hundreds of thousands of largely uncounted jobs. This is an interesting dynamic indeed. One would think, though, that government tracking of this type of enterprise would have always been lagging, so I’m not sure why they would be particularly undercounted now.”

    Well, that is a puzzling question. OTOH there have been a lot of companies around here that have eliminated entire departments and then outsourced the work to the same employees as independent contractors working out of their own home offices on their own schedules. (Yes, some people HATE it, some people LOVE it; I am neutral because I prefer to be an independent contractor but can see the drawbacks, particularly in lost insurance benefits.) The government would get the statistics on the jobs lost, but would not necessarily be following the independent contractors as “employed”.

    Better technology can also allow one person to be able to afford the equipment that was previously only available to large companies with deep pockets (anybody remember what a computer with CAD used to cost that could do far less than my desktop model?) and enables them to work for themselves when previously they would have had no choice but to work for a large company. And, as noted, the government is not really into tracking 1 or 2 person businesses.

    I ran into a young woman in the post office a few weeks ago with a squalling baby in a stroller and multiple packages going into the mail. I asked her if she was one of those E-bay persons. She said yes, and that although she was not earning as much as her city job had paid, she didn’t have to pay day care and commuting costs and so figured she came out a little bit ahead on the deal, plus she got to stay with the baby. I’m quite sure that she isn’t counted as being “employed” either.