Job Quantity, Job Quality

December 13th, 2011 at 4:52 pm

In this oped from today’s Financial Times, I made the point that while the nation would definitely benefit from a strategy to preserve and expand our manufacturing base, job growth there is likely to be limited by both globalization and labor-saving productivity growth.

So we also need to be mindful of the quality of jobs in the services.

The chart below, from the BLS employment projections, shows the top 30 occupations expected to add the most jobs over this period.  A few of the jobs, like computer engineers and physicians, require college or more, but most don’t.

Source: BLS Employment Projections

If the Bureau’s predictions are anywhere near accurate, and they’ve got a good track record, once the economy finally gets back on track, we will create these types of service jobs in “non-tradable” sectors.  From my oped:

But job quality in this sector is bifurcated. We’ll need more security guards and cashiers along with computer whizzes and market analysts.  The high-end folks will be fine. But you must find ways to ensure that low-end service jobs are decent. That means more training – a home health aide with training in gerontology adds more value than one with only a high school diploma.

But these jobs won’t be good enough without robust tax credits attached to earnings and guaranteed family healthcare. Again, putting that combination together is great economics and great politics. Rather than romanticising about factories of the future – when many will be run by robotics – be straight with people about the jobs they know will make up their lives, and then fight to make them good jobs.

Nursing aides, child care workers, salepersons–lots of Americans will be doing this work.  A strong Earned Income Tax Credit and reliable, affordable, family health care  can make them decent jobs, and that too must be part of our policy agenda.

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9 comments in reply to "Job Quantity, Job Quality"

  1. Jake Lopata says:

    I love this post; I’ve created one of my own based on conversations I have had with people about Businesses not being able to find the skilled workers they need.

    http://jakelopata.blogspot.com/2011/12/where-jobs-are-at.html


    • Michael says:

      Due respect, but they can find them just fine; they just have to offer a little more money.

      This is just another example of the Class War, businesses shooting themselves in the foot because of how wrong it is to them that they have to pay middle class wages.


  2. urban legend says:

    More than anything we might do for them, non-exportable service workers need to be able to do for themselves. They need unions, strong unions, in order to grab the fair share of the revenue of these businesses that they are not getting now (think, e.g., hotel workers for prestigious national chains who may barely be making little more than minimum wage).

    We need them to have these incomes that only collective bargaining can get them because, since in any case they will not be millionaires, they will spend most of their additional discretionary income and recirculate it back through the economy. If the markets involved are truly “free markets” — that is, if they are actually competitive markets — the employers will not be able to easily pass through their service employees’ increases and instead will have to (a) be satisfied with business increases resulting from wider spread distribution of decent incomes, and (b) reduce bloated top-management compensation and perhaps dividends.

    In other words, by way of a national policy of actually enforcing the law that allows people who want to form unions without interference from unscrupulous employers to do so, we encourage people who will spend the money (for everyone’s benefit) to take a bigger share of it from people who won’t spend it but mostly will play around with it in casino-like “investnments” such as credit default swaps or other high-risk, high-return derivatives.

    Should be a no-brainer.


  3. Michael says:

    I really wish an average Consumer Price/Wage chart would be created and graphed, since its easier to see what a ‘decent’ job is or needs to do when you understand what it needs to be matched with. And it needs to be adjusted according to how much each particluar price has an impact on the volatility of the earner’s budget. If beef or dairy goes up 3% it might not be as harsh an adjustment as if it happens to oil (which affects gas and heating costs.) Furthermore, knowing what a median wage actually buys nowadays might be better instructive in seeing how rising inequality is affecting those areas most likely to drop a person from the middle class in the first place. Serious illness can’t be the only factor. My guess is that alot of the ‘middle class’ achieved that through leverage and debt than any actual increase of wealth or income rising to meet inflation.


  4. bakho says:

    One way to supplement income is to pay for services like education and health care from tax revenue. These are the big ticket items that individuals in low wage jobs struggle to afford.

    We need to shift our educational focus to providing cost effective, affordable education and job training. We need to shift from a system where education is paid by students taking on unaffordable debt lining the pockets of loan sharks and ForProfitU to one where education is paid for by tax revenue on higher future wages.

    We have a lot of discussion about grants to individuals for college. However, there is not so much discussion about government subsidy to provide education to individuals at low cost. Privatization of education, like privatization of most government services does not make them cheaper. It creates classes of haves and have nots.


  5. Maria says:

    This information needs to be ‘dovetailed’ with Richard Florida’s work — “The Great Reset”. We have to value service work/ labor more than before. We see the need for Teacher’s Assistants and Home Healthcare workers. We may even regard their work as valuable to the delivery of quality in such sectors. The pay must then become more than minimum wage as it exists now and even more than a basic ‘living wage’ and as we continue. As we change our economic nature so must the character, and values evolve.


  6. PeonInChief says:

    And we are going to make customer service representative a good job how?


  7. save_the_rustbelt says:

    I work with health providers nationally and many are preparing contingency plans to layoff workers in response to Medicaid cuts and (longer term) Medicare cuts. Some are already cutting.

    The irony of PPACA is providers may have to layoff clinical staff to hire enough administrative staff.

    Nursing will still have opening as boomer nurses are dropping out due to the physical demands of the job.


  8. David A. Spitzley says:

    I think it’s important to consider the following: if a certain category of low-paying jobs exist, there must be profits to be made in that market sector which are sufficient to justify the employment created. The question then becomes one of why aren’t those profits benefiting the workers. The EIC and similar redistributive measures are all well and good, but as we’ve seen for decades they are politically fragile. To really solve the problem of the vanishing middle class, ownership needs to begin shifting, not just income. The true long term solution is to encourage creation of cooperatives which turn workers (and in many cases consumers) into owners, with a legal claim on the profits and equity which make the economy work and which have been enriching the 1%. I’m not interested in confiscation (though a confiscatory estate tax on large estates coupled with the option to shelter $1 for every $1 of equity bequeathed on workers and communities has potential), but there are hundreds of places where government policies could be tuned to support a broader distribution of capital.


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