Tom’s Opinion: Where Are The Jobs?
We are approaching our sixth year of unemployment above 7%. What’s going on, where are the jobs? Manufacturing has moved off shore. Products break down faster than they used to. Walmart should probably change its name to “Wal-China” to be accurate. As Bob Dylan so famously sang, “The times, they are a changing.”
If we look back at the late 1800’s most people were either shop owners or small farmers. As the industrial revolution began in the early 1900’s children moved off the farm in favor of factory jobs in big cities. There was also an influx of immigrants during that time as well.
Labor was readily available, competition was fierce and employers at that time exploited desperate workers to produce big profits. Over time labor unions and the government eliminated slave labor, bad hiring practices with more worker protections. And over the next 60 years American capitalism completely reinvented the world. Communications, flight, electricity, computers, and phones created jobs as never before. Times were good.
The Great Recession
The great recession beginning in 2007 also changed the way business approached employment. What employers discovered was that they were actually fat with employees. The advancing technology had replaced many jobs that were no longer needed. Almost every industry, even the military, found that they could actually produce more with fewer workers.
Competition from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam put pressure on American companies and manufactures to cut costs and maximize profits to insure their survival. As the value of the dollar dropped American products became more affordable in other lands. Manufactures found it was more beneficial to manufacture the products where the customers are located than produce and ship them from the US.
Technology and Job Creation
Technology is the double-edged sword that will both cut, and increase, future job markets. In high school my car had an 8-Track player, later it was the music cassette that morphed into the CD player. All through that process, jobs were not created or eliminated they were simply moved from one industry product to another.
Social media has created a whole new group of millionaires and billionaires in today’s marketplace.
Some Final Thoughts
In four years freshman students in today’s colleges are going to be asked to solve problems that don’t exist today. Just like people moved off farms into factories in the 1900’s, future workers will be leaving stores and factories and entering the technology era.
America has always been at the forefront of innovation and there is little sign of that changing. As I write this there are thousands of kids in bedrooms and garages across the country staring at computer screens coming up with that next great idea. They will be the Thomas Edison’s of the future. They don’t give the economy a second thought because they know that the right idea will produce a profit no matter what economic conditions exist.
America is experiencing some growing pains, nothing more. Over time we will grow our way back to prosperity. We just won’t be doing it the same way we did it in the past.