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Where the jobs are…and aren’t

Tina, editor par excellence, sends along this interesting (not to say alarming) article from NPR’s Planet Money. Even though the recession is officially over, as NPR’s Jacob Goldstein points out, that means rather little for the suffering quotient. Eight million jobs have disappeared from our economy since December 2007, most of them in manufacturing and construction.

Many of those jobs will never come back. It’s hard to believe sectors like retail, real estate and finance, and transportation can absorb eight million workers, many of whom are tradesmen and not white-collar workers. The feds are hiring, but only because the federal government is spending itself blind trying to beat back a full-out depression. Compared to the number of jobs lost, the number of jobs gained in federal employment is a drop in the bucket.

Something called “private education” is growing, possibly, Goldstein speculates, because during hard times people go back to school in hopes of retooling for different occupations. But let’s consider what “private education” is: presumably it means proprietary schools. These outfits, as we’ve seen, will give you a degree without much education, and pick your pocket in the process. What they’re turning out would be hundreds of thousands of graduates with no better hopes of landing a job than they had before they started. The quality of such training aside, if eight million jobs are gone, where are those newly trained workers supposed to get hired?

The only sector that appears to show genuine growth is health care. We’re told this is because of the graying (and increasingly doddering) of America. As the baby boom ages and boomers’ health fails, demand soars for nurses, doctors, medical technicians, and the entire vast infrastructure that supports them.

Think of that.

We’ve gone from a nation that produces things to a nation that takes care of sick old folks.

Not that there’s anything wrong with taking care of sick old folks. Just that…well. It’s ominous.

Image: Men standing in a soup line. Franklin D. Roosevelt Library. Public Domain.

8 thoughts on “Where the jobs are…and aren’t”

  1. Really interesting insight here. Quick question, once we’re through the baby boomer generation, does that mean health care will be on the downturn and we might be overstaffed? Is that something that people should consider before investing a ton of years right now to go into healthcare?

    • @ Adam: That’s entirely possible, but it won’t happen for another twenty years. The baby boom began in 1946 and extended through 1964. During this period, 78.3 million Americans were born, and, thanks to the appearance of antibiotics, widespread improvements in hygiene, development of transport that made a wide variety of foodstuffs available year-round, and better living conditions, this generation had the longest life expectancy in the nation’s previous history. Most of us will live into our eighties, many into our nineties, some to be around one hundred. Thus the leading edge of the boomers will last until the year 2026; those who are bringing up the rear will be stumbling toward the nursing home in 2044.

      Meanwhile, the “baby echo” — the kids of the postwar boom generation — will also be aging. This miniboom spanned the years 1982 to 1985; the echo generation will begin to reach its dotage in 2062. So…yes, there’ll be a shortage of health care need from 2044 to 2062, about 18 years. But a person who begins a career in health care today will be nearing retirement age in 2044. Presumably we should be preparing K-12 students and those just entering college for some other line of work, but those who are in their late 20s and early 30s should do fine in that field.

  2. It’s not as grim as it sounds. Our country is still full of innovators.

    Stuff may be manufactured overseas, but the scientists, engineers, inventors and project managers are still here . Those are some of the highest paid jobs out there. I work in this sector and can tell you there are lots of job openings right now for qualified people.

    If I were to come up with a solution, then I’d fund more science, math and technology programs in the schools so that we had more technical people to fill the demand.

    • @ Sandu L: Therein lies the problem. If our students can barely write a coherent paragraph, think World War I happened in the 19th century, and will tell you Wisconsin is a Rocky Mountain state, how do you think they perform in math and science? Ask any math professor, and you’ll get an earful. It’s entirely possible that we have lots of job openings for qualified people because we don’t have qualified people.

      Meanwhile, far from funding more math, science, and technology programs, we’re busy gutting our school systems — at least, that’s sure what’s happening here in Arizona, and from what I understand, it’s happening in California, too. It’s probably happening nationwide, as most states are foundering economically.

  3. It’s definitely scary what’s happening to our education systems with the current economy and lack of funding…the effects, as you mention funny, could be devastating for the future work force and production of US.

  4. I think it’s amazing that most people who are going back (and just about all who are going for the first time) to college have no clue about these trends in the job market, nor do they have realistic expectations about expected salaries and competition!

  5. I know you aren’t talking about geography but I can tell you the jobs aren’t in Mississippi. After 5 months as a college graduate, my son is still seriously underemployed. On an individual level, the economy isn’t improving as fast as some would have us think.

  6. @ SimplyForties: Mississippi and Arizona are now about on a par economically, at least so figures I’ve seen say. Every now and then the local Play-Nooz flaps up and down hollering that companies are hiring…turns out to be burger flippers and floor sweepers they’re hiring. While there are some decent jobs here, they’re few and far between, and when a job paying a middle-class wage comes open, hundreds of applicants swarm the employer. While it’s true that someone has to get those jobs, when a hundred people apply for an opening, 99 go away still jobless or stocking shelves at the Walmart.

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