Where Have All the Good Jobs Gone?

John Schmitt and Janelle Jones:

The U.S. workforce is substantially older and better-educated than it was at the end of the 1970s. The typical worker in 2010 was seven years older than in 1979. In 2010, over one-third of US workers had a four-year college degree or more, up from just one-fifth in 1979. Given that older and better-educated workers generally receive higher pay and better benefits, we would have expected the share of “good jobs” in the economy to have increased in line with improvements in the quality of workforce. Instead, the share of “good jobs” in the U.S. economy has actually fallen. The estimates in this paper, which control for increases in age and education of the population, suggest that relative to 1979 the economy has lost about one-third (28 to 38 percent) of its capacity to generate good jobs. The data show only minor differences between 2007, before the Great Recession began, and 2010, the low point for the labor market. The deterioration in the economy’s ability to generate good jobs reflects long-run changes in the U.S. economy, not short-run factors related to the recession or recent economic policy.

One thought on “Where Have All the Good Jobs Gone?”

  1. The conclusion of the research might be right, but the paper comparing 1970 data with 2010 certainly does not justify that position. In fact, the arguments/assumptions appear quite weak. Several reasons are apparent
    1) college education = better educated? I’m skeptical here. Perhaps less quality public schools means less educated from high school. More students in college who need remedial education. Is college the new high school?
    2) 0% used computer at work in 1970, 2010, 60%+. Using computers does not indicate better education. Computers could have had the effect of eliminating need to be knowledgeable to do their jobs — now it’s done by the computer. Why absorb any knowledge when you can just look it up?
    3) Many good jobs that required substantial skills have been replaced by robotics. Again, the US worker has less value. (think welders, airline pilots).
    4) For many workers, then individually and collectively have less value now than in the 1970’s, so it makes perfect sense that unions are less able argue for better wages, and themselves then have less purpose — less bargaining power.
    5) YOTF (Years Off The Farm). US workers less inclined to hard work? “Illiegal immigrants doing work Americans are not willing to do”?
    6) On that note, a monologue joke from Jay Leno(?) about a month ago, on shipping skilled jobs out of the US, and using special visas bringing educated and skilled foreign workers into the US: “Foreigners are now doing the work US workers are too stupid to do”.

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