Monday, May 16, 2011


Creating jobs?

I’ve said before how much I like the radio show This American Life. This week’s episode, How To Create a Job, was an interesting one. I was especially interested near the end.

Throughout the show, they look at the difficulty of actually creating jobs — new jobs, where jobs didn’t exist before. In Act Three, we see that in many cases, it’s really just a matter of shifting the jobs around. They were always there, but we’re looking at a different there, moving jobs to Phoenix or Houston, from, say, California. That might make things look better in Phoenix or Houston, but overall, the U.S. economy hasn’t been improved by creating more jobs.

But then it was the intro to Act Four: Be Cool, Stay In School that really make me sit up. Here’s Ira Glass:

OK, here’s something I didn’t know before we started working on this week’s radio show. I knew that 9% of Americans are unemployed. But college graduates: their unemployment rate is half that, 4.5%. People with PhDs, it’s even better, 2% unemployment. High school grads are right near the national average, 9.7% unemployment. And people who did not graduate high school: their unemployment rate is almost 15%.

Which means, the unemployment problem in this country is mostly a problem for the uneducated, the unskilled.

And what’s strange is that those economic development people that Adam and Julie just talked to, they are mostly focused on attracting jobs for the highly educated, for people with at least college degrees.

To finish Act Four, Adam Davidson tells us this, after saying that America is still manufacturing a lot of stuff, in a lot of factories:

But pretty much everyone in those factories needs to have some basic math proficiency. They need to be trusted with expensive, precision equipment. You’re probably not getting a factory job if you don’t have at least a high school degree and some advanced technical training. The experts call it high school plus. If you don’t have a high school degree, plus some more training, some more specialized skill, you are, increasingly, locked out of the middle class.

And that’s a lot of people: 80 million Americans over 25. That’s 40% of the adult population, are in that group.

Having some training or education after high school used to be a great way, one of the most reliable ways, to make it into the middle class. But over the next few years, more and more, it’ll be the only way.

Now, most of my readers have lots of post-high-school training. Most of you have college degrees; some have PhDs. And I know that some of you have lost jobs and have had trouble finding work in this economy. We probably already have a sense that more education correlates with lower unemployment, though that’s little consolation when you, personally, fall into the bottom of the statistics.

It’s an interesting episode; give it a listen.

[And, by the way: Act Four talks about a program called Pathways Out Of Poverty. I don’t know about you, but I — probably though my training at IBM — make acronyms out of everything. And, well, sometimes people might want to think about that a bit before they name their organizations.]

1 comment:

The Ridger, FCD said...

Story in the Post today: "In the Rust Belt, glimmers of a new shine". Why? Because unemployment is down ... to 13%. And the new jobs pay $7.50/hour instead of $20.

This is not a shine. This is slightly sanded rust...