Where have all the jobs gone?

This is quite the tricky subject. Employment is a lagging indicator of the health of the economy. Most all other economic indicators return to normal before the employment statistics do. It’s pretty simple, employers do not invest in hiring until they are sure that their investment will pay off.

Further, it has been my experience, that some employers find that they can make do with smaller staffs, even after the economy recovers.

So, more than two full years after the Great Recession began, millions of American workers are still actively looking for work. Many more, especially older workers, have simply given up. Charitable organizations  around the country have seen their resources go beyond the breaking point.

In the past month, Senate Republicans have blocked efforts to extend unemployment benefits once again. Personally, that is the ultimate act of hypocrisy. And this is why……………

On one hand, there are those on the Right that say “there are jobs out there” and extending unemployment benefits is a deincentification for the unemployed to look for work. Yet, those same people on the Right also blame President Obama for not creating jobs!

Which is it?

Are there jobs out there? Very few, and most are quite low paying jobs. Did President Obama do enough to create jobs? Probably not. This Great Recession is unprecedented, far deeper than most could have imagined. The answers to all the questions do not come easily.

You know that times are bad when illegal immigrants are going back to Mexico to find work. Maybe NAFTA is finally working.

While there are some signs, however weak, that the economy is improving, there are also signs of a “double-dip” recession. Nationwide, housing prices have increased for the first time in forever, but the Consumer Confidence index has dropped dramatically.

I would like to think that I am intelligent enough to know some answers, but realistically, there are no answers.

Time will heal this wound, but time has a way of taking it’s sweet time.

Your take?


William Stephenson Clark

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29 Comments

Filed under Economics

29 responses to “Where have all the jobs gone?

  1. “…more than two full years after the Great Recession began…”

    It’s almost three years now!

    Nothing, absolutely nothing was done to address the Great Recession until we were a year into it. I got the impression bush wanted out of Dodge before it was ‘officially’ announced.

  2. indypendent

    I think the Republicans opposition to extending unemployment benefits was not due to their principles or their true beliefs about the issue.

    I suspect their opposition is nothing more than to make the people mad at Obama for not having a job and not having any unemployment benefits.

    Let’s face it – people have short attention spans. Even though the majority of people know NOW that it is the Republicans that blocked the benefits. But wait until this fall when the election takes place. That is when the Republicans count on people’s short attention spans and blame Obama because he is the one in the White House.

    And all the Republicans two-faced snakes will be off to the side waiting to strike to get back into power so they can continue with their original intention which is to invade Iran.

    If we thought Obama spent alot of money (and he did), we have not seen nothing yet as compared to the spending the Repubs will do once they get back into office.

    But of course then, it will be for Uncle Sam and God will no doubt be leading the parade!

    • indypendent

      BTW – I am not so sure that time will heal this wound.

      Unless this country gets back into producing stuff again and not just be a service-based economy, we will forever be at the mercy of anyone we can find to service.

      That is why I think Obama was correct about getting into the alternative energy field. We need to be looking at every possibility for future energy needs.

      But try getting that heard above the drill, baby, drill mantra of Republicans. And have you noticed, that mantra has not stopped even though the BP oil spill still rages on?

  3. I’d like to see a program like the WPA brought back. Our country could use all the unemployed (and more!) to address our infrastructure needs and our badly-needed energy grid updates.

    • Would also to part of a solution to our nation’s fastest growing health problems — obesity.

    • I don’t see it, fnord, as being politically possible. There are infrastructure needs and energy grid updates needed, to be sure; it is my sense that in many of these cases, there would need to be more training than it took in the Great Depression to perform efficiently. Additionally, mechanization has replaced the number of bodies needed to do at least some of the work. Example: road paving. Now, there is a person operating a large asphalt laying machine, with a couple of others doing miscellaneous tasks related thereto, as opposed to large groups of folks physically laying the asphalt by shoveling the material from its container, laying it on the roadbed, evening it manually.

      Annie Moose is right: there are more people living on this earth than there are the jobs needed to be done. This does drive the price of labor lower, but at what overall cost?

  4. I feel that most of the jobs that “are gone” in the U.S. are gone permanently. I say that with sadness, for it seems contrary to our shared experience.

    New jobs will be created, if at all, within industries now in their nascent stages or not yet a gleam in the eye.

    Production of goods; Indy, don’t hold your breath. While we can all hope for growth in the “alternative energy” field, that is some time away. Even then, I suspect that many of the goods needed for this will be foreign sourced. After all, they’re already working on these. Additionally, insofar as manufacturing jobs in general are concerned, more and more manufacturing capable of being done in a “rote” manner (one principle underlying the assembly line) may be done quicker and to a higher decree of accuracy by robots, which obviates the need for production workers.

    I am pessimistic about job recovery; I don’t see it occurring quickly at all. Many of the new jobs will, IMHO, be lower paying as it doesn’t take much skill to hit the “on” button…

    • indypendent

      I agree, sadly, and for the same reasons you stated.

      But my biggest fear is that we are so busy sitting around and fussing, fuming and fighting about all the political crap – that our real chance of recovery is slipping through our fingers.

      But I notice most of those politicians and talk radio entertainers who are doing all the fussing, fuming and fighting have their millions in their bank accounts.

  5. indypendent

    I remember my grandpa was one of those that got work through the WPA. He was thankful he had the chance to work because he had a family to feed.

    I suspect if the WPA program could be made into a profit-maker for Republicans, then we would see some of that good ol’ American patriotism rise to the top on their side of the aisle.

    • I think all it would take is it to be seen as a Republican initiative. If the president was Republican, if the public could be convinced it was a Republican idea… Until they can claim this success they will continue to say HELL NO to anything and everything. Because regaining power is way more important to them than helping Americans.

  6. indypendent

    While we are talking about unemployment, did you hear the news yesterday about John Boehner wanting the retirement age to be raised to 70?

    What would that do our already bleak unemployment picture?

    • He hasn’t retracted that statement or at least said he was misunderstood YET? I predict he will!

      • indypendent

        Did you see the videotape of Boehner during this interview? He looked and sounded rather strange – even for him.

        He almost looked like someone who was not giving a damn and said whatever came to his mind.

    • As much as I don’t like him in general, John Boehner is right (for Social Security benefit purposes) about the retirement age. Actually and actuarially, 70 is likely still too young; 73-75 is my sense of where it should be.

      • indypendent

        To help SS sustain itself, why don’t they just raise the cap limit of income to be taxed?

        That would raise some money and if politicians would keep their money-grabbing paws off the SS fund, there might be some money left for the intended purpose.

      • The “intended purpose” of Social Security was not to provide a long-duration retirement. In 1933 (or so) the age was set at 65 in recognition of the relatively short remaining life expectancy at that age and at that age the physical infirmities which prevented people from working to continue to support themselves; Social Security was to prevent those folks from spending their last few years in abject poverty.

        If one takes that as a point of beginning, then Boehner’s statement may be more clearly understood. The intervening years have created both a longer life expectancy as well as a longer period when a worker may be productive, thus the idea of raising the retirement age to an age that many people are working because 1) they can, and 2) like it or not, the workplace is a very important component in their life and some folks seem to lose purpose once retirement occurs. There are only so many rounds of golf one can play.

  7. indypendent

    While we are talking about raising the retirement age, what about raising the qualfiying age to get Medicare to 70?

    I wonder how many of those Tea partiers would sign up for that?

    • 😉 as long as the government doesn’t stick its nose in their benefits… 😉

      They are good for laughs! And laughs are something we need more of!

  8. I think Americans are going to need to concentrate on gaining ‘customer service’ skills. We already know Indians can handle many of our jobs at lower costs, work while we’re sleeping so when we return to our desks progress has been made… but we all recognize the difficulties in addressing our concerns with those same Indians. I think a certain number of consumers would do business with a company that employed those with strong English skills, an emphasis on ‘make sure the customer knows they are important and addressing their needs and challenges is what keeps us in business’ kind of politeness. We Americans are spoiled and those who do have money don’t mind spending more to get good customer service.

    • Regrettably, the “customer service skills” of many younger workers not from the Indian subcontinent are lacking. Their grasp of the English language is not strong, either, but at least the gibberish received is better understood by many if, for no other reason, there is no strong accent getting in the way.

      • indypendent

        Sad to say, when I call customer service and I get a person with a distinctive Indian accent – I will usually give them a chance to comprehend what I am needing. If they don’t get it the first time, I ask for their supervisor. That will usually get you to an English speaking person.

        But even with that English speaking person – you are at the mercy of the luck of the draw if that person can comprehend what you are needing.

        In the past year, I find that I have not called these Customer Service lines all that much because I do everything onlin or use the automated customer service option.

        It is sad when the automated customer service machine can do more to help than an actual live person.

        BTW – has anyone seen the previews for that new television show – Outsourced? It is about a American company’s call center in India. I’m not quite sure I know what to think about that show yet. In the preview, one of the Indian employees is called over and talks in a southern accent about grits.

        I’m sure this show will stir up some controversy.

  9. indypendent

    And dare I even bring this issue up? What about the effects of illegal immigration on our unemployment rate?

    Are there alot of jobs illegals are taking that Americans won’t do? Or are we at the point where a lower paying job will have to suffice for Americans because their unemployment benefits are running out – and that is really the motivation behind this illegal immigration pushback we are seeing in Arizona and other states?

    But if people take lower-paying jobs, will the cost of living also go down? If not, then we will have a bigger population of the working poor.

    It’s a vicious circle.

    Here’s a thought I would like to throw out.

    What is the effect of women in the workplace? Women have traditionally been paid less than men – so that was a motivation in alot of companies hiring women over men.

    But how many families can survive on one paycheck? Let’s just suppose that women stop working and free up jobs for these currently unemployed men – how many of those jobs would be good-paying jobs?

    And we have not event talked about jobs with benefits vs jobs without benefits.

    I know of alot couples that the woman works because her job offers health care insurance and the man’s doesn’t.

    Again, it is a vicious circle. And there is not one silver bullet that will solve this issue.

    But for all that rangling and fighting about the unemployment rate, I notice the big guys on Wall Street are all doing quite well with their bottom lines.

    And when I hear about all these millions being spent on political campaigns for someone to get a job that pays a whole lot less money – I have to ask myself why?

    Maybe one election cycle we need to just say not one person can spend more than X amount of dollars and then put all the campaign money that would have been spent on all those campaigns and put it together and put people back to work.

    I know that would never fly but at least we would be safe from having to sit through all those ridiculous and annoying political ads.

  10. Women working. What a complex issue, with wide-ranging effects and controversies. We’ve talked about this subject before and I get the impression we can all see the various benefits and consequences.

    We live so differently today than when most women stayed home. Look at the size of our houses, the activities our children participate in, our labor-saving devices, the fact that most of us get our wants and needs mixed up badly.

    I have more questions than answers.

    Immigration. So complicated and again a topic we’ve talked about without coming to acceptable conclusions for any of us. I wish I was smart enough to solve all the problems and come up with solutions everyone would accept. I’m not. But I’m willing to learn, work, help and participate with solutions.

    • indypendent

      That’s how I feel.

      I see people living way beyond their means and alot of them are barely making it month to month. If the woman stopped working, they would have to downsize and many are just not willing to do that.

      I remember when my 4 yr old granddaughter was born. My husband and I downsized from a large 3 bedroom, 3 bathrooms, quad-level house with 2-car garage in an affluent neighborhood to an older 2-bedroom, one bathroom, 1 car garage in a ‘working class’ neighborhood just so I could stop working and watch the baby.

      My coworkers were all younger women with kids and several of them told me that they wished their mom would/could do the same thing for them.

      Problem with the job is – I gave notice to quit but they asked me to work part time on the weekends and I said ‘yes’ and I am still doing that to this day! LOL

      My point is – maybe we as a nation need to get our priorities straight.

      fnord touched on this in her comment – we get our wants and our needs mixed up.

      But I would not want the government telling women (or anyone) they cannot work outside the home just to make their unemployment rate better.

      But maybe we as a society need to start to value everyone’s contribution and not be so consumer-driven or materialistic?

      I don’t have any solutions either – fnord. And not every person’s situation is going to be the same.

      • Like it or not, our economy and thus our society is driven by consumption – more being “better”. Combine the “wants vs. needs” issues with what I consider a generation who abdicated parental responsibility (a gross generalization) by providing goods to their lineal descendants without requiring contribution by the younger class (auto as graduation gift, for example; child buys car, parents pay for insurance, another example) the expectation of “I want everything NOW!” seems inevitable.

        These members of the older generation likely did not have a car, or if they did, they had to not only pay for it but also pay the insurance, gas, maintenance themselves; or their graduation gift was a watch, new suit, etc. There is something to commend this approach, which I call “wait until you can afford it, I’m not buying it for you”, as it helped teach that wants vs. needs thing. Just my 2% of a dollar.

      • indypendent

        BTW – last November my husband and I bought a house in Bel Aire with 1.5 acres. It has 3br, 2baths, 2 car garage – it was built in 1964 – so is not a ‘new’ house but it is quite a step up from the old neighborhood we rented for awhile when I first stopped working full time.

        I believe in karma. And I feel since we were willing to downsize at the time for our granddaughter to be able to cared for by a family member rather than a day care and we put family first – then that good energy came back to us.

        We are anxiously awaiting our grandson’s arrival in early October and now we have more room to give him the same family love and attention that he needs for a good start in life. But, of course, I need that more room because I still watch the 4 yr old.

        Their mother (my daughter-in-law) would love stop working full time but she is one of those women whose job offers health insurance and my son’s job does not.

        So, like I stated before – I don’t know any of the answers either. I believe in taking care of my family and helping out others as I can.

  11. indypendent

    6176 – I agree with you 100%

    I remember my first car. I was working my first job directly out of high school (I took 2 years to work/save money for college) and it was my grandpa’s old Rambler. God that car was ugly but it was my grandpa’s and he had just died a few months before.

    I had to pay for it, pay for the insurance, gas, maintenance, etc. It meant alot more to me than just a set of wheels.

    But I remember when my daughter was in her sophomore year in high school and one of her classmates had just gotten a brand new Mustang for her 16th birthday. The parents had picked out a blue one and the girl was so mad because she wanted a red one.

    My daughter knew that she did not even need to ask where her brand new car was when turned 16 – no matter what color it would have been –

  12. My situation was a bit different than some because I divorced when half my children were very young — 3 and 2 at the time. And I know the other half of my children (8 and 10) bore the brunt of watching their younger siblings because I was the sole bread winner. We didn’t receive child support, and I was pretty much too broke and too tired to take on challenging that. I worked a full-time daytime job, a weekend job, and sometimes even evenings and did typing for college students from home during the night. So you can see how great the burden I placed on my daughters. I can’t change it, and our situation bore positive and negative consequences that don’t help me decide what I would have changed if it had been possible. Maybe I’m just not as good as most people at sorting out the lessons from the questions.

    • indypendent

      Sometimes the best we can hope to do is what we think is best at the time and what we are capable of doing at the time.

      Does that make any sense?

      Like I said before – everyone’s situation is different and not one cookie cutter is the answer.

      But our society had better get back to supporting everyone and validating each person’s contribution. I see too many divisive groups out attacking one another and the only thing that will bring us is more fighting. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing our wheels spin.