Where Will the Good Jobs Come From?

I have emphasized short-run job creation quite a bit recently, and I have noted, implicitly at least, that we shouldn’t be too picky about the quality of the jobs that are created. Most jobs will do.

But in the long-run the quality of jobs matters a lot, and when the private sector finally begins reabsorbing the unemployed, the underemployed, and the discouraged, we want people to be able to find jobs with decent wages and benefits — jobs that are as good or better than the jobs they had before.

But where, exactly, will those jobs come from? I wish I had the answer.

Education is part of it, better education means better jobs on average, and it’s easy to imagine a substantial fraction of the population benefiting from an educational advantage. So I won’t back off prior calls to improve education at all levels.

But even if we substantially improve education, it won’t fully solve the problem. There will still be a need for quality jobs that are not all that dependent upon knowledge based skills. However, it’s harder to imagine an emerging set of industries that will provide the large number of quality jobs that we need to replace those lost from industries in decline.

If these jobs fail to be created in the next years and decades, the result will be an ever widening gap in the distribution of income with, as now, a group at the top doing relatively well, and everyone else treading water at best.

Is it overly pessimistic to worry that we may be headed in that direction?

About Mark Thoma 243 Articles

Affiliation: University of Oregon

Mark Thoma is a member of the Economics Department at the University of Oregon. He joined the UO faculty in 1987 and served as head of the Economics Department for five years. His research examines the effects that changes in monetary policy have on inflation, output, unemployment, interest rates and other macroeconomic variables with a focus on asymmetries in the response of these variables to policy changes, and on changes in the relationship between policy and the economy over time. He has also conducted research in other areas such as the relationship between the political party in power, and macroeconomic outcomes and using macroeconomic tools to predict transportation flows. He received his doctorate from Washington State University.

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