3 Reasons Why 'Good Jobs' Are Vanishing

man in cubicle with head in his handsIt's not just you. Landing a good position with full benefits, including both a health care and retirement plan, has gotten tougher -- a lot tougher.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal think tank, found the percentage of workers with "good jobs" -- earning at least $37,000 a year with benefits -- fell to 24.6 in 2010, from 27.4 in 1979. That's a drop-off of roughly half a million workers. And while low-paying and temp jobs have also been growing over that same time period, the number of temp jobs has exploded since the recession began in 2009. According to statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of temp jobs have risen 50 percent over the past for years and now total 2.7 million.

"Hundreds of thousands of workers have a standard of living that's lower than what their parents had 30 years earlier," observes Chris Owens, the executive director for the National Employment Law Project.

As the CEPR report notes, workers of all ages and educational status are finding it harder to secure good, full-time positions with benefits. Three factors appear to be at play for why more Americans are stuck in crappy jobs:

1. Companies organize work around "projects." That means less hiring and a greater reliance on temp staff. The top companies of the Standard & Poor's 500 have doubled their profits since 2009. Yet while companies may be thriving, workers and their wages are stuck in a holding pattern. Unemployment has remained above 7.5 percent and salaries have been stagnant. Companies are upfront about getting ahead with less. "In good times, companies can just throw people at the problem," Peter Bauer, the CEO of Mimecast, a Massachusetts-based firm that helps other companies manage their email systems, recently told CNN Money. "But in lean times, you pay a lot more attention to efficiency." Since the firm opened its offices in Watertown, Mass., it has cut its sales department by a quarter, helping it save $2.7 million a year.

The consequences of all the belt-tightening for workers can be seen in the growth of freelance workers. The Freelancers' Union estimates that 1 in 3 U.S. workers, about 42 million, now work as "free agents," which means that their employers don't provide them with benefits or full pay.

2. New technology disrupts industries and makes jobs obsolete. In a highly cited study conducted last year by the Economist Intelligence Unit of 567 global executives, 60 percent told the EIU that their industry will "bear little resemblance in 2020 to how it looks today." The cause? Technological changes will make certain jobs obsolete and force separate occupations to merge into one profession. The executives expect convergence to occur in banking and telecommunications, for example. That development will force workers in those fields to adapt to a new line of work in order to stay afloat.

Why does this lead to "crappy" jobs? What happens is that employers are relying more on temp workers to complete assignments so as to better respond to the fast-changing market. After all, as machines take over or a market changes, it's easier to just shed temp staffers who are no longer needed. According to the EIU, those who work at legal document discovery or radiology analysis will soon be replaced by machines, so these workers will have to retrain for new lines of work. "More and more people will have to be entrepreneurs selling their skills to large organizations," is how one executive put it in the EIU study.

3. Higher education doesn't offer workers' protection. A college degree has long been held up as the pathway to ensure a steady career. But that's no longer the case. As the McKinsey & Co. consulting firm found in a study it put out in May, entitled "Voice of the Graduate," half of recent college grads said that they are working in jobs that don't require a college degree. That means hundreds of thousands of Americans have completed four-year degrees to work at cashier and wait-staff jobs that they could have gotten with a high school diploma.

The trend is surely the result of the financial crisis. But the hard times also can be traced to more fundamental changes to the American economy. As the McKinsey study (which was compiled in conjunction with the college textbook company Chegg, Inc.) puts it, today's jobs "increasingly require specialized skills that graduates are not acquiring to a sufficient degree." Indeed, students who opt for STEM -- science, technology, engineering and math -- majors are still faring just fine. Roughly 4 out of 5 STEM graduates say that their majors prepared them well for landing a job that they were content with.

Why do you think there are more Americans working crappy jobs? Share your answers below.


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Filed under: Employment News
Dan Fastenberg

Dan Fastenberg

Associate Editor

Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.

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torm123

Its all so sad. But it is the fault of the greed of corporations and the wealthy. They move jobs and factories over seas and then ship the products back in to sell to us. How about Congress passing a law saying if you want to sell your products in America ..you have to have your factory here and have Americans employed making the goods here. And any company that doesn't comply.... fine them or tariff them so that can't sell their goods in America for a profit. I would bet they would not want to lose their American customers and we would soon see companies and factories come back to America.

September 30 2013 at 7:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bilhee

I think service jobs have historically paid lower, and since we have become a nation of service (or lack of service)..it has driven college grads into these kinds of crappy jobs, with little chance of improving their status, since there are more college grads coming out every year, keeping wages low and competition up. So executives continue to get everything and workers continue to get nothing, unless you are a computer engineer who will continue to design more and more products to further reduce decent paying jobs....Big Problems on the horizon

September 30 2013 at 7:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael J Grella

It's a sad situation in the Once Thriving USA. Greed is to blame.We are basically surviving to die. I will never be able to afford a home on my current salary. It's always the same story week to week,hoping you have enough to pay your bills and eat. The unions need to be brought back to this country. They at least offer the middleclass worker a decent living. Now that most unions are gone,these companies have run amok and offer the bare minimum to their employees. low end insurance,piddly raises,low starting wage,and expect perfection.I dont mind working and doing a excellent job but pay me a fair salary. Anyone working for less than 21.00 per hr is living in poverty. Especially with what everything costs now. Gas is back out of control again.It shot up 30 cents a gallon for no reason.When it all comes crashing down and it will Then What? Scary outlook

July 27 2013 at 5:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Laura

America not giving credit wher credit is due...........the people in their 50's don't social network during the office hours.........please bring back miraculously those of us who want to work for integrity for our company

July 26 2013 at 8:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gerrygulb

OUTSOURCING and moving manufacturing jobs overseas. American will never be the same.

July 26 2013 at 7:45 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
jmg62

There is nothing listed above that was not already happening scores of years ago. The need to build huge plants with thousands of workers is gone. Education - while professionals reap some rewards (now high scoring and connected MBA's from Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc.,have merely to decide if they want a staff job or a line officer). That most everyone has a "Sheepskin" makes employers take their pick. If for nothing else - these people had the drive to "make it" thru college. Without large plants manufacturing - technological advances have made obsolete "turn that screw, bolt that nut". Minimum wage has brought out the SCREAMERS, COMPLAINERS, and "THE SKY WILL FALL!" folks that - although perhaps bginning as entrepeneuers - haven't much in the way of Management Skills and always desire the EASY answer to their problems. Set costs are looked at as if they're sunk costs. The INVESTMENT they've ALREADY made in the humans they already put so much money into is low on the thinking totem farther down than a losing stock that will actually become REALITY the moment it's sold. Worker/Labor is very different from this other "portfolio". That no one follows the history of Walmart, Eastman Kodak, IGA, other base forces in the US economy is not and should not be de rigueur of sought after Corporate Elyssian Fields. Their History will show minimum wages, nor the PPACA, or SSI, or Medicaid or Medicare ever destroyed a well run Company. Why should they when this are standard NEEDS of the humans working for these Companies. If one only looks back - it was Corporate America who went to Congress and told them of the "Relief" they would experience if ONLY THE GOVERNMENT COULD PAY FOR HEALTHCARE! Well, - through Clinton and Obama - where's the Republican Health Care Plan put down as an alternative to these others? Where are they hiding them? If it were up to Corporate America - they'd THRUST ALL Health Insurance Costs on America. Why wouldn't they? Monthly, Quarterly P&L Statements are watched DAILY! There are no LONG TERM Projects the Companies pay for themselves. Can't tie up that kind of money. They must have SUBSIDIES - THEY MUST PAY THOSE CREATING THE PRODUCT WE SELL - FOR NOTHING!

Ronald Reagan did great things upon being elected to office. But let's not forget that Jimmy Carter set the whole thing up. The AGE of the Corporate Computer arrived. Orders went through for these systems. Production went into overdrive. Reagan took office and he did something that led to GREAT PRODUCTIVITY GAINS in America. REAGAN BEGAN OFFERING GOVERNMENT TRAINING FOR THESE ADVANCES!! Sure, Conglomerates ordered these IBM, APPLES, SPERRY, HEWLETT-PACKARDS, ET AL., mainframes. Jobless folks couldn't afford COLLEGE COURSES! So Reagan reached down and offered Government Backed Training for all sorts of people needed to run them. BOOM! So, forget the above - we've been here before. New Tech was to be Green Energy. But who dropped the Ball on that one?

July 26 2013 at 6:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
s2at25

"Why good jobs are vanishing"...Liberal Lemmings imposition on private business and industry. Don't believe it O.K. but nothing else has so great an influence as the trillion-dollar government with its armed enforcement capability, surveillance network and ability to "reinterpret" laws in their favor.

July 26 2013 at 4:56 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
ras11182003

I have always tried to give my job 100% of my effort and thought when at work. I have been in a tech. service job (optician) for over 25 years. This has hurt me in the job market as many employers (ie: optometric Dr.'s and hiring staff members) are worried about how much they will have to pay me for my time. They should be thinking how they will profit from my years of experience in this field. I have always increased the bottom line with increased sales of high end products that actually help our patients. Instead, I get nothing but demands to work faster at the expense of the quality of the finished product. I have wondered many times why making more money for my employers has been the catalyst for decreasing the amount of respect for a job done well, and done right the first time at that. It's sad to see the changes in the professionals I have been employed with.
Too bad that people forget about care and focus on one's job, and just try to force more and more out of their employees... Always at the expence of the final product. Realize that it takes about 3 or 4 minutes for your glasses to be analyzed and confirmed correct... Now imagine trying to do that in 1 minute, and consider what you are paying for... is it the service? is it the product?... or that magic combination of both that makes you secure in the product because of the service. Remember that the next time you are rushed to complete a project on a timeline that's too short to support quality checking of any product. so sad...and then there is the lack of any job security that has become so commonplace over the last 40 years... maybe the gold watch retirement has gone away... but the lack of personal respect and support in the workplace has hurt everyone involved. A job well done is now a job you need to do faster, not better. so very sad for all employees.
also, remember that even $15.00 per hour isn't enough to raise a family either, let alone the min. wage.

July 26 2013 at 4:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
rmbl2010

Three words "Right to work"

July 26 2013 at 3:54 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
fm1alpine

one word: obamacare.

July 26 2013 at 3:35 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply

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