Outlook for Job Market? Bah, Humbug
One man's opinion. And it's a strong one.
It's easy to be anesthetized by the government's telling us the job market is getting better. But your appropriate reaction should be, "Bah, humbug!" Only people who believe in Santa Claus could think the employment situation is getting better, let alone is good.
The reported unemployment rate is grossly misleading because it counts as employed such people as the former middle-incomer who now makes minimum wage. Through the so-called recovery, median household income in real dollars continues to plummet. The reported unemployment rate is misleading also because it doesn't count the millions of discouraged workers who've reached the maximum number of unemployment checks or who couldn't convince the unemployment office they've been looking for work. Instead of the "unemployment rate," consider the Alternate Unemployment Rate, which includes those long-term unemployed workers. It has risen to 23.2 percent, an all-time high.
And things will get worse, much worse.
Most of U.S. job growth is in two areas. First, there are the jobs you probably don't want: low-paying, menial work, for example, butt-wiping as a home health aide. Then there are the jobs requiring brilliance, for example, developing mathematical models as a biomedical engineer. Countless Americans won't be able to find decent-paying work.
Making matters worse, the cost of employing an American is among the world's highest. On top of ObamaCare, there's Worker's Compensation, Social Security, Medicare, Social Security, Disability Insurance, sick days, vacation days, Family and Medical Leave Act (paid leave in California and New Jersey) the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the costs of defending the ever-growing wrongful termination and other employee claims. It's no surprise that U.S. employers are automating, part-timing, and offshoring as many jobs as possible, and making as many of the rest temp jobs or unpaid internships.
Indeed, automation will destroy ever more jobs.
Some of the world's smartest companies-Google, Amazon, and UPS--are investing big in developing robots and driverless vehicles, including drone delivery. That will put millions of truck, cab, train, and bus drivers out of work.
Fast-food workers may wrest higher salaries but will find their victory Pyrrhic as companies find it cheaper and more reliable to use robotic servers and preparers. Some fast-food restaurants in Japan and Europe are already doing that.
Building construction is another major employer. But as explained in the cover story of January 2014's Popular Science, How to Print a House, it's only a matter of time until buildings can be stamped out by machine, perhaps by 3-D printer, thereby eliminating millions more jobs.
Even many retail sales jobs will go away. IBM is developing a virtual clothing salesperson who will "listen" to you and your measurements and make recommendations that are likely better than what you'd get from your typical $10-an-hour salesperson.
According to MIT jobs guru Andrew McAfee, even some of the work formerly done by physicians, lawyers, and accountants will be performed by computerized expert systems. Already, much legal discovery and x-ray/MRI review are offshored to India, and many corporate tax returns are prepared in the Philippines.
So what's this all going to cause?
1. Already 47 million Americans are on food stamps, the most in history. That's one-sixth of the country. And per the chart at that link, the number is growing.
2. U.S. median earnings will decline toward the world average of $18,000 a year.
3. Fear of social unrest as well as egalitarian impulses will push government to keep extending the unemployment checks. Government will also expand "soak the rich" taxation in which the top 5 percent already pay 59 percent of the income tax to "soak the (shrunken) middle class." ObamaCare will give way to single-payer health care. Marijuana will be legalized to anesthetize the masses. Oh, that's exactly what we need a less motivated, more memory-impaired workforce.
4. People will be forced to live on less--like 100 square feet per person. Many people will have to give up their car in favor of mass transit. Recreation will descend from $100 football tickets and 8-day/7-night fly-away vacations to at-home TV watching and staycations. Wal-Mart and thrift stores will become go-to stores for all but the 1%ers.
5. Ever more taxpayer-paid jobs will be created, eating the nation's seed corn. Eventually, the largely anti-business public schools will recognize that only entrepreneurship can create sustainable new jobs, so some of the arcana-larded K-16 curriculum (geometric theorems, exploration of the Peloponnesian Wars, etc.) will be replaced by entrepreneurship education. That will create some jobs but not enough.
America will have to get used to being just another "developing" nation.
Some would say that a less materialistic America will be a net good: less environmental degradation and people being forced to find contentment in relationships and creative endeavors instead of Coach purses. Yeah, but have you tried living on $18,000 a year? Think you'd really like it?
What's this Scrooge's appraisal of the job market at Christmas present and especially at Christmas future? Bah, humbug!
The San Francisco Bay Guardian called Dr. Nemko "The Bay Area's Best Career Coach" and he was Contributing Editor for Careers at U.S. News where he now also blogs. His sixth and seventh books were published in 2012: How to Do Life: What They Didn't Teach You in School and What's the Big Idea? 39 Disruptive Proposals for a Better America . More than 1,000 of his published writings are free on www.martynemko.com. He posts here weekly.
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