the new economy, a question

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Sun Apr 4 08:35:34 PDT 1999

Anderson, Bob wrote:

>How is it that unemployment can be at a 29 yr low while so many jobs are
>being eliminated by the technological changes and movement overseas? Is it
>more than just low wage secondary type jobs are being created? Is it that
>a big part of the jobs created are actually in the high-tech fields here,
>much as the invention of the airplane created a large new industry ?

Long-term studies of U.S. labor markets show tremendous turbulence over the decades. Though the figures show large and persistent net job creation over the decades, that net is the result of a lot of gross job creation and destruction, through expansions and recessions. Contrary to anecdote and press reports, that turbulence hasn't really increased significantly over time; what seems to be new, and what is probably the cause of all the attention, is that the turbulence has now reached formerly insulated demographic sectors, notably older white men. I don't want to minimize their dislocation, but, to put it into a soundbite, white-collar workers are now experiencing the kind of job instability that's long been familiar to blue- and pink-collar workers.

High-tech isn't responsible for all that much job creation. It's also unlikely that average hourly wages could be rising, as they have over the last 2 years, if all the jobs created were of the "low wage secondary type." I think what's happening is that lots of those jobs are being created, as are high-end jobs in smaller numbers, with a decided absence of middle-quality jobs. But it's going to be a few years before we really know for sure.


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