Crisis and Recovery Work: the Future of Jobs in the World Economy

 

SOURCE ITEMS

Pipes carrying Flint River water are opened; the Detroit supply is shut off. The switch was made as a cost-saving measure for the struggling, black-majority city. Soon after, residents begin to complain about the water’s color, taste and odor, and report rashes and concerns about bacteria. … Flint urges residents to stop drinking water after government epidemiologists validate Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s finding of high lead levels. Mr. Snyder orders the distribution of filters, the testing of water in schools, and the expansion of water and blood testing.

Jeremy C.F. Lin, Jean Rutter and Haeyoun Park, Events That Led to Flint’s Water Crisis., New York Times, January 21, 2016. Accessed January 22, 2016.

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Health care employment expanded by 475,000 in 2015, compared with a gain of 309,000 in 2014.Chart-Job Growth by Sector 2015

 

Source: Current Employment Statistics Highlights, December 2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2016. Accessed January 22, 2016.

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Air, sea and land transport networks continue to expand in reach, speed of travel and volume of passengers and goods carried. Pathogens and their vectors can now move further, faster and in greater numbers than ever before. Three important consequences of global transport network expansion are infectious disease pandemics, vector invasion events and vector-borne pathogen importation.

Tatem, A.J., D.J. Rogers, and S.I. Hay. Global Transport Networks and Infectious Disease Spread. Advances in parasitology 62 (2006): 293–343. PMC. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.

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Thus, the net gain in jobs in New Jersey over the four year period would be 270,000 (281,000 construction-related jobs less 11,000 Travel and Tourism-related jobs). Of the 281,000 construction-related jobs, about 218,000 will be direct construction jobs. …

If all of this money is spent on reconstruction, the influx of new spending will generate $53.1 billion in new total output in those 13 counties and about 352,000 new jobs. About 299,000 jobs will be construction jobs.

Economic Impact of Hurricane Sandy, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, September 2013

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Future warming will bring a more volatile, dangerous world, even if the world manages to keep temperature rises within a 2C limit to which governments have committed, Fischer’s research found. On average, any given place on Earth will experience 60% more extreme rain events and 27 extremely hot days.

Karl Mathiesen, Extreme weather already on increase due to climate change, study finds, The Guardian, U.S. Edition, April 27, 2015.

COMMENTS

Safe water is one of those items of wealth that comes to us as both natural wealth and fabricated wealth. We sip water purified by nature from natural springs and we sip water purified by factories from our water taps.

The water crisis in Flint Michigan illustrates the extent to which we humans have damaged the natural production of many forms of wealth and been forced to replace natural wealth with fabricated wealth. Therein lies the story of job growth in the 21st century.

During the expansive years of capitalism (roughly the 16th century through the first half of the 20th century), we increasingly used fossil fuels to transform natural wealth into fabricated wealth. We had our eyes on the growing stock of fabricated wealth and failed to see the costs in natural wealth. Now we are beginning to see that there is no free lunch. The notion that humans figured out how to add to the total stock of wealth on the planet (the notion of creating fabricated wealth at no cost to natural wealth) has turned out to be an accounting sleight of hand.

We have never been able to increase net total wealth (natural wealth + fabricated wealth). By defining nations as economies, we externalized all costs to other nations and to nature and counted only what we wanted to: fabricated wealth. Our riches seemed to grow without end. Now we can no longer expand the stock of fabricated wealth fast enough to stay ahead of normal wear and tear and a rising tide of social, geopolitical, and ecological disasters.

The work we want to do is steadily being replaced by the work we must do. Steadily, our working hands and minds are being turned to the task of fixing damage inflicted on our fabricated wealth by domestic conflicts, wars, climate events, and just plain old wear and tear; and to the task of fixing the damages we have inflicted and continue to inflict on natural wealth.

The rate at which the world’s fabricated and natural wealth are being damaged is growing fast, so more and more our jobs will be in industries that repair our bodies (and replace body parts), that repair and replace our essential fabricated items of wealth (e.g., homes, tools, transportation equipment, educational facilities, health care technologies) and that repair the planetary systems we have damaged. The proportion of jobs that produce goods and services that can be counted as net new fabricated wealth will go down.

Into the 20th century, job growth was associated with expanding the production of net new fabricated wealth. That era is over. Job growth is now becoming associated with survival goals in place of greater affluence goals.

Rose Colored Job Growth Glasses Hide the Main Story

 

SOURCE ITEMS

For all of 2015, the nation added 2.65 million jobs, capping a two-year, back-to-back gain that was the best since the late 1990s, the government reported on Friday.

Patricia Cohen, Robust Hiring in December Caps Solid Year for U.S. Jobs, New York Times, January 8, 2016.

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Ratio of Working Age Population to Jobs Created

Best Two Years of 1990s (1997-98)

Years 2014-2015

Jobs Created in Two Year Period

6.5 million

5.8 million

Working Age Population (ages 18-64) 2000 and 2015 (estimated)

174.1 million

198.9 million

Ratio, Working Age Population to Jobs Created

26.8

34.3

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau.

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After more than four decades of serving as the nation’s economic majority, the American middle class is now matched in number by those in the economic tiers above and below it. … a demographic shift that could signal a tipping point, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data.

The American Middle Class Is Losing Ground, Pew Research Center, December 9, 2015.

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The decrease in labor force participation lowers incomes independently of wage trends. During an era when employment rates are trending downward, wages will grow faster than household incomes.

Salim Furth, Stagnant Wages: What the Data Show, Backgrounder #3074 on Labor, The Heritage Foundation, October 26, 2015.

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Stock Market Closing Prices

 

Dow Jones Industrial Average

Nasdaq Stock Market

S&P 500

December 31, 2014

17823.07

4736.05

2058.90

December 31, 2015

17425.03

5007.41

2043.94

Source: Dow Jones Close.

COMMENTS

But these rose colored glasses/That I’m looking through/Show only the beauty/’Cause they hide all the truth – Lyrics by John Conlee
 

To say that job creation in 2014-15 has been the best since the late 1990s is misleading and not only because making that statement implies that job growth is now the same as it was in the late 1990s.   It sidesteps an important and related issue: the loss of wealth in American households.

Fewer and fewer American families now have the wherewithal to live middle class lives and real wage growth, even if positive, is so modest that it will never restore the middle class prosperity Americans became used to in the post-WWII decades.

Yet, given the threats from global warming and the increasing flows of goods, information and people from place to place on this earth, we have to ask whether returning to the kind of prosperity that marked the 1960s in America is what we should expect or even want. Perhaps we should not expect it because the rest of the world now reaches into America enough to successfully demand a fairer (and therefore larger) share of the global pie. And, perhaps we should not want it because that way of affluence imposed an enormous cost in wealth and lives on most of the world’s peoples and, as we know so well now, is making the earth unfit for habitation.

Is there an alternative way of affluence? Yes, but we have to invent it.