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Doing Each Others Laundry

The US economy grows jobs steadily.  The job market has been doing pretty well for the last 50 years, adding jobs effortlessly for the explosion in the labor force participation of women and in the last 20 years, effortlessly absorbing a large increase in foreign born workers. 

The doom and gloomers like to claim the the trade deficit or China is bad for US workers, but they can’t explain the steady growth in employment.  For example, the US has run a merchandise trade deficit for every year since 1976, trillions of dollars of deficits.  And since 1976, the US economy has created over 50 million jobs.  The doom and gloomers then ask "But what kind of jobs?"  As the manufacturing sector shrinks and the service sector expands, the d and g’ers like to say that eventually, we’ll be stuck doing each others laundry.  The implication is that we stand on the edge of a precipice, our standard of living imperiled by Japan or Mexico or China or India or the deficit or multinational corporate greed.

The Wall Street Journal has a story today (sr) on which sectors are expanding and contracting since June 2003.  So here is some fairly substantial evidence on the question of which kind of jobs the US economy is creating in the latest economic expansion.

Here are the sectors that are expanding:

Some of them are service jobs that pay below the average.  Some are service jobs that pay above average.  Some are in construction.  Some are in mining.  Some are in architecture.  Health services.  Computer design.  They’re from all over the economy.  Some are good jobs.  Some are great.  Some not so great.  There’s also these great numbers:

According to data compiled by UBS Securities, in
the past year, the economy has produced 899,000 jobs in industries in
which average wages exceed the national average of roughly $15 an hour,
such as Internet publishing and engineering. It has produced 905,000
jobs in industries with below-average wages, such as food services and
building-supply retailers.

Not surprisingly, about half of the jobs are in above-average paying sectors.  About half are in below-average paying sectors.  Of course this tells you nothing of what has happened to the actual average.  Some sectors with below average pay have created jobs that pay above the average and some high-wage sectors have created jobs with below average pay.  But the point is that a growing economy creates all kinds of jobs.  In truth, the wages attached to those jobs depend on our skills and the market for those skills.  Those wages are enhanced by trade and by most of the things the doom and gloomers complain about.


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