Calendar of Events
|Where Are the Jobs?|
|Thursday, 25 August 2011 09:39|
“Indicators suggest a deterioration in overall labor market conditions in recent months,” said Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernake, August 9, 2011.
Happy Labor Day…is precisely what we didn’t have this September in the U.S. Or would it be the “US AA+” after Standard & Poor’s debt downgrade?
The economy has stalled and the terrible job market, limping along in its fourth year, is not growing nearly fast enough to absorb the existing jobless, let alone those ready to enter the workforce. The topline 9.1% jobless rate masks the 63% labor participation rate—roughly the same number as in 1984. Talk about Orwellian. If you didn’t have a full-time job on Labor Day, your chances of getting one after the Fed’s dismal August prognosis are about the same as finding diamonds in your cereal box.
The administration is now desperate for good economic news and promises laser-like attention to the jobs crisis. Some say its regulators that have been giving Taser-like attention to the jobs market, but let’s not be uncharitable. One thing we can say is that while the White House has been looking intently for signs of big job growth in the green economy of wind turbines and solar panels, it has ignored the sector where jobs are growing fastest.
According to recent data from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment sector with the biggest jobs growth in the past decade was natural resources. From December 2000 to June 2011, natural resource sector employment grew by 30.6%, topping even health care and education, the next two biggest sectors for job growth over the decade.
Can you guess what’s included in natural resources? Here’s a hint: It is black, found underground, prefers train to air travel, is burned to make the world’s steel and 45% of our electricity, and pays the average worker $73,000 a year to produce. As of July of this year, said BLS, coal employed 86,000 Americans directly, 6.7% above last year’s level. The BLS survey found all mining—hard rock as well as coal—added almost 10,000 jobs in the past year alone. If the president wants to showcase jobs created under his watch, maybe he should drop by a mining operation.
Coal mining, an industry not favored by subsidies or regulation, is growing. Contrast this record with the performance of other high-wage employment sectors. In the past decade, job growth in construction fell about 19%; in manufacturing it plunged almost 32%. It’s enough for coal’s leaders to echo Aretha Franklin’s request for a little “R-E-S-P-E-C-T!”
A Danish philosopher once mocked deep-thinkers by saying, “They look to the clouds for what lies at their feet.” Washington policymakers might heed this wisdom. Don’t look to the wild blue yonder of a new green economy for employment growth—especially not when its subsidies are being slashed. Look at the ground right under your feet for high-wage jobs being created now.
And look in the mirror for who can help create those jobs with policies that help our economy’s winners.
Popovich is a spokesperson for the National Mining Association, the industry’s trade group based in Washington, D.C.