Labor’s other report paints gloomy picture for future work
- Last Updated: 12:01 AM, February 6, 2012
- Posted: 10:48 PM, February 4, 2012
While the White House celebrated Friday’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ announcement that the unemployment rate slipped to 8.3 percent and 243,000 new jobs were created, there appears to be storm clouds on the horizon.
Trouble is, the January jobs report wasn’t the most important press release coming out of the Labor Department last week.
Two days earlier, Labor released its employment projections going out to 2020, and that document paints a picture far broader — and far less rosy — than one month’s numbers.
Indeed, the report underscores what almost every American has already figured out — that the quantity and quality of job opportunities for most Americans won’t be improving anytime soon.
Take, for example, the number of Americans who are in the workforce in the first place. While there was much dispute about whether an apparent 1.2 million decline in the number of job participants in January was a statistical quirk born out of a seasonal adjustment or some other sleight-of-hand, the overall trend is clear.
Not only has work-force participation dwindled dramatically during the Obama years, to a 30-year low of 63.7 percent, the Labor Department projects that the workforce will grow just 0.7 percent in the current decade, about half the pace we saw in the 1990s.
What’s more, that dismal prediction comes with the Labor Department’s sunny assumption that we will be in an environment of full employment at decade’s end — probably a 50/50 proposition at best.
And what types of jobs will be most available over the next eight years? Well, the report packs good news if you want to make a career out of changing bedpans or serving lattes, not so good if your dream is to work in financial services or information technologies.
In fact, more than a quarter of all the new jobs the Labor Department expects to be created by 2020 will come from the health care and social-assistance sectors, where pay is well below that of the average manufacturing job, and pension and insurance benefits are typically sub-par.
Compare that with the projection that only about 3.5 percent of new jobs will be in the highly paid financial services industry, and just 0.7 percent in technology, and you can grasp the growing disparity.
That’s why a comprehensive jobs policy aimed at creating high-quality jobs to replace those lost over the past two decades in high-end manufacturing is paramount. It’s why the Keystone Pipeline project, with its promise of thousands of new well-paying jobs, should have been quickly approved by the White House.
Of course, opportunities for job hunters will also lie in the tens of millions of existing jobs that will turn over between now and the end of the decade — but don’t expect the nation’s Baby Boomers to ease quickly into retirement.
If the Labor Department is correct, job-hungry Baby Boomers 55 and older will constitute a full 25 percent of the workforce by 2020, up from just 19 percent today, pulling jobs away from those who are just entering the workforce or starting a family.
Sure, like this winter’s weather, the January jobs numbers were full of pleasant surprises at a time when President Obama needs them most. But a few good reports, papered over with lots of low-paying jobs, and fewer Americans even bothering to apply for them, won’t be enough to reverse a jobs deficit that is eating away at the middle class of this country.
Growing job sectors ’12-’20
Retail sales +70%
Home health care +69%
Registered nurses +58%