By Paolo von Schirach
August 3, 2013
WASHINGTON – The latest US jobs figures are alarming. Sure, we added 162,000 ne jobs in July. While these numbers are not wonderful, more people working is progress. On the surface this growth looks at least decent. The unemployment rate actually went down a bit, from 7.6% to 7.4%. Even though this is largely due to people who stopped looking for work and dropped out, this is the lowest jobless rate we have had since 2008.
So, why the unhappiness? Very simple: we are not creating great or at least decent jobs. We are creating mostly lousy, low paying jobs, mostly in retail and in the hospitality industry. On top of that, the percentage of part-time jobs for people who would really like to have full-time employment is growing, while the average worker has shorter work days.
Look, if you were jobless, getting something is surely better than having nothing. Still, these new jobs figures are part of a trend that indicates at best economic stagnation, (we know the economy grows at a mediocre 2% a year), and at worst downward mobility. And this is a problem.
Here are the hard facts. In America, if you have a very good education and a super degree from a super university you have good chances to get into a vibrant sector, perhaps a into an industry leader, a GE or an IBM perfectly at ease in the globalized economy. If you are really smart, you will move up and do very well financially. You will have the money to give your kids the same excellent education that gave you a major advantage in life. The problem is that there are very few of you. Very, very few who are doing and will be doing well.
Indeed, if you only have a so-so degree, then you will be competing for mundane administrative jobs that now pay far less than they used to. Without top qualifications, your chances to move up are small. And if you only have a high school degree, then your chances of getting anything decent, let alone climbing the socio-economic ladder, are really poor. You get part-time jobs in bad times. In good times you get a low paying job in retail, health care or equivalent. And that’s about it.
Good-bye to the American Dream?
If you do not even have a high school degree, then your chances of ending up in jail are much higher than you having any kind of career. This is what the July jobs numbers indicate. Unless we shake up our truly mediocre public education system, while at the same time creating a more robust pro-growth policy environment, it is good-bye to the American Dream.
America used to be the land where everything was possible. In large part this was due to affordable, quality public education. Now the rich get their own high quality private education and the opportunities that it opens up . The uneducated get little, often times just the crumbs.
Given these trends, the already horrendous income gap between the rich and a somewhat impoverished middle class is going to get wider; and we shall live in an overall poorer country marked by even deeper socio-economic divisions. This is not a good prospect for what used to be the most dynamic and optimistic society on earth.