Mediocre July Jobs Report Points To Lower Standards Of Living In The US Most of the new 162,000 jobs are low paying positions in retail. Too many part time jobs. The end of American upward mobility?

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.

Lousy jobs

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.

Education, education

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.

Mundane jobs

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.

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One comment to “Mediocre July Jobs Report Points To Lower Standards Of Living In The US Most of the new 162,000 jobs are low paying positions in retail. Too many part time jobs. The end of American upward mobility?
  1. Paolo,

    Generally good summary and overview, but incomplete final prescription.

    A big and growing problem in the USA is the rejection of the “American dream” by segments of our population. As just one example, the insistence of the old civil-rights leaders to brand America as unjust and therefore in need of their aged advocacy for all the “victims” is badly hurting the country. At the risk of generalizing, many young blacks do not see education as the most certain path to increased economic wealth. This appears to be true for several (though not all) other “minority” groups in the USA.

    As for the “mediocre public education system”, to paraphrase a saying by Joseph de Maistre, “Every nation gets the education system it deserves.” Throwing more money at an education system that is not value by its attendee’s, parent’s, and community will just prolong the problem you bring up. There are many (including Democrat’s) who believe that the current US welfare system (in all its dimensions) is simply the price of social peace, and that the “system” in fact makes not intention to raise people out of poverty or dependence.

    Finally, I do not buy your argument that those who wish to escape poverty cannot. The military is a career open to all, and unless one is physically or mentally handicapped it is a viable path out of the dysfunction of the ghetto. Most poor immigrant communities in the US have not grown out of poverty in the first generation…there was sacrifice and commitment over generations. There has been in my history.

    The real story has to do with the morality of “payments for civil peace” which have led to dependence and a lack of ambition to rise out of poverty. The US is not the only country to do this of course, although the US may be the only country in which every inhabitant CAN pursue the American dream despite their ethnicity, religion, or skin color.

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