If the Economy is Getting Better,
by Gregory P. Smith
Where Are the Jobs?
Corporate profits are improving and layoffs are slowing. Economists appear pleased, but many of your friends are still looking for work. If the economy is improving, where are the jobs?
President George Bush says the "economy is showing signs of promise."
Productivity — the amount an employee produces for each hour of work — increased at an annual rate of 6.8 percent during the April-to-June quarter. This was "stronger" than the government’s first estimate of a 5.7 percent growth rate according to MSNBC news.
At the same time the labor department said new applications for jobless benefits rose by 15,000 to 413,000 for the week ending August 30, 2003. Corporate profits are improving--layoffs are slowing. Economists appear pleased, but many of your friends are still looking for work. If the economy is improving, where are the jobs?
Much of the U.S. job growth in the past several months has come from lower paying, less skilled jobs such as food, office assistants, and other service sector jobs.
Going, going, gone.
One reason jobs are harder to find is many of them have been outsourced and sent overseas. Forester Research estimates by 2015 over 3.36 million jobs will be exported. In the 1990's, over 800,000 jobs went to China. (U.S. News and World Report) It goes without saying that along with the evaporation of these jobs so goes $136 billion dollars worth of annual wages. In June, the Conference Board sponsored the 2003 Strategic Outsourcing Conference. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, (June 27) over 125 executives attended this conference to learn how to export jobs to other countries such as to "India, Philippines, China, Malaysia, and elsewhere."
A factory worker in China makes about $200 a month. On the other hand, U.S. autoworkers make that much in one day or less. This comes at no surprise that Hondas and Toyotas are outselling most American made automobiles. On the wave of cheap labor, GM is the first U.S. automaker to build a plant in China and expects to increase production by 50%. All-in-all this country is importing more than it exports creating a huge trade deficit.
Crisis or opportunity?
We live in a global economy. When it comes to commerce, territorial borders disappear. China has the 6th largest economy in the world and is growing at 8% a year, while the U.S. is creeping along at 2-3%. More jobs overseas means more profits for U.S. multinational companies. Currently, Wal-Mart is China's 8th largest trading partner according to U.S. News and World Report spending $12 billion last year on Chinese made products.
I don't pretend to be an economist, but you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see a storm on the horizon. Most of us have felt the impact of this economy on our wallets. Sure, healthcare and the government sector jobs are growing by leaps and bounds. But, I am concerned that for most of us the future is still in question.
In the "old days" good skills and a good education meant you were guaranteed a good paying job. This is changing for many career fields and certainly is not true if your job is exported. There is going to be a long-term impact on your lifestyle, not to mention your spending power.
Will this country become a nation of "haves and have-nots?" In order for this country to stay competitive we need to readjust our expectations, maybe even our wages. Every business must focus on innovation and new job growth. Take advantage of every productivity enhancement available. And for those who have lost their job, don't be afraid to learn a new career.