Feature

Issue of the week: Where will the jobs come from?

Industries that once provided jobs for millions of workers of all skill levels aren't expected to return to their former size anytime soon. 

Like many other job seekers, Kyle Daley is growing desperate, said Don Lee in the Los Angeles Times. The 23-year-old—who has been looking for work since he graduated from UCLA in 2009 with a bachelor’s in political science—recently stuffed his résumé into an old wine bottle and chucked it into the Pacific Ocean. “I’m trying every avenue I can,” he says. His plight, and that of others like him, raises a possibility as frightening as the current 9.7 percent unemployment rate, said Martin Ford in Fortune. “Is it possible we’re creating a future in which jobs are going to be harder and harder” to find, even for college graduates? As computers double in speed and power every two years or so, “the number and type of jobs that can be automated is certain to expand dramatically.” At the same time, industries that once provided jobs for millions of workers of all skill levels, such as manufacturing, real estate, and construction, have shrunk dramatically in the recession, and won’t return to their former size anytime soon. We can no longer count on these sectors to create jobs “in the numbers required to sustain us.” What will take their place?

It’s a question that demands an aggressive government response, said David Leonhardt in The New York Times. Yet since passing a $787 billion stimulus bill in 2009, President Obama and congressional Democrats have made only timid efforts to bring down unemployment, which the usually reliable forecasters at Goldman Sachs predict will still stand at 9.7 percent at the end of 2011. “The aftermath of the financial crisis was always going to be harsh,” and the political headwinds against additional deficit spending are stiff, but Democrats will go into November’s midterm elections knowing that they haven’t gone all-out to create more jobs.

That’s a relief, said George Will in The Washington Post. The administration’s failure to create jobs despite all its spending is “evidence against the theory that a growing government can be counted on to produce prosperity.” In fact, Obama is prolonging the unemployment agony. Businesses are hesitant to hire not because the government is doing too little, but because it’s doing too much. With a health-care bill that will increase the cost burden on business, a promised new tax in the form of climate-change legislation, and aggressive support of union organizing, Obama’s “hyperkinetic government” is sowing a paralyzing uncertainty in the business community. And without a clear picture of the future, businesses simply won’t risk hiring new workers. If Obama really wants to do something to get employment growing again, he ought to resist his “metabolic urge toward statism” and do nothing.

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