Thursday, July 05, 2012

Forget Hamburger Flipper Jobs, We're Becoming A Nation Of Dog Walkers

Now here is the bad news. These are low paying jobs, and the recession hasn’t helped:
More jobs are better than fewer jobs—particularly for those who would otherwise be unemployed. But Mr. Autor cautions: “These aren’t going to be high-paying jobs because the skills are quite generic. Anyone can be productive at them in the next day or two. If you had to choose which jobs you’d want to go away, you’d pick these low-wage jobs, not the middle-skill ones.”

Before the recession, when unemployment was low and workers relatively scarce, wages for personal-service workers rose while wages for middle-skill jobs sagged. Mr. Autor and colleague David Dorn found a 16% increase in inflation-adjusted average hourly wages between 1980 and 2005 for these service workers and a 30% increase for the professionals, managers and upper-end finance workers. That contrasts with a 6% increase for machine operators and assemblers and a 4% decline for production and craft workers.

But the subsequent recession and sluggish recovery produced a glut of workers for these relatively low-skill, personal-service jobs; wages have been depressed as a consequence, Mr. Autor says. And incomes of barbers and some other personal-care workers were squeezed during the recession and immediately after the recession when many consumers cut back spending on easy-to-skip services such as dining out or delayed getting their hair cut.
1. This is as much a story about automation as outsourcing, though the media tends to focus on the latter rather than the former — except when a politician rages against the machines as President Obama did when he knocked ATMs as job losers.


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