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There's A Job For You: As Labor Market Grows, Where Is It Heading?

In this Wednesday, April 26, 2017 photo, a "Now Hiring" sign for a new Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant is shown in Miami. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)
In this Wednesday, April 26, 2017 photo, a "Now Hiring" sign for a new Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant is shown in Miami. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

With Ray Suarez

If current trends continue, there will be more than one job opening for every unemployed person in the U.S. We’ll look behind the numbers.


Howard Schneider, Federal Reserve correspondent at Reuters. (@hpschneider)

Joel Kotkin, writer and professor of Urban Studies at Chapman University, executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism. (@joelkotkin)

Diane Swonk, chief economist and managing director with the consulting firm Grant Thornton and an expert on the economics of the labor market. (@DianeSwonk)

Cindy Brown, executive director of Hello West Michigan, and vice president of talent initiatives at The Right Place.


Are people actually getting jobs?

Schneider: “There is some of that going on. Unemployment is down to 3.9%, and if you start breaking out those sorts of margins, people who were discouraged, as they say, had stopped looking for work, some of them are starting to come back. People who had been long-term unemployed are starting to find jobs. And to some degree, people who are working part-time because they couldn’t find full-time work were starting to boost up their hours and get full-time jobs. All these margins, are bit by bit improving.”

On the difference between rural and urban America:

Swonk: “There are some very hot urban markets with some very cool places within them, and there are these inner-city cores that are not getting tapped, even though it could be a very vibrant employment market. But in many rural areas, what we’ve seen is: the big high-income payers have moved out, and you are stuck with these lower-paying jobs. Now, hopefully, I would assume the universities have some higher paying jobs. But you don’t have the sort of blended and balanced effect you once did, and you’re stuck with more jobs that are on the lower end of the income strata. Stagnant wages — this is something that we’ve seen over and over again. Is it worth it to actually work?

This is something particularly hitting women. Women’s participation in the labor force has fallen recently. And that’s among prime-aged 24 to 54-year-old women. And a lot of the reason for that falling is during the crisis, they might have lost a job, and now they’ve become a critical part of an ecosystem in their family: taking care of elderly, or taking care of children. And the jobs that they can get in their communities aren’t paying enough to justify them leaving for the ecosystem of that family.”

On the qualities of thriving cities and towns:

Kotkin: “The big thing is a business climate is really important. Unless you’re at the very top of the food chain — like Silicon Valley, and, to some extent, Seattle — [it’s about being] business-friendly, [having] relatively low taxes, and probably the most important: housing affordability. Housing affordability seems to drive a lot of this. So unless you’re a super, high-wage economy, you really can’t get away with very high housing prices. That’s the problem we have in Southern California in particular. But many parts of the country have the same problem.

People are not necessarily gonna move to some small, rust belt town. But they’re gonna move into a place that’s got maybe a decent downtown, maybe a couple universities, and have a growing corporate community.”

From The Reading List:

Reuters: Hot U.S. jobs market spurs push to reach those left behind” — “The current expansion is among the longest ever and brought national unemployment to an 18-year low. Yet over 6.3 million are still out of work, many of them clustered in cities with chronic, high unemployment. A Reuters review of federal data shows that out of those unemployed about a quarter live in 50 urban counties with above-average unemployment, and a third in just 100.

Often with large minority populations, those areas include cities like St. Louis, Cleveland and Baltimore – 20th century industrial powerhouses hit hard by globalization, demographic changes, and the shift to a service-based economy.

Amid the tightest labor markets in two decades and labor force growth the slowest in half a century, local and national officials are turning to targeted training schemes, new investment incentives, and other strategies to bring jobs closer to the unemployed.”

Forbes: The Best Cities For Jobs 2018: Dallas And Austin Lead The Surging South” — “Among America’s largest metropolitan areas, the economic leaders come in two flavors: Southern-fried and West Coast organic. The first group flourishes across a broad range of industries, fed by strong domestic in-migration and a friendly business climate. The other is driven largely by technology and high-end business services clustered around expensive but highly desirable urban areas.

However, the trend lines certainly favor the former approach, which is epitomized by America’s Best City For Jobs in the 2018 edition of our annual ranking. After years of domination by the tech-driven San Francisco area, Dallas-Plano-Irving has secured the No. 1 spot for the last two years by dint of consistency: 2.8% job growth last year, 19.6% since 2012 and an impressive 25.6% since 2006. Its 2.02% population growth last year is the highest rate of any of the 10 largest metro areas while net in-migration trails only retirement haven Phoenix among the big cities. Simply put, this Energizer bunny just doesn’t stop.”

When the Bureau of Labor Statistics dropped its latest unemployment figure, it was a gaudy three-point-nine per cent…the first time the jobless rate has dropped below four per cent since the Clinton years. Even in this tight labor market, wages are rising at about the rate of inflation, meaning the average worker is standing still. Does that thiry-five-thousand-foot view of the labor force really tell us how people are doing?

This hour, On Point: The job market. Losers, winners, and wages.

– Ray Suarez

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