The website 24/7 Wall Street reports that the Los Angeles City Council is debating a raise in the minimum wage that would bring the wage to $13.25 in 2017 and $15.25 by 2019. Critics says this measure would cost jobs. The problem with that claim is that the wage will be phased in over 5 years. If a business cannot adapt in that time period, that company is not viable. The report also said that companies in L.A. might move to nearby communities with lower minimum wages. There’s a simple solution to that problem: raise the national minimum wage. America needs a raise.
The business website 24/7 Wallstreet reports that retailers expect to make major increases in hiring for the Holiday season. That’s good news for people who will get jobs, but it can lead to happy media reports that mask deeper problems in the economy. Why? First, these jobs are not permanent and generally low paying. Second, the unemployment rate and related news will sound better than it really is. For my money, watch the manufacturing sector to understand how the job market is doing. More importantly, watch changes in wages and benefits. Until America gets a raise (at least 99% of America), we will not have significant changes in the economy or in real opportunities for working people.
I’ve written about Detroit and its challenges before. I love the city and wish it the best. The business website 24/7 Wall Street reports that a poll of CFOs taken by Robert Half forecasts big job growth in the Motor City. The author cautions that the poll does not have national statistical validity, but it does indicate optimism in Detroit, Philadelphia, and several other large cities. My take away, as always, is that job growth in itself is not enough. We need good jobs that pay a living wage. Let’s hope good jobs and brighter days are coming to Detroit.
Huffingtion Post (via 24/7 Wall Street) examines a serious problem facing working people: occupations that will no longer exist. As technology and processes improve, companies have been able to do away with people who perform tasks that can be automated.
The article cites the U.S. Postal Service as one example of a company that has been impacted by new systems. As more people use email and online systems for paying bills, there is less and less need for postal carriers and workers to process the mail. While this example is good, it does not address even more frightening scenarios for the job market.
What if businesses no longer needed to hire people to drive or wait tables? In the past few months, I’ve read articles that suggest that both of these occupations could go the way of the unicorn. Rather than have a waiter present the daily special and take orders, diners would make their choices on a tablet, and expeditors would bring the food/clear the tables. I don’t know if this system is practical given the waiter’s role in sales and customer service, but the system is plausible, especially for restaurants where service is less of an issue than price. I’ve also read articles that claim driving jobs will be gone by 2050 due to computerized vehicles. Imagine if all the people who held jobs as drivers and waiters were suddenly unemployed. I frequently criticize companies for paying low wages, but that is preferable to having an economy where machines do all the work.
What can we do? I don’t know. We can fight moving jobs to other countries through legal actions like tariffs and by economic nationalism (Made in the U.S.A.). I don’t know how you fight technology and progress. If a company can improve its business through innovation, it will do so. If it doesn’t, a competitor will do so. The problem of lost jobs (occupation extinction) is serious, and – like climate change – too many people are ignoring it.
According to the business website 24/7 Wall Street, unemployed workers are moving to big cities. Some of the cities in the South and Southwest that have attracted new residents, such as Tampa and Las Vegas, have endured high unemployment. Denver and Houston are drawing people because their unemployment rates are below the national average. This article follows a trend that Fortune editor Leigh Gallagher has described in her book, The End of the Suburbs. People are voting for life that has more options and is less dependent on the automobile. According to Gallagher, young professionals, those who are most challenged in the current job market, do not want to live in suburbs. This trend will impact how people work as well as how they live. Cities are back, and that’s a good thing for our economy and culture.