Saturday, December 31, 2011

Structural Unemployment

Listening to NPR I heard about "structural unemployment." At last! Someone talking sense about the current state of the economy. We've been looking at the economic problem wrong. It's not that we need more jobs created; we need the right jobs created.

Here is how I see the situation. We had the real-estate bubble with too many resources (labor hours) going into building houses, houses which were too big and expensive for people to pay (work) for. So the market crashed. We needed to move construction workers, real-estate agents, and mortgage brokers into jobs producing things we actually need.

That crash brought the rest of the economy down as we cut costs (labor hours) from things we actually need such as education and scientific research. Exacerbating the situation we are undergoing a shift in retail, more goods bought on the Internet and less in actual stores. We must move retail workers into new jobs.

To get back to deploring resources effectively, someone has to decide how to what we need, then borrow money to for it. We've got three groups who could make the critical decisions and take the risk. Consumers could take out loans to buy things which will make their lives better, but consumers are already carrying too much debt, and they can't buy things unless the stuff is available.

Businesses could borrow and make guesses about what consumers might. But business, like government, has been cutting costs and reducing both risk and inventory, making wanted and needed goods unavailable.

Where are you Steve Jobs? We need men and women with vision, those who understand what customers will want and are willing to take risks, take out the loans, and hire people.

That leaves the government taking the risk, but government barrowing will only work if it's backed up by vision, the understanding of what sort of investment of labor will pay off in the long run. Here is opportunity. Some necessary services can only most effectively provided by the government, services such as: education, public health, mass transportation, research, and job retraining.

But as I see it the bottom line, the things we most need as a nation are vision and courage. With these, we can put people to work doing jobs which need to be done. I think all of us: consumer, businesses, and government, should stop agonizing over cutting short term costs and instead consider long-term investment.

I'm doing my part. I went out and bought a new refrigerator. In the short term, I'm spending--gasp, pant, pant, panic--more money, but I hope in the long term it will save me money in energy costs.

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