Workopolis reports on the latest employment projections from the American Bureau of Labour Statistics. (This is following on the heels of a Canadian report last month that employment is still down.) Of greatest interest is the lists of job sectors most likely to grow, and those most likely to decline. Although the report is American, it’s likely to be broadly applicable to Canadian job markets as well.
Surprisingly, one of the fields with projected declines is fast food. If people are consuming less fast food, that’s probably a good thing, yet I can’t help but find this thought scary. Are people so hard up for cash they can’t even splurge for McDonald’s as often anymore? Will teenagers and unemployed adults both be fighting for the limited number of fast-food jobs still available?
I can’t help but think of my own field and its shrinking prospects. I graduated from a Canadian education program almost five years ago. Most of my friends have had difficulty getting full-time teaching work in that time. But new teachers have always had a safety net. Graduates without an immediate full-time job can join divisional substitute teacher lists.
Getting up early in the morning and waiting for a call to cover a last-minute absence at a school somewhere in town is not rewarding and it’s not what teachers went to school in order to do. But it keeps them afloat, it puts them in a classroom and it gives them a chance to get to know their local schools and meet the local administration while they wait for their perfect job posting to come along. No one wants to sub for 10 years — you’ll never qualify for a mortgage that way, for one — but you can survive doing it, indefinitely, if need be. It’s a small consolation after years of education and finding no job waiting for you. Still, it’s something.
But starting last year, the job shortage became so terrible, most of the major divisions in my city refused to accept new names for their substitute teacher lists. They were full, they said. And this was a scary moment, because if the teaching job shortage is so severe you can’t even get work as a sub, where does that put you? Battling it out for one of those shrinking numbers of positions at McDonald’s?
This is just an example. I chose the teaching market to illustrate the point because I’m intimately familiar with it. But people in all sorts of different fields, from unskilled labor to trades to information economy workers, are dealing with unemployment or underemployment. It’s several times worse on average in the United States, but we’re not immune elsewhere in the world. It is a global recession, after all.
Slacktivist has a great post about the frustration of looking for jobs that aren’t there. And this is what some of the one-percenters don’t understand. Never having struggled, always having the connections and financial advantages to come out ahead, it’s easy to convince themselves that everyone else must be lazy, for not finding these jobs that don’t exist.
In an abstract way, I find it interesting how real, live people are affected by abstract concepts that aren’t based on anything physical or real. The performance of the stock market and therefore the value of everything from 401Ks to GICs depends heavily on mass psychology. The housing collapse had a domino effect because people lost confidence in the ability and trustworthiness of individuals and organizations to pay their debts or stay financially afloat. Consequently, everything became worth less, and as a result, everyone from Canadian teachers to Virginia health care aides suddenly found they couldn’t retire on schedule.
Younger people trying to break into the fields they’ve trained for find there are no openings because would-be retirees can’t afford to give up their jobs. Workers in other fields, construction say, find they’re getting laid off because suddenly no one can afford to invest in new buildings. Everyone is going into hermit mode, holding tight and not moving.
It’s interesting because the abilities of the people looking for work haven’t changed, the work that needs to be done to keep society functioning hasn’t changed, but everyone’s perceptions have changed.
And that’s why the Occupy movement can’t stop. The way things are now simply isn’t sustainable in the long term. Something in the system is askew, because people could be working to add to society’s real wealth, but the money will not flow to let them work.
The abstract concept of money, as exemplified by Wall Street valuations and stock prices, is in the way of actual wealth creation: the outputs of real labor. Sky-high unemployment is not a long-term economic strategy. It has to get better. And the one percent will not do it, so that leaves the rest of us.
Image credit: Missbrainwash