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What Do Job Projections Mean When There Aren’t Enough Jobs?

What Do Job Projections Mean When There Aren’t Enough Jobs?

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.

Related stories:

What Democracy Looks Like: Inside Occupy Congress

Top GOP Strategist Admits Occupy Wall Street Is Working

Are We Living in a “Caste” Society?

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40 comments

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6:59PM PST on Mar 1, 2012

Noted.

4:36AM PST on Feb 12, 2012

There is always plenty of work to be done, everywhere in this World.
However, to concentrate on America, the individuals and corporations who should be stepping in with their wealth (made mostly in America) to help get progressive schemes up and running, whether profitable or not.............or you can remain in recession with a workforce on the dole (unproductive expense) but wanting to work, from the self-employed to the general employee, the wholesaler to the retailer; you just cannot delink these groups to suit the present situation, it's a domino effect, but the financial institutions have been able to do just that, delink themselves from this problem which they have caused, and now the media gets into overdrive with overseas reports, specific individuals cheating the system and then, the coup de main, an attack on the workforce for being idle.
We have the same problem over here in the UK, it's called a ConDem coalition.

4:17AM PST on Feb 12, 2012

We not only need to being manufacturing back to the US, but bring it back to a local level.

3:42AM PST on Feb 12, 2012

not enough jobs? or not enough jobs that you want? maybe doesn't fit into your "social schedule" or you may have to get up too early or work too hard or not make the big bucks $$$ right away because even tho your college profs made you think you know a lot, you really know less than me and just like me you are gonna have to put your big girl panties on & have room mates, live in not so nice places and deal with it, because you don't have a choice...and it makes for great stories later

6:00PM PST on Feb 11, 2012

Mike B, your comments about 'spending money into creation' intrigue me. Can you explain more about how that works in the real world and not just in theory? Also, I remember republicans used to say "You can't spend your way to prosparity". For them it was a way to put down the 'tax and spend' democrats. Is there any connection with this idea you're speaking of? Thanks.

9:15AM PST on Feb 11, 2012

Thanks.

3:51AM PST on Feb 11, 2012

We need fundamental changes to our economy in order to start virtuous cycles of sustainability. Europe should be looking to radical critiques of its models and not to the US. The US has a wonderful opportunity to leapfrog over the welfare state into a decentralized participatory and sustainable system if we are ready to fight for it. If we do nothing we will have more of the same.

8:11PM PST on Feb 10, 2012

its hard to imagine there being job creation when everything is being automated.....and the 1% aren't willing to share some of their salaries....i.e. local business section just had an article about a company CEO making $5 million in year ending Oct 2011, but his company laid off 200 employees.....

time for people to wake up and realize its a healthy middle class with some money to spend that creates the most efficient demand and then job creation.....

4:59PM PST on Feb 10, 2012

"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."

Actually, only some things became worth less, like houses and companies (stocks went down). If everything became worth less in proportion, then it wouldn't be a problem. Your less worth stock would still be the same amount of less worth food, medicine, car, etc. It would be like if someone suddenly said there will be twenty inches to the foot. Everything would suddenly be shorter, but we wouldn't notice.

2:59PM PST on Feb 10, 2012

Thanks

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