January 24th, 2011
01:18 PM GMT
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Out of work? Looking to find a new job? If you worked in construction, manufacturing or administrative services you may not want to even bother updating your resume. There is a good chance the job you lost during this last recession is never coming back. At least that is what some economists say.

Huge structural forces like globalization and technology mean companies can function without you. Sure, manufacturers still need to get products to market, but they are increasingly choosing to build and assemble them in Asia or India where people work for a fraction of the cost of an American.

Big blue-chip companies still need to do payroll and taxes, but they can now have a computer program do it … rather than a human being.

It is a brave new world out there where companies can be more profitable with less workers and employees need to retrain or get left behind …

Or is it?

Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute says not so fast. “We are not less productive, less smart, less capable as a people ... as a nation. What happened is that we had a shock. We made a bad mistake thinking housing was worth more than it was. Bad mistakes happen all the time ... what matters is how do we get out of a recession, how do we rebuild the economy.”

Konczal falls into the camp of economists who believe cyclical factors are still driving the labor market. Yes, technology and globalization are having an impact.  But those forces don’t explain why unemployment is almost double across every sector of the economy, even among young, highly skilled workers.

In order to fix the jobs problem Konczal believes U.S. lawmakers need to fix the U.S. housing mess. He makes a compelling argument. Traditionally America has a very fluid, mobile labor force. People regularly move their family thousands of miles to get a new or better job. In the 90s, that mobility was touted as a reason why the unemployment rate remained so low.  It makes sense that with so many people unable to sell their homes that would work in reverse.

Does this debate over structural or cyclical unemployment really matter in the end?  Yes. Understanding why unemployment is high will help policy-makers craft the appropriate response.

Should governments spend money trying to retrain displaced workers? Or should they fix the economy, force banks to modify mortgages and get demand moving again?

What do you think?  Is it harder to find work?  Do you believe your industry will bounce back after time, or are you making a complete career switch?

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Filed under: BusinessDavos


soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Oladipo Akinyemi Omole

    Maggie darling,
    Good morning, In response to The New Reality: Jobs, I'll say most of the developing countries which abound in Africa are holding the rest of the world "back".They've not being doing what they ought to be doing.For instance in many countries in Africa,there are no local substitutes for Pharmaceuticals from abroad . Right now, the Kaduna State Government in Nigeria is embroiled in a totally fake and weak case against Pfizer over Trovan, a drug which has no local equivalent and which was certified safe for consumption by the Food & Drug Administration and Nigeria's National Food & Drug Administration and Control.The Kaduna State Government is saying Pfizer wants to decimate or annihilate its market worldwide . It hasn't yet given a rational argument to support this allegation or why NAFDAC wasn't able to certify it safe for consumption if it's poisonous as it claims.
    Below is a petition I tried to email to Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State and President Goodluck Jonathan on the proposed April General Elections
    RE:Greetings to you and your household your Excellency, Governor Tunde Fashola,
    I write first to acknowledge your interest on the subject matter and of course that of all other candidates who would be contesting the proposed General Elections this year.
    I would be much obliged and delighted,if you could use your esteemed office to consider and act on the following observations on the "Voters registration" exercise which is currently going on.
    1.The so-called voters registration is a sham and a farce.It's totally fake and unreasonable.All the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC )really needed to do is to delete names of the deceased and those who have migrated from the voters register.It's also necessary to add names of newly qualified voters i.e those who have just attained the age of 18years.That's not what INEC is doing.INEC is "registering" every tom , dick and harry.There's no valid Voters Data Base in Nigeria.Non since Nigeria became "Independent" in 1960.
    2.Right now, INEC is creating a dubious "Voters List" which is being compiled with dubious parameters.The finger-printing process which is part of the charade, is potentially a dangerous source of confusion ultimately when it is needed in any electoral dispute resolution after the polls.That being the case, neither the Courts nor the Electoral Petition Tribunals can render any valid judgment in any electoral dispute.It's practically and glaringly obvious that the courts can't identify a winner or loser in any electoral dispute.Only a well-built, current and efficiently managed Voters' Database can guarantee a valid judgment . This could have been a credible reference point for the Courts and the Electoral Petition Tribunals.That explains why electoral disputes take as long as three or four years to adjudicate. The Independent National Electoral Commission and candidates of the different parties rely on tabulated sheets designed by INEC for the General Elections and they can easily be manipulated.These offending sheets support any party's device for rigging.The strategy INEC has adopted would be useless in deciding the rightful winner in any election even after any tribunal may have adjudged any candidate the winner in any electoral dispute.The whole process is conducted manually and can easily be manipulated by any party.
    3.It's indeed lamentable that after 50 years of Nigeria's Independence, Nigeria has no Electronic Voters Database on which the aforementioned Voters Register Update can be authenticated.This has been the bane of all electoral reforms in Nigeria since 1960.
    Your excellency, you are aware of this and I would like to add that the Federal Office of Statistics , the Nigerian Census Board and the Population Commission who could have facilitated the process of creating an authentic Voters Database are either comatose or dead.The planned General Elections shouldn't commence and would be futile with all these flaws.If it does, no Judgment by any Court or Tribunal on any electoral dispute will be valid.Neither the Plaintiff nor the Defendant in any electoral dispute can claim to have an authentic representation of how voters have voted.Given this, the nation again will be plunged into an orgy of meaningless litigation and violence which those tabular INEC sheets can't defend.That has seriously limited any electoral body since 1960.Nigerian Lawyers and the Judiciary have supported and profited from this fraud since 1960.It shouldn't continue.
    Long Live Lagos state
    Long Live the Federal Republic Of Nigeria
    Yours Sincerely,
    Oladipo Akinyemi Omole

    January 24, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  2. Manuel Vilhena

    Hopefully unemployment in the US will decrease. I have the same hope for Europe in general and Portugal in particular.

    January 24, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  3. Strangewalk

    What's happening in the US is good in a way. The people became fat, lazy and imbued with a sense of entitlement. With a strong dose of reality they will probably do what people anywhere always do–become discouraged and disillusioned, complain and yell a lot, and then roll up their sleeves and get to work after realizing there is no free lunch. The biggest problems I see going forward for the US and China both are their education systems. Americans are dumbed down with little discipline but plenty of imagination, and the Chinese are whipped into little Einstein, Xeroxed copies lacking soul.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:21 am |
  4. Oladipo Akinyemi Omole

    Thanks and I'm always much obliged.Cheers.

    January 28, 2011 at 4:12 am |
  5. samantha22

    Unemployment has always been the major problem in almost all countries..Hope US get over it soon...
    Job Openings

    June 10, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  6. Last Kings Snapback

    I will immediately clutch your rss as I can't in finding your e-mail subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do you've any? Please permit me realize so that I may subscribe. Thanks.

    November 7, 2012 at 12:37 pm |

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