The angry electorate that presidential candidate Donald Trump has attracted during his campaign mystified me for a while. The unemployment rate (4.9% for August) has remained virtually unchanged this year, 2 million new jobs were created in both 2014 and 2015, and the foreclosure crisis is largely behind us. Of course, in some areas and industries, unemployment is much higher than the US average but overall, aren’t we doing okay as a nation? The part of the nation that is better educated, yes.
The other part? A recent report by Georgetown University revealed a stunning trend after the 2008-2009 recession: over 95% of the jobs created during the recovery went to individuals with at least some college or post-secondary education (11.5 million out of 11.6 million). “While jobs are back, they are not the same jobs lost during the recession,” states the University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.
What happened exactly? According to the report, America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots, the recession hit manufacturing and construction particularly hard and those industries hired high school-educated individuals. Manufacturing had already been declining for a long time and the recession was another blow. Neither industry has yet returned to where it was before in terms of hiring levels. Office and administrative support positions also disappeared at an alarming rate. About a quarter of unemployed Americans have given up looking for a new job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2 million people have been out of work 27 weeks or longer, and this number has barely changed in a year.
Some bright spots for those who have not gone beyond high school are in the service economy that continues to thrive. Food preparation, transportation, and repair and maintenance jobs all grew substantially after the recession; the hospitality industry alone created 1.5 million jobs. The not-so-bright spot is many of these jobs, particularly food preparation, offer lousy pay and benefits.
So who wins in the post-recession economy? Managers, healthcare professionals and computer folks. No shock there, though I was a bit surprised management positions beat out health jobs to be #1. Another 1.7 million jobs created went to nurses, doctors, therapists, lab technicians and other health care workers.
This makes me uneasy for a few reasons, including one personal – I don’t want to see our country losing the ability to make things, or losing the value it places on that ability.