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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Temporary Help and Structural Unemployment: The Unskilled Can Always Become Economists

Temporary Help and Structural Unemployment: The Unskilled Can Always Become Economists

Sunday, 19 December 2010 21:27

The NYT showed that there were still good paying jobs for unskilled workers in the economics profession by citing two economists who touted the growth in temporary employment as evidence for the growth of structural unemployment in the economy. Structural unemployment results when there is a mismatch between skills and the available jobs.

Economists with skills would have noted that temporary employment plummeted in the downturn and is only now beginning to recover lost ground. After the recent gains in hiring in temporary employment the number of jobs in the sector is still down by almost 20 percent from its pre-recession level. In the real world, this is not evidence of structural unemployment.


Comments (6)Add Comment
False Success Story With A Misleading Happy Ending
written by Union Member, December 19, 2010 10:10
The front page on line edition of this story highlights (w/photo) a one Antonia Musto, who has turned down full-time in favor of the faster pace of temp work. This is her "choice" a la Milton Friedman. Oh we should all be so free and resourceful. Why don't the 99ers see this? Or is it Tom Friedman that we should all draw our inspiration from? The long-term structurally uneducated, or miseducated. Why don't the long-term unemployed see that the World is flat and temporary? It even has health insurance! Oh glory!

Reading Nir Rosen's AFTERMATH which covers the war in Iraq the NYTs managed to miss; that is, how it plays out in the homes and neighborhoods of Iraqis. It's not at all surprising that John Burns et al missed this one entirely; they got the big story that really mattered: the aluminum tubes. That story didn't have a happy ending either.

Why doesn't the NYT send their best reporters into to the homes of the desperately unemployed. Those who have lost their homes, the ones whose children aren't doing as well in school because of the families finances, the children who don't know what a hedge-fund is? They are the next generation of the structurally poor.
The boy who keeps crying "No Wolf" . . .
written by JHM, December 20, 2010 12:43

. . . might be a little embarrassed, were "structural unemployment" to actually turn up.

(( Mais que sçay-je? ))

Happy days.
BLS Link
written by leftover, December 20, 2010 7:01
The BLS link provides no data.
"The database is currently unavailable.
Your request was invalid for this Data Access Service. Please attempt other data requests. Thank you for using LABSTAT."
Combat Communism: Hire Temporary Contract Workers
written by izzatzo, December 20, 2010 7:30
This is big commie lie. Any economist knows that when workers accept permanent employment from others, they surrender their rights to control over the production process and cause structural unemployment.

Ronald Coase proved this years ago on why a firm is a firm, when transaction costs are too high to hire temporary contract workers, who avoid central command and control communism from employers by employing themselves as free agent contractors.

The hiring of more temporary workers proves that current unemployment is structural rather than cyclical. During the downturn, many workers left employers to free themselves of the command and control communism that caused it, and since the jobs never came back, they retrained themselves as free agent temporary contractors in sprouting Teabagger Vocational Schools.

If unemployment was truly cyclical, average wages and hours worked per week by existing skilled workers would be falling as employers reject their overpriced skills, refusing as well to hire perfect substitutes from qualified free agent contract workers at far lower wages, not to mention those available from global outsourcing - but that didn't happen, thanks to free markets.

Stop the communism. Hire temporary workers as contract workers on a spot market basis and abolish central command and control of permanent employment.

Stupid liberals.
a structural change towards temporary employment
written by AndrewDover, December 20, 2010 8:46
Dr Baker claims the economists "touted the growth in temporary employment as evidence for the growth of structural unemployment in the economy."

But if you read the quotes, you will find they were simply talking about a structural change towards temporary employment.

"Temporary employees still make up a small fraction of total employees, but that segment has been rising steeply over the past year. “It hints at a structural change,” said Allen L. Sinai, chief global economist at the consulting firm Decision Economics. Temp workers “are becoming an ever more important part of what is going on,” he said. "

“We’re in a period where uncertainty seems to be going on forever,” said David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “So this period of temporary employment seems to be going on forever.”

This is a case of a man with a hammer who thinks everything is a nail.

Some part of the unemployment is cyclical, some is skills, some is due to wage differential to other countries. We could act on all aspects of the problem, but the congress just foolishly choose lower tax rates instead.
self-fulfilling prophecy
written by osfp, December 20, 2010 2:11
policymakers are waiting for the skills of the long-term unemployed to degrade to the point where there is indeed a skills mismatch. Then, they can just explain high unemployment on a structural rather than aggregate demand basis. this is similar to what happened with the first Obama stimulus--if we just make the stimulus small enough that it doesn't appear to work then we can prove that government spending doesn't help. brilliant!

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.