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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The Post Gets One Right on Structural Unemployment

The Post Gets One Right on Structural Unemployment

Saturday, 18 December 2010 09:29
The Post has a nice piece examining the situation of a group of construction workers in the Las Vegas area one year after a major project on which they had worked was completed. The piece does a good job of examining the difficulty that these workers are facing finding new jobs without leaping to the unsupported claim that the bulk of the unemployment that the economy is now experiencing is structural (as opposed to cyclical) in nature.
Comments (4)Add Comment
written by skeptonomist, December 18, 2010 8:52
If the Post had managed to argue that the employment situation of carpenters and other construction workers is structural and not cyclic it would have been quite a feat. it did manage to avoid drawing the obvious inferences that this situation will not be improved by tax cuts and that it is an obvious target for infrastructure projects.
written by diesel, December 18, 2010 10:11
Low and behold, when the Post writers get out of their own heads and take to the field for some empirical research, they sing a different tune. It's called science. You know, grounded in the objective world encountered in field research, and not the roof-brain chatter of a prudish moralizing grandmother like Ronald Reagan.

The wage scale also shows the difference between private and public sector construction workers. It's boom and bust for the private guys, slow and steady for the public. Naturally, when the private guys are sitting on the sidelines, they're critical of the wages and benefits received by public employees, but when they're raking in their overtime gravy, they laugh at them for being low-ambition suckers.
written by Doug Vaughn, December 18, 2010 6:39
So I have to ask -why did they have to go all the way to Vegas for this story? Are there no long term unemployed locally?
Structural unemployment is a popular bogus catch phrase.
written by Douglas Russell, December 23, 2010 11:51
What we really have is a total change of corporate thinking.

For generations companies trained the people they needed. The railroads trained Chinese coolies to lay track. Standard Oil trained people to find and drill for oil and to process and sell oil. After WWII our whole economy was structurally unemployable as gun toting grunts and plane building ladies were no longer needed. When IBM and Univac and RCA needed people to build, sell, and use computers, they trained them. Bank of New York, Chubb Insurance, Dow Chemical all hired college grads and ran them through training programs to meet their company specific needs. IBM had campuses in Poughkeepsie, NY, California and Texas and smaller training centers in most major cities. They had to train not only their employees but their customers as to how computers might be used.

Today's corporations, even while sitting on piles of cash, want employees delivered to them on a silver platter. Now the corporate attitude is "People, go out, find a training facility, run up some student loans, go get them from the government, and get trained and then come back and we'll take a look. Colleges, turn yourselves into tech training centers and send us some employables. Otherwise we'll just take the work offshore".

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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.