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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Thomas Friedman Makes the Case That There Are Still Good Paying Jobs for People Without Skills

Thomas Friedman Makes the Case That There Are Still Good Paying Jobs for People Without Skills

Saturday, 08 September 2012 22:06

Of course he was arguing the opposite. But to make his case that everyone will need more education to get decent jobs he told readers:

"Which is why if we ever get another stimulus it has to focus, in part, on getting more people more education. The unemployment rate today is 4.1 percent for people with four years of college, 6.6 percent for those with two years, 8.8 percent for high school graduates, and 12.0 percent for dropouts."

If Friedman had the ability to use the Internet he could have gone to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website to discover that the unemployment rate for college grads is more than double its pre-recession level.

Unemployment Rate for College Grads: Age 25 and Over


Source Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The story would be much worse if we looked at the experience of recent college grads. The point here is a simple one, the economy is suffering from an enormous shortfall in demand. This means that even many highly skilled people are unable to find jobs. The 4.1 percent unemployment rate for college grads is evidence of this shortfall in demand. It is not, as Friedman apparently believes, evidence that people who get education will be able to weather the storms created by incompetent economic policy.


Comments (7)Add Comment
Miss match caused by HR departments looking for perfect candidate
written by jumpinjezebel, September 08, 2012 10:33
I have seen hundreds of jobs posted that I could easily fill. Wonder if the CEO's are holding their HR departments accountable for the outrageous job descriptions written and rewritten by people who have nothing better to do. I found that the single biggest impediment to hiring when I needed people was the F&(king HR department.
written by Brett, September 08, 2012 10:57
This reminds me of a point that Matt Yglesias made recently, which was that when you have strong demand, it tends to raise employment across the board. Look at the late 1990s - was there no skill mismatch there? What happened was that employers helped to close the gap in a period of high demand.
Is college quality eroding?
written by wkj, September 09, 2012 4:50
"The story would be much worse if we looked at the experience of recent college grads."

I see and hear many ads for online and other colleges that suggest to me that at some (online and other) colleges academic requirements are eroding--for example credits for life/work experience, etc. This suggests to me that employers should/would not give the same credence to these degrees as they would to degrees from more traditional institutions.
Friedman An Apostle of Say's Law: Supply Creates Its Own Demand
written by Last Mover, September 09, 2012 6:47
Friedman thinks macro economics, international trade, comparative advantage and competition are the same thing every since his book on reporter-at-the-scene globalization, The World is Flat.

Never mind the global market power of MNCs, trade deficits, business cycles and the power of asset bubbles to bring down entire economies of nations. Friedman the big picture guy is forever stuck in the simple world of supply push that creates its own demand through more education or anything else from the supply side, the world of economics before Keynes.

Apparently Friedman really believes for example, that the financial and health care sector of America is not large enough and needs more educated employees to make them even larger to keep them globally competitive.

For Friedman, since the earth is obviously flat, then supply obviously creates its own demand.
written by skeptonomist, September 09, 2012 10:50
The relative unemployment rates actually favor Friedman's claim and the change in unemployment rates doesn't really settle the question. The rate has doubled for college grads but it is still far lower for them than for high-school dropouts, so an individual can still greatly increase his/her chances for getting a job by completing education. More important for the economy as a whole is how many jobs are available for college grads - if this number is small then more education would not do much good overall, just raise the unemployment rate in that category, while only slightly decreasing the rate for the non-educated. Friedman needs to prove that this number is large and Dean needs to prove that it is small; this is what bears on the question of whether the continuing high unemployment is a result of insufficient overall education. Some other lines of evidence, including salary levels, indicate that it is not.

The unemployment rates are consistent with the hypothesis that there is a continuing need for more educated workers, but that the recession impacted all education levels. They don't say how important the education imbalance is with respect to the economy as a whole.
written by somethingblue, September 09, 2012 12:37
Of course there are still good paying jobs for people without skills. Thomas Friedman has one.
written by Jeffrey Kramer, September 09, 2012 10:58
And if Friedman were a war correspondent he would tell us that the massive casualty rates after the last battle were very misleading, because soldiers with superior weapons and armor had a pretty good chance of surviving. So if we're really interested in cutting down on battlefield deaths, we shouldn't be thinking of putting an end to the war, we should be looking to give the soldiers better equipment. Or maybe -- since those who were working at a desk had an even better chance of surviving -- we should concentrate on putting more people into non-combattant positions.

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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.