The Volatile Employment Landscape

The Wall Street Journal had a sobering article about the changing face of employment in the United States. Many of the jobs lost during this recession will never return.

The U.S. hasn’t seen a contraction as deep as this one since before World War II, and employers have cut workers faster than history suggested they would even in a recession as deep as this one. Private-sector payrolls today are lower than they were at the end of 1999.

In addition to replacing 7.2 million lost jobs, the economy needs an additional 100,000 a month to keep up with population growth. If the job market returns to the rapid pace of the 1990s — adding 2.15 million private-sector jobs a year, double the 2001-2007 pace — the U.S. wouldn’t get back to a 5% unemployment rate until late 2017, Rutgers University economist Joseph Seneca estimated. And that assumes no recession between now and then. “Even with some very optimistic assumptions, it’s a long road back,” Mr. Seneca said.

Perhaps one bright spot of note is the constant change of employment. Many of the jobs that exist now, did not even exist a decade ago.

In 2003, Treasury Department chief economist Alan Krueger, then at Princeton, calculated that a quarter of U.S. workers at the time were in jobs the Census Bureau didn’t even list as occupations in 1967.

25% of all jobs in this country did not exist a few decades ago. On a personal note, what I do for living did not exist a decade ago. There were very few IT people focusing on datacenter automation, and the commercial use of Linux was in it’s infancy. Time will tell if positions like mine exist twenty years now. However; if there is one positive note about the volatility of the job market, its the fact that five years from now there will be plenty of new positions that do not exist today.

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