Sunday, April 24, 2011

Washington Post Notices It Is a McJobs Recovery

In today's (Sunday, April 24) Washington Post, Annie Lowrey mentions that maybe the economy might just not be in such great shape if the best jobs news is McDonald's trumpeting their McJobs Fair this past Tuesday where they were looking to hire 50k workers in one day. For what it's worth, I'm fairly certain that McDonalds goes through a hiring exercise of this nature most every spring; they just consolidated it all to one day this year and apparently received the hoped for public relations splash.

I actually took a look at the McJobs Fair situation almost three weeks ago when the news first came out of the "big" hiring push by Mickey Ds, so it's nice of the Post and Ms Lowrey to catch up to the blogosphere. Yet for every point Ms Lowrey gets correct, she still winds up missing the point in the end.

Indeed, the McHiringSpree raises the question: What kind of jobs has the recovery ginned up? The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers a host of month-by-month information on who is working where, for how much and for how long. The data show that a few industries are at or above their level of employment before the recession. The federal workforce is slightly bigger, once you factor out job losses at the Postal Service and ignore Census hiring. Employment is up in some niches, like computer systems design. And health care remains the nation’s strongest growth industry, with tons of new jobs for workers like home health aides and physicians’ office workers.


Despite the gains, though, it all adds up to a fairly bleak picture: The jobs we’re adding, for the most part, aren’t great ones. The National Employment Law Project took a closer look at employment and jobs-growth data in February. It says that just 14 percent of recent job growth comes from high-wage industries. About half comes from low-wage industries. Restaurants and food services businesses, “especially” fast-food outlets, made up 7 percent. The picture contributes to a larger story: The country has produced far too few stable, middle-income jobs over the past 20 years, not just the past three.
Given the deficit hysteria and drive for budget cuts, I wouldn't hold out much hope for that "federal workforce" gain to remain for very long. And only "14 percent of recent job growth comes from high-wage industries" means 86% of the jobs are not in high-wage industries. Growth industries of "home health aides and physicians’ office workers" are also not particularly well paying by anyone's imagination. I can pretty much guarantee you that the growth in health care costs have not been driven by these types of jobs. Minimum wage or just above minimum wage jobs are not enough to build a long term, sustainable recovery that revitalizes the middle-class.

Those are the points about the recovery that Ms Lowrey mostly gets correct. It is her final point though where she goes careening off the rails:
For now, the economy will take any jobs it can get. Besides, those McJobs might be nothing to mock. Several McDonald’s executives started behind the counter. A low-paying job need not stay a low-paying job forever. And a low-paying job is decidedly better than none at all.
Yes Ms Lowrey, "a low-paying job is decidedly better than none at all" but shouldn't we as a nation and economy aspire to something a bit more? Seriously, how many people do you think can actually stay with a McDonalds long enough to become an executive after starting "behind the counter?" One percent? Two percent? While I imagine there are some children around who go and tell their parents, "Mommy and Daddy, I want to run a McDonalds when I grow up," I rather doubt that this is the best path to the middle class for anyone.

And because I can:

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