There has been talk as presidential campaigning heats up that the country and the economy are doing poorly and we are no longer a great country. With this in mind, I thought some facts might be helpful.
We are now in a “new normal” economy, a term coined in 2008 after the financial crisis. The US is no longer an island, as Thomas Friedman said in his 2005 book, The World is Flat. Our GDP growth has been growing 2% annually over the past four years, compared with the 3% average over the last half-century. While China and India are the big beneficiaries of globalization, we are still actually doing quite well. No other major industrialized country is ahead of us. Last year, out growth was 70% more than that of the EU and Japan, the same as Australia, Canada, México and five times that of Russia. We added some 2.6 million jobs/year during the last 4 decades (and well after the impact of the 2009 recovery). Interestingly, this is 1.0 million jobs more/year than in the prior half-century. The unemployment rate has fallen 50% from 2008, even though there are many discouraged and unemployable workers left on the sidelines. The real opportunities and what makes the US special is our innovations in areas like IT and biotech, where we remain the world leaders. IT is the big market and thirty seven percent of these jobs are in the US.
It’s true that many people’s wages have stagnated due to the realities of the new normal economy. One simply can’t compete where manufacturing wages are so low that no amount of increased productivity can make up the gap. Even China can’t compete with the likes of Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, where labor is 50% less than even China. Thousands of Northeast US factories closed long before offshoring, during the 1970’s Sunbelt relocation. India’s tech wages are some 20 to 25% below ours, which is where much of the help desk and lower level support have gone. That may be unfortunate but it’s a realty; make a profit or go out of business. Many people who have lost their jobs or stagnated, due to factory closure or technological changes, and have not upgraded their skill set and have been left behind. To give these people a false sense of hope that the happy days of the 1960s will return is a fable and a cause of unrest in the populace. There are four solutions — two good and two bad.
- Get retrained in a viable occupation.
- Enter the growing workforce as a temp.
- Stay in a stagnant job and occupation and accept reality.
- Be angry, blame others and get nowhere.
To get ahead one should get retrained for a higher paying job with a future. Here are just a few jobs not requiring post graduate degrees: Nurse Practitioner at $110,000 salary/year average: growing 33.7% by 2022 with 37,000 new openings; Software Developers $93,000, up 23%, 140,000 openings; Dental Hygienists $71,000, up 33%, 66,000 openings, Physical Therapists; $113,000, 33% growth, 44,000 openings, with many more in the tech and healthcare sector. Outside these areas are substantial opportunities: Market Research Analysts at $114K salary/year, Marketing Managers at $123,000, Accountants at $65,000, School Psychologists at $68,000 Mechanical Engineers at $82,000 and Operations Researchers at $75,000.
Then there are temps job which can provide entry into full-time corporate jobs. Temp jobs have grown at a compounded rate of 5½% — about 2½ times the general employment rate overall, with a workforce of more than 3 million, up 340,000 over the last decade.