From a small northwestern observatory…

Finance and economics generally focused on real estate

Posts Tagged ‘jobs

Mort Zuckerman in U.S. News

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Great article on jobs by Mort Zuckerman in U.S. News last Friday.  To read it yourself on-line, go here.

I’m in general agreement with everything he says.  Indeed, two of his points (about education and a national infrastructure bank) are things I’ve spoken about, and were on Austan Goolsbee’s agenda at the White House before he headed back to the warmth and safety of U. Chicago.

Your cheat sheet, if you don’t want to read the whole article:

1.  Focus on education.  Zuckerman posits this as a longer-term solution to a dire problem.  While I’d agree with the “dire problem”, I would instead suggest that a real focus on education in America — and I mean the sort of focus that we put on the space program after Sputnik — would pay dividends in a lot of ways (juvenile delinquency, neighborhood quality, housing values) sooner than you think.  By the way, you real estate guys and gals reading this, there is significant research linking the quality of neighborhood schools to home values.

2.  Change our visa policy.  We educate tens of thousands of the best and brightest from other countries, only to send them home after they earn their degree (often advanced degrees in hard sciences and engineering).  These people CREATE jobs, rather than take them away.  We should reverse our policies, and keep them here if they want to stay.

3.  Rationalize our patent process — I hadn’t thought of this one, but he’s dead right.

4.  Eliminate programmatic uncertainty in governance.  (Probably the most complex of his topics, and it goes to the heart of beltway gridlock and the current polarization of politics.)

5.  A national infrastructure investment bank (which would put hundreds of thousands of skilled workers on the payroll immediately).

Zuckerman characterizes these as “sure-fire” ways to create jobs, and I tend to agree with him.

Written by johnkilpatrick

December 13, 2011 at 9:00 am

Posted in Economy

Tagged with , ,

Unemployment — better, or worse?

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Great article in today about the new employment numbers, up 120,000 in the most recent report (slightly better than projected) and the unemployment rate is down to 8.6%.  While the stock market reacted positively on the news, the response wasn’t overwhelming.   Why?  First, creating 120,000 new jobs isn’t very good — our economy really needs to be creating about 200,000+ jobs/month to sustain really healthy GDP growth.  Second, the drop in unemployment was a manifestation of a large number of “employable” workers simply leaving the hunt and, for the time being, giving up.  That is terrible news, in the long run, for the economy.

November jobs report: Hiring up, unemployment down – Dec. 2, 2011.

Also, the bulk of the new job creation was in retail and hospitality.  Sadly, not all jobs are created equal, and while a person in a retail position is better for the economy than a person in the unemployment line, it’s still not the same as a person in science, engineering, or technology.

That same article deals with one of the big ironies of our economy — many jobs are vacant for lack of applicants, mainly in — double irony — science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).  One would think that students would flock to major in those fields, and indeed about 22% of all college students start out in STEM majors.  However, nationwide, the STEM majors have a huge drop-out rate, and only 14% of college students end up graduating in those fields.  Columbia University, arguably one of the toughest in the nation, bucks this trend with a 96% completion rate in Engineering.  Of course, Columbia does a huge vetting process — simply getting into the program is tough.  However, they take a very pro-active stance at keeping students engaged and active.  Student-dropouts at other schools point to lack of preparation as one of the contributors to non-completion.

Economists are nearly universal in recognizing that the biggest key to a healthy economy is education.  K-12 needs to do a MUCH better job at preparing students for these technical majors, and colleges and universities need to work harder at engaging the students once they get them.  These are really critical issues, particularly at this juncture, for moving our economy forward.

Written by johnkilpatrick

December 2, 2011 at 10:43 am

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