Make us your home page
Instagram

Changing job market requires change from job seekers

Going back to school helps. A report shows that workers with advanced degrees earned more than $83,000 on average in 2008, compared with about $59,000 for those with a bachelor’s degree.

iStockphoto.com

Going back to school helps. A report shows that workers with advanced degrees earned more than $83,000 on average in 2008, compared with about $59,000 for those with a bachelor’s degree.

WASHINGTON — A surprisingly strong April jobs report points to a labor market on the mend, but for 15.3 million unemployed Americans, it will take a long time to overcome the steep job losses resulting from the Great Recession and longer-term changes to the labor market.

While the economy added 290,000 nonfarm jobs in April on a seasonally adjusted basis, almost 7.8 million jobs have been lost since December 2007, and structural shifts in the labor market started long before that.

For years, goods-producing jobs have disappeared as the service sector has grown. More recently, the recession has wreaked havoc on middle-skill jobs — from sales and production work to office and administrative. Post-graduate degrees are proving increasingly valuable. And temporary positions have seen gains in recent months.

The U.S. manufacturing sector has suffered steep losses for years — and the recession only amplified that shift. Since the recession started, manufacturing has lost more than 2 million jobs. Still, manufacturing notched gains in recent months, adding 100,000 jobs starting in January — 44,000 jobs in April alone.

"One of the things people will be looking for is to see how manufacturing rebounds," said Keith Hall, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Back to school

Evan Phillips was laid off by General Motors in 2008, and is still seeking full-time work. The 25-year-old Kalamazoo, Mich., resident worked at a now-closed Michigan plant for over a year.

Phillips isn't counting on the return of his old job. He's back at school, training to become a physical therapist assistant.

Post-high-school education is important for workers who want to ramp up lifetime earnings, especially when their old occupation downsizes, economists say.

"One of the things that has become really important is not just that people get out of high school and go to college, but that people go back to school. That sort of training helps quite a bit in transitioning people to new careers," said Hall, of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For Phillips, the two years' training needed to become an assistant is realistic, but taking a few more years to become a full-fledged physical therapist would be too much.

Education pays

While additional schooling comes with opportunity costs, education bumps up earnings, data show. The payback for more education is at a historic high, according to a recent report by David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The hourly wage of the typical college graduate was 1.95 times the hourly wage of the typical high school graduate in 2009, up from 1.5 times in 1963. All of the gain took place after 1980.

The Census Bureau recently reported that workers with an advanced degree earned more than $83,000 on average in 2008, compared with about $59,000 for those with a bachelor's degree, and about $31,000 for those whose highest degree was a high school diploma.

And in a weak labor market, at least one major opportunity cost — foregone income — is smaller.

"When it's easy to find a full-time job that pays good wages then the price of college is pretty high. In current circumstances, that price is a lot lower for a lot of people," said Gary Burtless, a labor economist at the Brookings Institution.

Winners and losers

Among the 20 occupations expected to have the largest number of job losses between 2008 and 2018, 15 are either production or office and administrative support occupations, according to a BLS report.

Both are "adversely affected by increasing plant and factory automation or the implementation of office technology."

Meanwhile, the 20 occupations expected to have the biggest job gains in coming years — including health, education, sales, and food service — will account for one-third or more of all new jobs — 5.8 million combined.

Separately, a recent report by Autor found that middle-skill jobs — including sales, office and administrative, and production workers — have lost share in the employment pool in the last three decades.

"Employment losses during the recent recession were far more severe in middle-skill white- and blue-collar jobs than in either high-skill, white-collar jobs or in low-skill service occupations," according to Autor's report.

Changes in technology, international trade, and off-shoring all play a part in the shrinking share of middle-skills jobs. Technology has displaced clerical jobs and eliminated some of the need for middle managers who track performance, said Lawrence Katz, an economist at Harvard University.

But there are tasks a computer can't perform, he said.

"Robots can do a lot of things, but they can't figure out what's trash and what are the important papers on my desk," Katz said. "They can monitor truck drivers, but they don't substitute for them."

Temp sector growing

With about 2 million workers, the temporary help services pool is a small part of the labor market's 130 million nonfarm employees. But this leading indicator of the labor market is growing.

Temporary services jobs started gaining in October, adding 330,000 through April, according to the Labor Department.

The Labor Department describes temporary help services firms as those that provide temporary employees to other businesses "to support or supplement their workforce."

There's another, bigger group of temporary workers: contingent workers, representing about 31 percent of the workforce. That category includes people who do not have standard full-time employment.

As the labor market recovers, and until employers feel significantly more optimistic, employers may continue to tap temps as they look to control fixed costs.

Temp gigs can lead to permanent positions for workers. "If you get your foot in the door on a temporary assignment, you have the opportunity to engage your supervisor and show them you have an understanding of the company's mission and dedication to help them," said Richard Wahlquist, chief executive of the American Staffing Association.

But those permanent positions aren't guaranteed.

Changing job market requires change from job seekers 05/22/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 22, 2010 12:10am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, MarketWatch.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  2. New York town approves Legoland proposal

    News

    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  3. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate

    By WAVENEY ANN MOORE

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]
  4. Coming soon at two Tampa Bay area hospitals: a cancer treatment that could replace chemo

    Health

    A new cancer treatment that could eventually replace chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants — along with their debilitating side effects — soon will be offered at two of Tampa Bay's top-tier hospitals.

    Dr. Frederick Locke at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa is a principal investigator for an experimental therapy that retrains white blood cells in the body's immune system to fight cancer cells. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved these so-called "CAR-T" treatments for adults this month. In trials, 82 percent of cases responded well to the treatment, and 44 percent are still in remission at least eight months later, Locke said. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  5. Regulator blasts Wells Fargo for deceptive auto insurance program

    Banking

    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.

    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images, 2017]