Why Faster Economic Growth Is So Important II. Replacing Factory Jobs

 

Populists such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are doing so well in the 2016 presidential primaries because the middle class is suffering from the slow economic growth of the past 15 years.
Capture2My last post is based on the report of a typical victim.   Today’s post is based on an article by Eduardo Porter in yesterday’s New York Times discussing the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs.  Says Mr. Porter:

  • Fifty years ago, 45,000 workers were employed in California to harvest 2.2 million tons of tomatoes. Now, with mechanization, it only requires 5000 workers to harvest 12 million tons.
  • In 1950, 24% of nonfarm jobs in the U.S. were in manufacturing. Today only 8.5% of nonfarm jobs are in manufacturing.
  • The same thing is true worldwide. Global employment in manufacturing is going down because productivity increases are exceeding increases in demand by significant amounts. The likelihood that we will get a manufacturing recovery is close to nil.
  • The U.S. has a trade surplus in manufacturing with the 20 countries with which it has trade agreements (which does not include China). We have an overall annual trade surplus in services of more than $200 billion.

In other words, an attempt to recover or save manufacturing jobs with smarter trade policies is simply impractical and will likely do more harm than good. What should be done instead is to:

  • Definitely do a better job of helping displaced manufacturing workers with Trade Adjustment Assistance and smarter job retraining programs.
  • Adopt policies to speed up overall economic growth from the anemic 2.1% annual growth rate since the end of the Great Recession in June 2009. Faster growth such as the 3.5% annual average from 1971 – 2001 will do wonders in creating more jobs and better paying jobs. For how to do this see an earlier post.

Our very serious economic problems can be solved if policy makers (and presidential candidates) would only get serious about it!

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