The Blog

The Book of Jobs

Employment is a campaign issue, but what do the surveys really tell us about the jobs market?

11:00 PM, Jan 21, 2004 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Meanwhile, the number of jobs will continue to increase. But not in the usual way. In the past, workers have been laid off when business was slow, and rehired--usually by the same employer--when things picked up. That's what the classic business cycle was all about. A new study by Erica Groshen and Simon Potter at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York concludes that we are now witnessing structural, rather than cyclical, shifts in the job market. Most of the industries that have lost jobs are not likely to regain them; new jobs are coming from entirely different industries. This puts pressure on workers to relocate and retrain, rather than simply wait for business to return in their old industries.

That can be a painful process. But it apparently is not so widespread as to dampen Americans' spirits. Ninety-five percent of Americans tell Gallup pollsters that they are "very happy" or "fairly happy," prompting the polling organization to conclude, "Americans' subjective sense of well being is as high today as at any time in the history of these Gallup trends." Which may be the final proof that the household survey is a better indicator of what is going on in the jobs market than is the employment survey.

Irwin M. Stelzer is director of economic policy studies at the Hudson Institute, a columnist for the Sunday Times (London), a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard, and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard.