By Doug Porter / San Diego Free Press
An article in the UT-San Diego business section about employment opportunities caught my eye this morning. While the local picture may be slightly better than the national projections, due to the presence of defense and tech industries, the prognosis for hiring remains heavily weighted towards low paying industries.
Today we’ll take a look at this story and other recent economic reports, along with what they portend for the growing national movement in support of increasing the minimum wage.
Missing from today’s newspaper was any coverage of the joint Center for Policy Initiatives/United Way press conference and report arising from a study documenting the cost of a basic, no-frills lifestyle without public or private assistance as being beyond the reach of 38% of all working age households in San Diego County.
Also in the news is a national survey of small businesses indicating that 57% of small business owners support increasing the federal minimum wage of $7.25 in three stages over two and a half years to $10.10, and believe that it should be adjusted annually to keep pace with the cost of living.
BLS Stats Paint a Grim Picture
The UT business section article cites US Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicating eight of the top ten areas of projected hiring nationally offer median wages below the $28,000 or so required to support an individual in the San Diego market.
Regional BLS commissioner Richard Holden spoke yesterday at a South Metro Career Center workshop:
He made a key distinction between job growth and employment opportunity. For instance, the industrial psychology field, which pays a median $83,580 per year, will expand by 53 percent over the next decade, but that means only 900 new jobs in the United States. Meanwhile, 1.5 million cashiers will be hired, all but 86,000 of them will be replacing workers who quit.
In keeping with the boosterism we’ve come to expect from the local daily, they cite projections from the San Diego Workforce Partnership promising more job opportunities in higher paying sectors of the economy.
The standard response to those who look askance at promises future employment growth is to say something along the lines of “get more education.” Cough. cough. I have to wonder how many of those espousing this claptrap own stock in the private university industry.
Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jay Bookman:
“In 1970, fewer than 1 percent of taxi drivers and 2 percent of firefighters had college degrees, while now more than 15 percent do in both jobs,” a recent study by the Center for College Affordability reports.
Citing federal statistics, the study also reports that 24.6 percent of retail sales people and 16 percent of bartenders now have college degrees. Overall, 48 percent of the 41.7 million working Americans with college degrees have jobs that don’t require such degrees, and thus don’t pay like they do.
Again, it’s important to note that these are not just the result of the Great Recession, which means they aren’t temporary. These are trends that have been playing out for 40 years and show every sign of continuing. In essence, we’re trending toward a lottery economy. Getting a college education may buy you a ticket in the lottery, but the percentage of winners shrinks each year, even as the payoff from winning soars.
And those who lose out in that lottery still have college loans to pay back on an income that a high-school graduate could have gotten. The rules of the game are changing.
Of course, those of you with a 20-something back home already know all this.
For the record, I’m NOT saying ‘don’t go to college.’ I am saying that promises of higher education leading to personal prosperity are are highly exaggerated. There are plenty of other good reasons for college, not the least of which is that it somewhat diminishes the pool of potential voters who believe the sun rotates around the earth.
Small Businesses and the Minimum Wage
Unlike groups claiming to recognize small business, like the Koch funded National Federation of Independent Business and most Chambers of Commerce, the Small Business Majority group actually asked 500 small business (less than 100 employees) owners for their opinions.
Pollsters Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research say that 47% of those surveyed identified themselves as Republicans, 35% claimed to be Democrats and 18% were independents. More than 80% already pay their employees more than the federal minimum wage. And a majority– 52 percent — think increasing the minimum wage would be good for small businesses because low-wage workers would have more money to spend with neighborhood businesses.
The National Retail Federation and the National Restaurant Association stand adamantly opposed to a minimum wage increase, and say it would lead their members to hire fewer people with little job experience.
But more than 60% of small business owners in the retail and restaurant industries said they support a minimum wage increase, according to the Small Business Majority survey.