Sunday, February 08, 2015

The Evolution of Low Wage America

The most common jobs by state in 1978 to 2014. The destruction of the manufacturing industry.


The US continues to see a widening gap between the army of low wage workers, the highly paid small upper-class, and a dwindling middle class.  We’ve already shown through IRS tax data that households make a lot less than people think.  The US has been on a very steady trend towards having a massive pool of low wage labor with nearly non-existent fringe benefits.  Benefits have been decreasing while the cost of healthcare and planning for retirement is surging.  It is always interesting to look at Census and BLS data for employment figures.  There was a fascinating report looking at the most common jobs per state over time, starting in 1978.  The evolution is interesting and what we can take from the report is that the secretarial position went from being very common to being virtually non-existent.  And today, truck drivers are the most common job in many states thanks to the obvious reality that you can’t outsource a big rig trucker driver (although I’m sure driverless technology will soon handle that in a few years).

The most common jobs by state
There seems to be a few overarching themes to the data:
-Dominance of truck drivers (hard to outsource)
-Rise and fall of secretaries (the personal computer has been a big push here)
-Fewer farmers
Take a look at these maps between 1978 and 2014:
common jobs by state 1978
common jobs by state 2014

This is a fascinating look at the evolution of work in the United States.  It also plays into the overall trend of low wage labor expansion.  You can see that the Mid-West had a healthy representation of manufacturing work in 1978.  This is good paying work.  But take a look at what has happened to that sector:

waiters bartenders_0

From making the products we buy and ship around the world to delivering the goods we import from abroad to our constantly cash strapped American consumer.  As the employment report continues to show a continuation of job growth a good amount of the work being added is in the low wage labor sector.  We also have an astounding 93 million Americans simply not participating in the labor force.

not in labor force

 The overall evolution of work in the US has made production much more efficient but has eliminated a lot of work positions.  You might have a handful of highly skilled engineers running machinery today that 30 years ago required having 200 floor workers.  This seems to be the overall trend.  You also have farming becoming a much more rare employment field even though food yields are through the roof.  Mega-farming is heavy on machinery and low on the manual labor that once dominated the sector.  So it makes you wonder how permanent these structural changes are.  You have many more now going to college but many are coming out to find that there simply aren’t enough positions for their field.  Latest figures show 50 percent of recent college graduates that found a job are in a position where their degree has nothing to do with their profession.
The trend to low wage labor continues and it is very likely that the middle class rhetoric is going to be a big campaign war cry in 2016.
from here

This is not a one nation problem but a global phenomenon created by a global capitalist system. Manufacturing has largely gone from the US and other western nations too but manufacturing workers, largely in Asia, are on poverty wages and work in dire conditions whilst producing the goods, which they can't afford, for us which we once made ourselves. 
For us, the working class, a crazy system. For the beneficiary class, the capitalists, a huge success.
Workers of the world must unite with the aim of abolishing the wages system in favour of open and equal access to our world's common store. Our enemy is not the factory worker but those who live off the profits from our collective labour, exploiting both people and planet at will.