7 Must-Reads On Jobs and Opportunity in America Today

Numbers on and analysis of the trends transforming employment in the US

February 05, 2016

The resonance that themes of economic dislocation has found in the long run up to the US presidential election shouldn’t be surprising: Last year, a New York Times/CBS News poll found that a full 61% felt that “only a few people at the top have a chance to get ahead”; respondents were more or less evenly split on the query: “When it comes to the availability of good jobs for American workers, some say America’s best years are behind us. Others say the best times are yet to come. What do you think?”

With the political rhetoric around jobs and economy at full volume, we thought it would be useful to pull together a list of good reads for informing thoughtful discussions of the shifting landscape of work in America:

Interactive Jobs Gap Calculator

Want to put numbers to passionate discussions about work and prosperity? Check out this interactive jobs gap calculator from The Hamilton Project; it measures the number of jobs the US economy needs to create to return to pre-recession levels. For a detailed, industry-by-industry breakdown of how we got here in the last decade, it’s hard to beat “How the Recession Reshaped the Economy, in 255 Charts,” from the New York Times.

Why Economists Took So Long to Focus on Inequality

This year’s political discussions reflect a recurring sense that everyday economic realities have been inadequately addressed for too long. This piece offers interesting background on why decades passed before discussions of income inequality began to keep pace with the phenomenon itself. One key consideration is the availability of data on the subject, which suggests interesting possibilities for how discourse might evolve differently today—in an era of new kinds of data on work.

The State of American High-Tech Manufacturing

As we’ve covered previously, manufacturing has historically played a vital role in driving economic development and inclusive growth, providing decent-paying jobs to large numbers of workers without an advanced education. This piece from Global Trade Magazine provides a good perspective on what has shifted on this front in the last four decades.

U.S. Manufacturing May Depend on Automation to Survive and Prosper

The discussions coming out of Davos this year about how automation may cost large numbers of jobs perhaps crystalize an anxiety about the social consequences of technological disruption that has been building for decades. This piece from the Brookings Institute offers an outlook on manufacturing that argues that automation can actually play a role in preserving good jobs in American manufacturing—and why that matters for US competitiveness.

The New Geography of Jobs

This book by Stanford University professor Enrico Moretti examines why the knowledge-based economy concentrates productivity, jobs and wealth in certain regions.

6 Ways Work Will Change in 2016

Of course, manufacturing, and even topline employment numbers don’t represent the entire story of jobs in the United States. There is also the question of how work now and in the future will differ from in the past. The individual trends outlined in this article from Fast Company are interesting in and of themselves, but what may be most interesting is the central insights about where we should look to see the future of work in the United States: While such trends used to be set by the world’s largest companies, today many are championed by the smallest .

What Happened To the Job Ladder in the 21st Century?

The hope, of course, is to spot trends toward exclusion early on before they become so entrenched that little to nothing can be done about them. All the more reason to elevate discussion of the fact that young people are more and more starting work in low-paying industries—a trend exacerbated by the recession, but which began as early as 2000. This piece from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth visualizes this trend with data from and analysis of the last 15 years.

(Featured Image Credit: Getty Images)

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