I again heard someone on NPR today lamenting the loss of manufacturing jobs in the US. It got me thinking about a couple of things:
- When I had my political awakening in high school debate in the 1970s, all of the complaints from the left were about how horrible blue collar workers had it in manufacturing jobs. At that time, manufacturing jobs were labeled by leftish critics as dirty and dangerous, and, most common, as repetitious and boring (in the Fredrick Taylor legacy). OK, so now that they all have nice clean service jobs, we are unhappy that they don't have those old manufacturing jobs? These are folks whose agenda has nothing to do with the words they are actually speaking, and everything to do with creating dissatisfaction to facilitate government takeover of economic functions
- While I am sure the service sector is overtaking manufacturing (in the same way manufacturing overtook agriculture), to some extent the statistics are misleading.
Let's take an automobile assembly plant circa 1955. Typically, a
large manufacturing plant would have a staff to do everything the
factory needed. They had people on staff to clean the bathrooms, to
paint the walls, and to perform equipment maintenance. The people who
did these jobs were all classified as manufacturing workers, because
they worked in a manufacturing plant. Since 1955, this plant has
likely changed the way it staffs these type jobs. It still cleans the
bathrooms, but it has a contract with an outside janitorial firm who
comes in each night to do so. It still paints the walls, but has a
contract with a painting contractor to do so. And it still needs the
equipment to be maintained, but probably has contracts with many of the
equipment suppliers to do the maintenance.
So, today, there might be the exact same number of people in the
factory cleaning bathrooms and maintaining equipment, but now the
government classifies them as "service workers" because they work for a
service company, rather than manufacturing workers. Nothing has really
changed in the work that people do, but government stats will show a
large shift from manufacturing to service employment.
- I am tired of the whole McJobs meme. Have you been in a McDonalds? How many middle age auto worker types do you see working there? None? What you see are young people and recent entrants to the job market, including new immigrants. What these people need more than anything is real experience with the basics of holding a job, including showing up reliably, working in a structured environment, following a process, and providing customer service. Sure, they would prefer that to happen at $60 an hour, what they really need, and are getting, is a credible work experience they can use to go get higher paying jobs in the future.