The Arizona Republic the other day had this headline which certainly caught me attention:
Report: 35% of Arizona jobs 'bad'
I can sympathize. I have had jobs that were boring and unrewarding. My last couple of Fortune 50 corporate jobs, while nominally cool on paper, were hugely frustrating. But it seems this particular "report" had different criteria for "bad" jobs:
The new report calls 35 percent of jobs "bad" because they pay less
than $17 an hour, or $34,000 a year, and offer no insurance or
retirement plans. In a typical state, only 30 percent of the jobs are
Here is the heart of these studies: A bunch of middle class people sit around and try to decide what jobs they would be willing to accept and which ones they would not. Any job that they would not accept is a "bad" job, despite the fact that $12 or $14 an hour might be very good pay for someone with no skills, despite the fact that it makes no consideration of a person's circumstances (e.g. single, married, 2nd job, teenager, etc), and despite the fact that $34,000 would probably put a person in the top 20th percentile of global wages. I made a similar point vis a vis jobs in the third world.
Just so I can't be accused of cherry-picking, I will use my own company as an example. We have a about 80 employees in Arizona, about 70 of which are paid less than $10 an hour and none of whom have a retirement plan or insurance. All of my jobs in Arizona are included in their count of "bad jobs." And you know what? We have a waiting list of over 200 names of people who would take another of these jobs tomorrow if I had one to offer. That's because my employees are not middle-class academics. Most are older people who already have a health plan, who don't need a retirement plan (because they have already retired) and who just want a fun job in a nice location where they can live in their RV.
This has to be one of the most utterly pointless studies of all time. Sure, $14 an hour would probably suck as a 45-year-old college grad with 2 kids. But it would be a windfall to a 16-year-old new immigrant with few skills and no English. The only thing that would be more pointless would be to try to compare states - which they also do:
About 22 percent of Arizona jobs are considered "good" because they pay
at least $17 and offer benefits. That is less than the typical state,
which has 25 percent "good" jobs. The rest of the jobs are in between
because they offer some benefits.
Since cost of living is totally comparable between Phoenix and Manhattan, then using a fixed wage rate to compare states makes complete sense. By the way, by the study's definition, my job, which is usually awesome, is not "good" because I have no health plan. In fact, in this study, a $40,000 job with a health plan is ranked as good while a $400,000 job with no health plan is not good. Yeah, that makes sense.