No Ordinary Downturn

Whenever anyone mentions jobs lately they always seem to neglect to mention the Great Jobs Migration as if it is long over and no longer significant. Well it is significant in my community and I bet it is in many others. So many people lost great salaries which they can not duplicate because all of our manufacturing jobs are gone.
My city is littered with empty factories. One employer tore down their factory and replaced it with green space – nice – but do you think we can pass by the space without picturing what used to be there. It looms still in the traffic circle; in that green space we still see the ghost of that factory.
Fortunately my city does not have the neighborhoods full of empty homes that can be found in many cities. Of course we have more empty houses in the central city, but that is true of almost every city in America. Our neighborhoods are not empty only because our banker’s did not jump on the wacky mortgage bandwagon. We didn’t have the housing bubble; so no bubble to burst.
We are replacing our factories with other businesses at a fairly glacial pace and the jobs we are opening cannot usually be filled by the workers who lost their positions because there is a skill mismatch. Training programs have just not offered new skill sets appropriate to new tech jobs and these courses are only free while you are actually on unemployment. Once your unemployment income runs out these programs are prohibitively costly. We have not been able to look to state or local governments or even the federal government for assistance with funds for training or even grants for new businesses because of our current financial and political climate.
I just don’t hear people talking about this unique set of circumstances which are unlike previous periods of low employment. They were true recessions resulting from market factors. As the markets recovered the businesses came back. This time we don’t have businesses that are lying low and waiting to come back. This time we have to create new businesses from scratch. However, those holding the investment dollars have no taste for investment right now because these are not low-risk, proven businesses; they are businesses of innovation, testing new technologies and products which may succeed, but may also fail.
If we think we can just wait for jobs to recover as we have in the past we are fooling ourselves. We are floundering because we are not situated to boom yet. We don’t have a clear vision of what businesses will flourish in the future. This picture could snap into focus at any moment. We have hope and we have expectations and we can fall back on our optimism and our spirit of adventure. Some new opportunities will turn up if we keep pushing and trying.
We just need to stop acting like this is your average everyday downturn. Election reporting is especially guilty of acting like these are ordinary times. They keep marveling at the slow pace of the jobs recovery as if they live in cities without empty factories and empty houses. Perhaps they do since they cluster in places like NYC and Washington which don’t resemble mouths full of places where teeth used to be. Let’s be realistic and talk about jobs we could invent instead to acting like we are just waiting around for jobs to appear through some kind of magical thinking.

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