The National Government and Social Welfare: What Should Be the Federal Role?

By John E. Hansan; Robert Morris | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Policies to Improve Employment Outcomes for American Workers

Robert I. Lerman


WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

In September 1994, Fortune magazine featured "The End of the Job" as its cover article and called the traditional job a social artifact. Meanwhile, in his new book, The End of Work, Jeremy Rifkin declares the end of jobs as we know them because technological change is eliminating jobs and bringing about the decline of the global labor force. Rifkin's thesis strikes a responsive chord for those who see the large and highly publicized corporate layoffs as portending a future with little real work for the masses.

These reports are completely at odds with the facts. Today, the proportion of working-age Americans holding jobs is reaching all-time highs. While concerns about the state of the U.S. job market are widespread, the reality is a record that is very strong on the creation of jobs, though weak on wage growth and wage equality. Unemployment rates in the United States have been low by world standards; job growth has outpaced the rest of the industrial world allowing the economy to absorb the vast influx of women and immigrants entering the workforce into jobs. In spite of large defense cutbacks, downsizing of major corporations, and an economic slowdown in other advanced economies, the U.S. economy now manages to generate employment for 126 million American workers. Without any government mandate or public jobs program, nearly all of these workers find employment that involves the creation of goods and services for the large and slowly expanding economy. As of August 1945, the unemployment rate (seasonally adjusted) was 5.1 percent, implying

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