Where are the new jobs?

Virginia Postrel’s story in today’s New York Times Sunday Magazine takes a close look at where new jobs are being created — and whether they show up in the payroll survey: In a quickly evolving economy, in which increased productivity constantly makes some jobs redundant, we notice the job losses. It is much harder to ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast.

Virginia Postrel's story in today's New York Times Sunday Magazine takes a close look at where new jobs are being created -- and whether they show up in the payroll survey:

Virginia Postrel’s story in today’s New York Times Sunday Magazine takes a close look at where new jobs are being created — and whether they show up in the payroll survey:

In a quickly evolving economy, in which increased productivity constantly makes some jobs redundant, we notice the job losses. It is much harder to spot where new jobs are emerging. Our mental categories tend to be behind the times. When we think of jobs, we see factories, secretarial pools, police officers, lawyers. We forget all about jobs we see every day. The official job counters at the Bureau of Labor Statistics don’t do much to overcome our blind spots. The bureau is good at counting people who work for large organizations in well-defined, long-established occupations. It is much less adept at counting employees in small businesses, simply because there are too many small enterprises to representatively sample them. The bureau’s occupational survey, which might suggest which jobs are growing, doesn’t count self-employed people or partners in unincorporated businesses at all. And many of today’s growing industries, the ones adding jobs even amid the recession, are comprised largely of small companies and self-employed individuals. That is particularly true for aesthetic crafts, from graphic designers and cosmetic dentists to gardeners. These specialists’ skills are in ever greater demand, yet they tend to work for themselves or in partnerships…. In every booming job category I looked at [stone crafters, massage therapists, manicurists] official surveys were missing thousands of jobs. As the economy evolves, however, this bias against small enterprises and self-employment becomes more and more significant. By missing so many new sources of productivity, the undercounts distort our already distorted view of economic value — the view that treats traditional manufacturing and management jobs as more legitimate, even more real, than craft professions or personal-service businesses. But the truth is, value can come as much from intangible pleasures as it can from tangible goods.

I’d say more about this story, but Bob McGrew beat me to my own narrative. One semi-provocative thought, however. Most of the job categories mentioned in Postrel’s essay have something of a ‘feminine’ cast to them. The job sector with the biggest job losses — manufacturing — has a decidedly masculine cast. It’s undoubtedly difficult for workers to transition from manufacturing to services. Could gender barriers make the current economic transformation even more difficult for displaced workers? UPDATE: Brad DeLong thinks these undercounts are insignificant:

[T]here is no reason to think that the totals of nationwide employment–which are derived from these second and third of these data sources–are substantial undercounts because of any significant “bias against small enterprises and self-employment.”

See also here. ANOTHER UPDATE: Postrel responds.

That article is not designed to enter the ongoing, and quite partisan, debate about what the household versus payroll surveys tell us about current levels of employment. My interest was in the question, Where will new jobs come from? A lot of non-economists are genuinely afraid that in the future there will be no jobs, or that there will be no jobs for people without large amounts of education–people like Denise Revely. From other research, I know of a number of aesthetic professions where jobs are growing rapidly. I found that in every such category the BLS counts were way under or, at best, obscured in categories dominated by losses in traditional manufacturing (e.g., paper mill workers vs. stone fabricators).

There’s another follow-up post here that’s worth reading in full.

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner

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