The Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog has a post on A Lost Decade for Jobs:
The U.S. now produces fewer private sector jobs than it did a decade ago. This been the case since August, and it’s getting worse. In October, private sector companies employed 108.401 million U.S. workers, a million fewer than in October 1999, when they employed 109.487 million. Not since the Labor Department began tracking payroll employment in 1939 has there been such a stretch with no net job gains.
The WSJ post, as one might expect, doesn’t express any concern about of the type of structural unemployment I’ve been talking about here. It does briefly note that productivity has increased, and even the Journal seems a little less than enthusiastic about the conventional wisdom that increasing labor productivity will always lead to greater prosperity:
The other answer is that the U.S. has enjoyed a big burst of productivity growth during this stretch — which means firms are producing more with fewer workers. In the long-run this is supposed to be a good development because it leads to profit and income gains. But the short-term costs are looking increasingly more debilitating.
‘As I’ve pointed out previously, labor-saving technologies are going to continue to advance while we are all waiting for the job market to recover. High employment will, of course, result in weak consumer confidence, and that may result in job automation being one of the few truly attractive new technology investment sectors. Hence my concern that we may be looking at beginning of significant structural unemployment—with no real end in sight. The danger is that we might be looking at a labor market which is fundamentally losing its ability to spring back.