On Adapting to a New Economy

14 Apr

I live in a state where the unemployment rate is relatively low, at least compared to the national average. Minnesota has a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 5.5%, while the national unemployment rates stands at 7.6%. The Minnesota economy seems to consistently outperform the national average, one of the many reasons why I thought it would be relatively easy to find a job here when I moved back.

But, the unemployment job statistics don’t tell the whole story. Many of the jobs being created are not the same types of jobs that were lost during the Great Recession.  The policy wonk in me likes to dig into the data and really understand the underlying trends, and how public policy may shape future conversations on the job market.

Sarah Bloom Raskin, of the Federal Reserve Bank, in a talk given to the National Community Reinvestment Form, discusses the types of jobs that have been created in recent years. According to Ms. Raskin, one-fifth of the  job losses during the Great Recession were concentrated in low-wage occupations such as retail sales, food preparation, manual labor, home health care and customer service. Although the low-wage occupations represented only one-fifth of the job losses, the low-wage occupations make up more than half of the subsequent jobs gained.

In addition to the shift to more low-wage jobs being created, temporary work, which accounted for 10 percent of the job losses during the Great Recession, makes up more than 25 percent of the jobs gained during the recovery. In past recoveries, the growth of temporary employment may have been a precursor to companies making more permanent hires. But, that doesn’t seem to be the case in this recovery. Temporary or contingent jobs are here to stay and the number of temporary workers continues to grow.

The shift in the labor market to more low-wage and temporary workers is important for policy makers and individuals to understand. These shifts will play an important role in the conversations on immigration reform, health care, social security, higher education, K-12 education reform, and retirement benefits policy. Higher education policy, in particular, will be important in how to prepare students for jobs in the new economy. There may also be more policy discussions on how to support and encourage more entrepreneurship.

As important as it is for policy makers to understand the underlying trends in the jobs data, it is just as important for employed, unemployed,  and underemployed individuals to understand. Change can be scary, and the prospect of not having a “safe” job is daunting. But, although at face value the news on the job market seems pretty dreary, these are actually exciting times. I understand that if you are in the middle of your career, or toward the end of your career, the idea of starting over can seem overwhelming. But, we have no choice other than to embrace the new economy and figure out how we can take advantage of it.

If you are having trouble finding a “career job” in this economy you are not alone. There are real reasons why it is difficult to find a professional job in this economy. Acknowledge that it is difficult, but don’t use that as an excuse to hold you back. Use the data as an opportunity to figure out where you can have an impact in this economy. It may not be in the traditional manner that you are used to, and you’ve got to be willing to adapt to the change.

Don’t give up your hope of finding the job that you really want, but recognize that you may need to be more creative than ever in order to make a living, and you may have to work in a non-career job or get entreprenurial in in interim. You have not failed. You are not a failure. We all need to adapt to the new economy and their may be some growing pains along the way.


4 Responses to “On Adapting to a New Economy”

  1. Vishnu April 14, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    hey Lisa – yes, we are all changing the way we work to adopt to this new reality. I’ve had to create jobs for myself when periods of unemployment. And could have continued doing that but needed stable income in the meantime so came back to the labor force. Once we realize we are in the economy and come to terms with it, we’ll start seeing the many opportunities it has to offer.

    • Lisa M. April 16, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

      Thanks for you comment Vishnu! I always appreciate your insight!

  2. Razwana April 15, 2013 at 3:05 am #

    Lisa – it’s interesting analysis you make. Most would expect that in a place where unemployment rates are low, the job market would be thriving….

    Even though we are living in a ‘new’ economy, I do see a lot of people sticking to what they know, which is to find a job to replace the old one. Blogs like this definitely provide a fresh and alternative perspective.

    – Razwana

    • Lisa M. April 17, 2013 at 5:43 pm #


      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, I would have thought it would be easier to find a job here….

      I think that the problem going foward is that there will be less and less traditional jobs and people are going to need to be more creative in how they work and view work.

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