There is a buzz throughout the economy now about how unemployment rates, which have been sitting at uncomfortably high levels throughout the country for so long now, are finally beginning to noticeably subside. Indeed, by any measuring stick, it’s fair to say that, even accounting for a certain amount of government “spin,” there is a real increase in employment for the first time in years. That’s good news, to be sure, but there is some not-so-good news that accompanies it, and it’s something to which we should pay every bit as close attention as we do the raw employment levels themselves. As it turns out, wages for the returning jobs are not what they were before those jobs initially went on hiatus, and there is reason to believe that wage levels will stay depressed.
I’ve written before about how the rapid evolution of technology has hurt the return to employment. It’s easy to understand why: as technology evolves and allows for the elimination or consolidation of workplace tasks, the people who were once needed to perform those tasks are themselves needed no longer. The latest casualty of this evolution is the next most-logical: wages. The rapid pace at which technology has come to allow employers to more easily consolidate jobs is also affording them the ability to pay less for the jobs that are returning.
The National Employment Law Project (www.nelp.org) recently completed a study that confirmed, like so many that have come before it, that the jobs that are being added are lower-paying. Now, there are reasons for that which nothing to do with technology, per se; for example, some companies, in a recovery climate, prefer to lessen their commitments to payroll and people by adding jobs that are admittedly lower on the food chain while they are still convincing themselves that better days are here to stay. However, make no mistake about it…technological evolution is a factor, as well, in that the ability to get by with lower-paid workers exists precisely because the better-paid workers are those that have become more high-functioning in the realm of the computer, in general, and the Internet, more specifically.
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Bob Yetman, Editor-at-Large at Christian Money.com (www.christianmoney.com), is an author of a variety of materials on personal finance and investing, as well as on topics of fitness and self defense, to include the book Investor's Passport to Hedge Fund Profits (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) and the unarmed combat training DVD Thunderstrikes - How to Develop One Shot, One Kill Striking Power (Paladin Press).