The shape of the jobs economy

Economists call it "U-shaped" as jobs in the middle grow fewer.

Jeremy Hobson: We are just a couple hours away from the most important economic indicator of the month. The June employment report from the Labor Department, which will tell us how many jobs were created last month, and whether the unemployment rate has budged from 8.2 percent.

But, of course, while today's numbers offer us a snapshot, they won't give us the long-term trend.

For that, here's our Wealth and Poverty reporter Krissy Clark with one trend that's shaped like a "U."


Krissy Clark: By "U"-shaped, economists mean high- and low-skilled jobs have been doing OK since the 1990s.

Gary Burtless: It's the middle that has seen the weakest demand.

That's economist Gary Burtless, with Brookings.

Imagine an office building. Maybe one you're headed to right now. Demand For a job like janitor Maynor Padilla's -- who I found rummaging for a ladder in a supply closet -- demand for his kind of low-skilled, low-wage job, has been good.
 

Clark: Has there been any cuts to the cleaning staff here?

Maynor Padilla: No. It's good.

As Burtless, the economists, explains:

Burtless: You can't do it long distance, from Shanghai.

And up in the corner offices, high-skilled, high-income jobs are doing just fine too. It's the middle level jobs: things like manufacturing, and -- to stick to our office metaphor -- tech and customer support, that have been disappearing. To places like India.

Indian call center operator: Thank you for calling  the leader in PC support! My name is Harry. How may I help you?

And to robots.

Automated robot phone voice: I'd like to look up your information.

And economists say no one really knows how long this U-shaped economy might last.

I'm Krissy Clark for Marketplace.

About the author

Krissy Clark is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Wealth & Poverty Desk.

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