An Upswing Is Good - Can It Be Better?

After a recent breakup, a friend of mine had an awkward conversation with her new ex. It began with this difficult question – “I know you’ve got a new man, but is he a good man?”

Some things are just hard to answer.  So when I read in the New York Times this Friday that the job market was brightening, I knew better than to question the statement.  Out loud, at least.

In my head, I can hear the rewording – “I know you’ve got a new job, but is it a good job?”  And actually, I think this difficult question has to be asked, and answered.  The American economy has made some strides in recent months, presumably in response to the stimulus. However, there is still work to done.  Although the country added 162,000 net jobs in March 2010, almost one-third of these jobs include temporary Census jobs.  Furthermore, of the people who remain unemployed, the number of those considered to be long-term unemployed – meaning that they have been seeking work for 27 weeks or more – has risen to 44.1%.

This news doesn’t sound optimistic – clearly, everyone who wants to work should be able to find meaningful employment and that is not currently the case. However, there is reason for optimism in the latest economic news.  First, the unprecedented public spending of the stimulus is beginning to have some effect.  In the heady world of high-stakes economics, perception is (if not everything) a great deal.  The more economic indicators rise, the more investors will support economic markets, thereby raising additional economic indicators...

The second reason for optimism in the latest jobs picture is that it is engaging debate on what constitutes good jobs and stimulating a call for continued jobs creation. Both are necessary if the American economy is going to move ahead on a better, more stable base.  We must focus on purposeful jobs creation, and the jobs created must be good jobs.  The country must focus on moving forward on a more equitable footing.  For example, African Americans and Latinas/Latinos still experience a poverty rate that is almost triple that of whites.  The wage gap for African American women and Latinas has increased.  Job creation efforts must address these inequities to avoid a repeat of our past.

Newly created jobs should pay a living wage.  Job creation legislation should include worker retraining and skill-building to ensure that America’s workers are prepared for a 21st Century global economy.  New publicly funded projects – especially those related to economic recovery – should be analyzed through the lens of an Opportunity Impact Statement to ensure that our money is not spent in ways that are not in accordance with our values.

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda website.

Tags: Opportunity, jobs, Economy, wages, census (all tags)

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