We hear the familiar refrain almost daily coming from politicians and others trying to get elected, or trying to justify spending public money on one project or another. “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” Regulations once enacted to protect people from pollution and hazardous substances are relaxed or completely eliminated. Salaries, pensions and benefits once offered in employment contracts are reduced and eliminated. Projects that are demonstrably harmful to the environment, people and the future health of the planet are supported and approved.
Often referred to as “The Race to the Bottom,” communities around the world compete with other communities to eliminate environmental protections, reduce tax obligations, finance projects and otherwise reduce their quality of life in efforts to attract new businesses, all with the over-riding mantra of “job creation.”
Locally, projects are promoted as providing “much needed jobs.” But is this really true? Is “job creation” so serious a need as to justify all the sacrifices made in its name?
One group that should have expert knowledge of these issues is the Clallam County Economic Development Council. Their Board of Directors is comprised of representatives from the county’s businesses, business associations, chambers of commerce, local governments, tribes, and civic leaders. In their 2015 Quarterly Report, this group opens with the following quote from the Chief Financial Officer of Angeles Composite Technologies, Inc.: “We are looking for only three things in a new employee: Aptitude, attitude and attendance. They are what we call ‘the three A’s.’” The EDCs’ report continues with Woody Allen’s famous line that “Eighty percent of success is just showing up”.
Describing what it finds as a serious concern, the Economic Development Council states that “there are plenty of job openings–many that pay quite well–and few of our unemployed are stepping up to the plate.” It reported that ACTI, which offers health, dental and a matching 401k plan, is having a terrible time finding employees. “Attendance appears to be the most pressing problem: finding employees who will just show up.”
And, “In our visits with other business owners in the county, ACTI is clearly not alone in its frustration.”
According to the US Dept. of Labor, the Labor Participation rate nationwide has been dropping over the last 15 years, and in March 2015 reached the lowest point recorded, 62.7 percent of the workforce. This means, nationwide, more than one third of work-ready people are not working, and not even looking for a job. That is 92 million Americans.
Looking into these statistics, the Pew Research Center said that 39 percent of 16 to 34 year olds don’t want to work, up from 29 percent in 2000.
Through most of the last 15 years, 38 percent of women were not interested in working, and that number has risen to over 40 percent in 2014.
And, the percentage of men not wanting to work rose from 23.9 in 2000, to over 28 percent last year.
In total, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 85.9 million adults were not interested in finding a job. In a country with a population of 320 million.
From a Manufacturing Company’s Perspective
Michael J. Fredrich owns MCM Composites LLC in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, a company manufacturing custom thermoset composite moldings. His company employs about 60 employees, starting at $8.50 an hour, rising to $10 an hour after 90 days. He says that many people add up their constantly- renewed unemployment, food stamps and housing assistance and realize that they can make as much not working, as working. “We are creating a permanently dependent class of people in the country who won’t ever want to work again. Harsh talk, but that’s our experience.”
From what the Clallam County Economic Development Council has found out in its recent interviews with area companies, it appears many who are unemployed are not looking for work. Only they know their reasons.
But why do politicians, government staff and civic leaders continue to promise “jobs, jobs, jobs,” when so many existing job opportunities go un-filled? How do these new projects, often funded with taxpayer money, help existing local businesses already struggling to fill positions? How is this helping our community?