Friday, May 30, 2014

Hot Jobs of 2014 – A Deeper Look

As always, some careers and other working opportunities get special attention from those who want to inform job-seekers about the best choices they can make.  Those putting out lists of the “hot jobs” or the like use different standards, but one always there is the implication that related careers will be around for a long time.  Three lists, issued in December and more recently, rank-order the best jobs to get into – one by, one by, and a third issued jointly by CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists International. 

These lists, though, have one key limitation.  Those who issue them focus more on current demand and only consider a few years of the future.  After that, their conclusions may not hold up, as the trends of automation, globalization, and efficiency will continue to shape where American workers will be needed.  It is critical for today’s students and career-changers to be aware of these longer timeframes, since in many cases they need to invest a lot of time and money, and often will not be ready to he hired at their selected jobs for years.  In last year’s Choosing a Lasting Career, I rated the survival and growth of over 500 positions Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor.  So how did the jobs on these lists do?

Of the ten positions most prominent, none received a forecast of Excellent.  Although only 19 of the 506 jobs I assessed did, I was slightly surprised to see none of those rating higher than fifth on the three listings.  Four came in at Very Good:  daycare center teacher, Registered Nurse, medical assistant, and market research analyst.  All need to be done locally by Americans, are unlikely to be made obsolete by computers, other machines, or automated interfaces, and are serving people with at least steady numbers.  All four, however, have real concerns.  Competition for elementary school teaching jobs of all kinds, already strong, will increase as more men join the field.  Registered Nurses will, in some settings and for some tasks, be replaced by Licensed Practical Nurses or even nurse’s aides.  Medical assistants may become excessively specialized, and market research analysts may lose out to predictive data analysts, who need not be American.

One step behind these four was mental health technician, with Good growth and longevity.  Psychiatric technicians and aides, as the Department of Labor labels them, are low-paid enough to avoid replacement by others, but are often dependent on whom they help being inpatients.

Three other positions rated fourth or higher in the lists got ratings of Fair.  These were public relations specialists (many of their duties will be taken over by other managers), personal financial advisors (at risk to be replaced by both computer programs and lower-paid foreigners) and training and development specialists (a long-term employer’s market will further reduce how much training companies will provide).

While Fair was more or less a weak average growth and survival rating, two of the jobs rated high on the lists did not even do that well.  Fourth on one was financial analyst, in a field that has been growing in recent years but won’t do that for much longer, as workers will be replaced by foreigners not needing to be paid nearly as much, fully automated systems making no mistakes, or both.  The second was, sadly, the highest rated job on two of the three lists and fourth on the other:  software developer.  There is positively no long-term reason for most of them to be Americans, working for the high five-figure salaries plus solid benefits most of them enjoy.  As well, most need to communicate with pure programmers, who are in the same position – if coders are Russian or Indian, then developers from those countries will be not only cheaper but valued more highly.  It is only a matter of time, probably five years or less, before software development becomes a field few Americans can realistically hope to join.

It is not true that nobody should seek the jobs above.  Many people already have most or all of the credentials they need to be hired in these fields, and they would be fools not to consider them.  But starting a course of study now, expecting it to lead to, say, a software job at the likes of Microsoft or Google, would be equally unwise.  In careers as well as in other things we need to consider not only what is occurring now but what will be happening when we get there.  Only when we incorporate the future into our plans will we know what the truly “hot jobs” really are – and aren’t.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Catskills or Nearby Casinos Are On the Way, and Will Be Beneficial

What’s been happening with casinos here in the old Borscht Belt?

Following November voter approval of four new casinos in New York State, the process set by the government has been moving along, and its progress has been much in the news. 

On April 24th, all companies wanting to build and own a casino here had to submit official preliminary proposals, along with $1 million to cover the cost of the state’s research and investigation about them.  That call precipitated 22 for the three areas in which the four will be allowed – seven for around Albany and Saratoga, three in a mid-state L-shaped expanse, and the remaining 12 in or south of the Catskills. 

Although interest in the famous old Jewish resort area was the heaviest, five of the 12 proposals were not welcomed much by many of its residents.  They were planned for Orange County, and many living in Sullivan County, where Grossinger’s and other old resorts were located, think they would become an irresistibly more convenient choice for people coming from New York City.  The concern was stated well by Steven Plotkin in a letter in the Sullivan County Democrat, saying to Orange County residents that “we are economically depressed, you are not,” and that “we have been chasing this dream for 30 years.  How long have you been chasing it… two weeks?” 

Indeed, several Sullivan County casino efforts have failed over the past decades, and as of March, Orange County unemployment stood at 6.3%, compared with 8.4% for Sullivan.  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has not officially said he wanted to avoid Orange, but has held that a main purpose of the casino initiative, which he supported, was to help relatively depressed areas.  The minimum amounts that companies would need to invest, revealed May 12th, were also set much higher, $350 million over the cost of land and other initial expenses, for Orange County, compared with $130 million for Sullivan.  That difference may prove to be irrelevant, however, as most of the proposals called for way over the higher amount in capital investment anyway.

There have been two other controversies.  One was put forth by Hasidic Jewish groups.  A number of rabbis met in March to start a campaign to stop casinos from being built in Sullivan County, naming the presence of Orthodox schools, camps, and yeshivas in the area.  Another has been about the amount of preferential tax treatment the resorts would receive.  Although it is common, as an incentive, for a new large hotel to be exempt from mortgage tax, from property tax for some number of years, and to receive a discount on sales taxes on its hotel and entertainment locations and business, it may not be legally possible for the same to be granted for gambling facilities or revenue. 

So what will happen next?  That is up to the 22 companies committed to the process.  By June 30th they are required to submit detailed proposals, which the state Gaming Facility Location Board will evaluate over the following few months.  The stated selection criteria call for 70% of their final decision to be based on “economic impact factors” such as the number of jobs created, revenue value to state and local governments, and the proposer’s experience and proven ability in building and running casino resorts, along with 20% based on “local impact factors” and 10% for “workforce enhancement factors,” including dealing with problem gamblers.  The casinos will be expected to be finished and in business within two years of acceptance.

So what can we expect?  Although most seem to agree that Sullivan County is a preferred location for one, and maybe two, of the four new casino resorts, the criteria above may force the selectors to choose one in Orange instead.  Locations in Newburgh and, especially, Tuxedo, both closer to the city and with easy access with the New York Thruway, could afford to be larger, and would therefore create more jobs and revenue, have more amenities, and recapture the most out-of-state gaming revenue, all parts of the 70% criteria section.  Those on the board may be nostalgic for the likes of a new Grossinger’s, with its stand-up comedy venues and tribute to the great performers who got their starts in Monticello and Liberty, but the rules they must work with may prevent such a location from ending up the closest one to New York City.  If the committee decides to grant licenses to one casino apiece in Sullivan and Orange, the Sullivan one will almost perforce be less successful and may need to be smaller.

Even with the possible problems, though, what I wrote before still stands.  The Catskills or Hudson Valley-area casino, or casinos, will create a lot of jobs, including hundreds if not thousands of temporary construction positions along with what could easily be more than 1,000 permanent local ones.  The new tax revenues, even if reduced, will be quite large, and will benefit local residents.  More people, not fewer, will participate in outdoor recreation and other tourist activities in the area.  And if Sullivan County gets at least one of the licenses, the Catskills will be prominent, for the first time in decades, on the vacation map. 


Friday, May 16, 2014

Hillary Clinton Has Nothing to Say on Jobs

Here we are, heading into the summer of 2014.  In some ways it’s a good while until the 2016 presidential  election – the midterms are still over six months away, and it’s over 32 months before Barack Obama’s successor takes office – but in another way it’s right around the corner.  Obama seems like the lamest of lame ducks, with little of an agenda and little chance of getting anything passed that would require bipartisan support.  As happens consistently with two-term presidents on the back nine of their tenures, we’re better off focusing on what can happen in 2017 than on being much concerned with governmental change before then. 

Although few presidential hopefuls have declared their candidacy thus far, those who might officially decide to run are already, in effect, campaigning.   One way of being noticed by the media is to give speeches and weigh in on political issues, which, for someone as driven as a potential president, need not be taken as a commitment to run for that office.  Yet such public appearances give the pre-candidates opportunities for easy exposure and, even more importantly, a way to gauge national reactions to what they say.

In March, Hillary Clinton had such an engagement.  On March 22nd, she opened a program on higher education at Arizona State University, speaking to an audience which included about 1,200 students.  She let loose some rather stock things about education in general:  vocational and technical jobs should be “respected,” community colleges should be supported, first jobs are important, young people can get various skills at workplaces, and so on.

What she didn’t say, though, was anything about how today’s graduates can get such jobs.  Unemployment for those who got bachelor’s degrees in 2013 is 10.9%, and not only has that number been higher recently, it does not reflect the large numbers of graduates who aren’t actively looking.  It also does not address underemployment, as working at low levels after completing school has become a cliché.  So what ideas has she voiced on improving the jobs crisis?


To get a baseline on Clinton’s stated political positions, I found a compilation of them on Wikipedia.  It covers what she has said over the past ten years or more, on economic policy, foreign policy, civil liberties and democracy, and social policy.  The document gives her comments on everything from “free-market capitalism” (she’s for it, but doesn’t want it to “run roughshod over people’s lives”) to flag burning (she wants it illegal, but without a constitutional amendment).  The listing of her stated views, not counting endnotes, ran to 13 pages. So what was in it about how to create jobs, or how to set up an environment in which more jobs would be created by others?

Nothing.  Not a word.

Other possible nominees have had plenty to say on the subject.  To name only one, Rand Paul, for all his faults, already has given us almost a book’s worth of employment views.  It’s not enough for Clinton to say things, as she did in Tempe, such as “education is the key to unlocking opportunity,” when everyone aware of employment trends is questioning that or at least regretting its decreasing validity., a betting site which, being outside the US, allows wagering on presidential elections, has Clinton as the prohibitive plurality choice to be elected.  The line on her is -175, meaning that you can put down $100 and receive $275 if she wins.  If you like to make bets and think Hillary has at least a 37% chance of becoming our 45th Chief Executive, you should consider this one.  The shortest odds elsewhere, on the Republicans Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio, are each -1500, meaning if you see any as more likely than 15 to 1, you might take the site up on its offer.

However, a backlash on Clinton may be starting or even in place.  An article in Slate, with a heavily Democratic readership, titled “7 reasons Hillary Clinton’s nomination is far from inevitable,” came out Tuesday.  It stated in its New Liabilities section that “not enough jobs are being created even to keep up with population growth,” since voters may want change that she, as a 20-year high-level Washington veteran, will not be perceived as able to offer.

The backlash is a good thing.  We may, in 2016, still face a choice between this well-established Democrat and a Republican striving to attract the center with new ideas.  A vote for her may or may not be advisable.  But now, one thing appears clear.  Hillary Clinton does not seem likely to help the permanent jobs crisis.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Latest on Jobs, From Temporary Re-Employment to Racial Realism

Over the past three weeks, there have been several worthwhile work-related pieces in the news. 

First, there’s one from The Washington Post on April 18th, “Long-term unemployed struggle to find - and keep - jobs.”  The idea here is that once many with lengthy times without jobs finally get work, it is all too likely not to last.  A study the article quoted found that of a group of those jobless six months or longer, 23% found work within “a few months,” but a year from then, one-third were unemployed again.  That’s not surprising, since workers, as with professional team sports athletes, often start out with long stretches with one organization, and then reach what you might call the nomadic phase of their careers.  Mine was typical – 15 years with AT&T, 2 ½ years with Dictaphone, less than a year apiece with three others, new career the next.  Not totally the norm, but common, and a legitimate problem for those less well positioned than I was to find something different.

Second, from The New York Times, April 22nd, “Job Market for College Graduates Improves Slightly.”  Along with the general unemployment rate, that for people recently completing bachelor’s degrees has fallen.  It’s still nothing to be proud of – 10.9% for 2013 graduates – especially knowing not only that all those still slacking at home aren’t being counted, but that colleges and people in them have now had over four years, since the Great Recession ended, to adapt.  University attendance is still a good thing, but there’s nothing here to change my perception that the time for a majority of high school graduates going to regular college programs will end.

Third, also from the New York Times, was an April 30 editorial “The Dark Side of the Sharing Economy.”    Hey, their columnist Thomas Friedman was intoxicated about people being able to sell off their spare, and not so spare, resources to make ends meet, so what’s been going wrong with people renting out their rooms?  Apparently plenty, says the Times Editorial Board.  Businesses with multiple Airbnb listings in the city turned out to be the placers of, three-plus months ago, 30% of them.  The editorial, as you might suspect, did not take a stand against these amateur-or-is-it-professional pseudo hoteliers by defending the rights of those who put up with lots of requirements and regulation to offer rooms in real ones, but came out against those rentals on the grounds that they cut the housing supply.  True.  As I’ve said before, renting out rooms semi-legally is rather stinky employment, which is why we shouldn’t regret it’s being vastly less common, which appears will be the case within months.

Fourth, another Times editorial, on last month’s jobs numbers, published May 4th, “A Better Economy, Still Far from Good.”  I was surprised to see responses to the April employment statistics to turn out lukewarm, or even negative – as always, I wrote my AJSN blog post seeing only the Bureau of Labor Statistics information, and thought I’d see more America’s-going-back-to-work giddiness.  Instead, here we have a newspaper solidly on the Democratic side issuing opinions such as “Let’s keep this (data) in perspective:  wages remained flat, nearly 10 million unemployed people are looking for jobs, and millions more have become so disenchanted that they have given up on finding work altogether.”  Correct, but those are only rudimentary perceptions beyond the unemployment numbers, and it seems odd to mention them after what may have been the best set of monthly jobs statistics in four years.  On the piece went to mention how slow the “recovery” has been, even though the recovery is long over, and actually to chide Senate Republicans for blocking a bill to raise the minimum wage, amid all this joblessness, 39%, before ending by saying “everything is not right” for people damaged in 2008 and 2009.  That is also true, but there was no mention that we may be facing a permanent jobs crisis.  That possibility has been considered more often lately, but not enough.

Last was an op-ed New York Times piece, by sociology professor John D. Skrentny, “Only Minorities Need Apply,” published three days ago.  It was stunning to see this title in this newspaper, and the article brought up three excellent jobs-related concerns.  One was the clash of what he called “racial realism,” much the same as rational discrimination, in which business needs determine the optimal race or ethnicity of employees, with the overall anti-discrimination ethic.  Another was reverse racial discrimination as a result of racial realism.  A third was damage done to blacks and Hispanics by being assigned to the like of stores or territories heavy with people of their own ethnicity, where sales, and as a result their own personal earnings, are often lower.  All worth thinking about, and I can add a fourth – perhaps black nurses might just plain not want to work with high shares of black patients, even if their employers can point to studies showing better health outcomes when providers and patients share the same race.  There are no easy answers here, and I hope we hear more from Skrentny, and what he wrote about, in the future.   

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Best Jobs Data in Years, But America Still 18.7 Million Jobs Short

April was the quietest month on employment commentary since I started issuing the American Job Shortage Number, or AJSN, almost two years ago.  One reason for that became dramatically clear this morning, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment and unemployment report was the most favorable we have seen during this time and way before.  The turtle I referred to last time ran like a rabbit.

The American economy added 288,000 net new jobs, and unemployment went way down.  Not only did the headline seasonally adjusted rate drop to 6.3%, lowest since November 2008 when it was early in the Great Recession, but the unadjusted share, now 5.9%, has shown similar improvement.  As a result, we would also have to go back to 2008 to find an AJSN lower than the current 18.7 million, calculated as follows:    

In only a month, the AJSN has dropped more than one million, and, compared with a year ago, fallen 300,000 more than that.  In April 2013 there were over 1.9 million more unemployed, and fewer in most other categories above, but over 3.7 million more now have unknown status, and 2.4 million more say they don’t want to work at all. 

Several factors, though, do constitute a cloud around this silver lining.  First, counts of the marginally attached categories, specifically those discouraged, in school or training, have not looked for at least a year, and want work but are not available now, were generally up.  Second, labor force participation, down, tied December’s 62.8% for the lowest since March 1978, meaning that the number of people deciding not to pursue jobs at all continues to rise.  That explained why unemployment dropped by 445,000 more than the number of new positions.  (The employment-to-population ratio stayed at 58.9%, still low but with some breathing room above its post-1983 low of 58.2%.)  Indeed, the absolute number in the labor force fell 806,000 last month.  Third, the number of people working part-time for economic reasons did not improve, and is still at a historically high 7.5 million.  Last, as has been widely re-reported this past week, a high percentage of the jobs created over the past five years have been low-paying. 

In all, though, April was a superb month for United States employment.  That may or may not allow Democrats to push through legislation raising the minimum wage, but in any event jobs are paying less than they did in the last decade.  While many will say America is now going back to work, a statement truer than at any other time in Obama’s presidency, the jobs Americans increasingly have are not as good.  Even if the good employment numbers continue, that is one thing that won’t improve, and we must continue to adjust to that.