Where Have All the Jobs Gone?

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Dear Democrats, Republicans, Tories, Whigs, Socialists, Conservatives, and Labor Party members,

Please stop bickering over secondary issues and start recognizing the status quo and creating solutions to address societal shifts.

The Internet killed millions of jobs. Anyone use a travel agent recently? Sent a letter to pay a bill? Shopped for a house by looking in a shop window? Decided to buy a car by first test driving and not looking online for reviews?

Not all layoffs have been because of bad banks, bad real estate investments, or other market disruptions. The number of jobs made redundant by websites like Google, Kayak, Zillow, and Craigslist will never come back. It is now easier and cheaper to buy a car from Craigslist than from the local paper.

Companies took the recession as an opportunity to streamline the workforce, and in the process have replaced millions of middle managers and other high-cost labor with micro-chips and electronics. Now, companies make more money by employing fewer people to produce the same value added. Entire industries have disappeared: newspapers, Blockbuster, the Postal Service, equity trading shops.

Many in the West who owned businesses, held stable jobs, and were tax-paying members of society now have bleak futures. Anyone over 50 looking to change jobs will be forced to delay retirement for at least 10-20 years to regain the damage done to their balance sheets by the recession. It is doubly painful because the stock market wiped out their savings and the Internet took their future earnings.

In the 1930s you could go west to California, with the promise of land and the ability to start over. The common saying was, “Write when you find work.” Today, if you lose your job at a newspaper in Boise, you probably will not find one at a newspaper in Salt Lake.

Americans are innovative and hungry people, and the laid-off workforce undoubtedly contains some who will find ways to take advantage of the labor market imbalance. To do so, however, we must recognize that the Internet has destroyed lots of jobs we will never see again, and we need to come up with new solutions that address this fundamental shift in society.

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