U.S. basic labor suffers due to aggressive tech industry staffing

A group of people holding up signs during a rally.

(Photo: Casie Yoder/Bernard Pollack-Flickr/CC-BY)

The labor sector is defined by all civilians classified as employed and unemployed. The employed are those who work for pay, for themselves or someone else, or who work 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in a family-operated business. Furthermore, included among the employed are those who were temporarily absent from work for reasons such as illness and childcare. The unemployed include individuals who have no job but are available for work and looking for employment.

Who composes the labor sector

At first glance, the concepts of employment and unemployment seem straightforward, with only the retired, disabled, homemakers and full-time students excluded from the labor force. When you are unemployed, life can be rough, and so is obtaining financial assistance when you need it most. Without a job, you cannot qualify for a bad credit installment loan or even a bad credit auto loan, for that matter.

Context of the U.S. labor problem

In the last 40 years, changing labor markets, globalization and industrial restructuring have greatly influenced the size and composition of the U.S. labor force. The increasing mobility of labor, goods and capital associated with globalization may also potentially have an effect on wages. Industrial restructuring, which has been characterized by a decline in manufacturing and growth in the service sector, affects the distribution of workers across industries, occupations and geographic regions.

As we move further into the 21st century, challenges will come from many fronts. Two specific issues are the aging of our workforce and increased global competitiveness. These phenomena will be with the U.S. over the next few decades, and we need to consider the best strategies for promoting the flexibility of our labor markets to deal with them.

Labor implications of status quo

In the early 2000s, the basic labor industries began to pay dearly for our negligence. The expanding IT, telecom and retail industries needed talented young people, so they began fishing from the same generational and multicultural talent pool as food service, but with much greater success. These tech industries were armed not just with a better pay scale, but also with well-trained and effective supervisors who knew the value of developing high-performing customer-facing teams. They understood that retention begins with recruiting, and their HR and training departments were aligned and integrated from the ground up, not vice versa. Not only did tech industries target, attract and retain many basic labor talents, but they also recruited many of their best HR workers. Labor could certainly use this type of help to navigate a smarter path out of this muck and mire. But these HR stars do not work in basic labor industries anymore. That was what the recession inflicted on the U.S. labor sector.

Impact of labor problems in the U.S.

A byproduct of the new economy appears to be men with limited education withdrawing from the labor force. Many of these men are in their prime working years. Their withdrawal from the labor force has contributed to large drops in their earnings and has also led to rising income inequality in the states. A comprehensive strategy is needed to help workers transition into the new economy. The focus should include both displaced workers and those at risk of being displaced. Moreover, there are socio-political effects to this labor issue. The current administration promised reforms and better labor conditions that have yet to materialize. Now it is under extreme pressure to make good on its promises.


ABC News

Center for Labor Market Studies

Other recent posts by bryanh