Our economy is growing at a healthy 2-to-3% pace, but many Americans are wondering where the good jobs are. Millions of Americans have stopped looking for work. Many have retired early, decided to stay home, or otherwise abandoned the workforce.
A record number of able-bodied Americans are choosing not to be employed, often because jobs don’t pay enough. More than 95 million Americans are voluntarily staying out of the workforce, which means that only 62.7% of potential workers are actually working. This labor participation rate is near its 38-year record low, set during the Obama Administration.
The unemployment rate has fallen to only 4.1%, but that is primarily because many people have pulled out of the labor market. Businesses complain that they are having trouble hiring new workers, but the wages on those unfilled jobs are too low for many to want, and the companies are refusing to increase the salaries for most workers.
Wages have improved only 2.4% over the last year, and wages actually decreased in October. For example, the home construction industry increased wages by only 2.2% over the last year, barely enough to keep up with inflation. Compare that with nearly two decades ago, when hourly pay was increasing at a much healthier rate of 4%.
Many of those who do have jobs are underemployed, such as college graduates working at jobs delivering mail or people holding doctorates working at Amazon.com distribution centers. The food industry has been hiring but those jobs are often low-paying positions.
More than a hundred cities tried to outbid each other to attract the planned new second headquarters of Amazon.com, by dangling billion-dollar tax incentives to attract the company to their location.
But all that hullabaloo over Amazon’s new headquarters is for only about 50,000 jobs, in an economy desperate for millions more good-paying jobs. Far more than the 50,000 jobs for Amazon’s new headquarters are filled each year by immigrants who receive special visas from the federal government to snag highly paid positions, a program that Congress should terminate.