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Say Hello to Full Employment (theatlantic.com)
169 points by jchrisa on July 6, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 332 comments



This article seems to use the terms "unemployed" and "jobless" interchangeably.

People who stop searching for jobs (eg. due to despondence or poor health) are excluded from the official unemployment rate, yet they are jobless.

On a recent EconTalk, Edward Glaeser, the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at Harvard, said, in their recent sample, 11.9% of U.S. men aged 25-55 have been jobless for over 12 months.

From quick googling, 11.9% of U.S. men aged 25-55 is about 7.5 million people.

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2018/03/edward_glaeser.html


I can't help but feel the unemployment rate is so politicized that its facts and statistics will continue to be cherrypicked outside of reality.


The selection of this metric is not some recent political decision - the headline number has been U3 for a loooong time, and its definition was decided by the UN-affiliated International Labor Organization.

It's not a good measure, but it's not a case of politicians picking a convenient metric, it's just a case of a bad metric being optimized for.


It is essentially the only metric available that is readily comparable between countries. Also, whatever definition you use for "real unemployment rate" that rate will be linearly dependent on the U-3 metric. If the U-3 number goes up, then "real unemployment" goes up and likewise if it goes down.

Those who are interested can read the report to the 13th International Conference of Labour Statisticians (yes, there are conferences for everything) in which the unemployment definition which U-3 is based on was adpoted: http://www.ilo.org/public/libdoc/ilo/1982/82B09_438_engl.pdf


So if i’m despondent and give up searching for a job then doesn’t U-3 unemployment go down and therefore wouldn’t using a definition that included the despondent not be linearly dependent?


Though it seems hypothetically possible for what you're saying to happen, the data shows there's a linear relationship between many different definitions of unemployment throughout the years in the US.

https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2018/u-3-unemployment-rate-was-...


Yes, if your job is to track that analyze it and report on it.

But U3 is fine for year-to-year readings of employment temperature for lay people like most of us.


I want to add that "actual employment rate" or labor market participation rate is also a grossly misleading figure. For example America had it's highest labor market participation rate in 2000 - during the great recession. Also, Indonesia has a much higher participation rate than America and most Western countries, even though the job market there is likely not as good as Europe or America. Russia is above Germany despite the fact that any reasonable person would choose to job hunt in Germany over Russia. Unemployment does actually seem to be the better metric


Is it called the Wells Fargo effect now? When you optimize for a number, you'll get that number -- and it will deceive you.




A special case of Goodhart's Law, as applied to public policy.


Very similar to the conversation around the gender wage gap as well.


Why was this downvoted? Women tend not to be crazy like men and thus are more likely to choose fulfiling careers that have lower pay, and seek more work life balance. When accounting for these factors, the existence of a gender pay gap becomes more questionable.


Despite the guideline-flouting/flame-attracting wording, I think there's a kernel of a point here: it's important to consider two seperate pay-gap issues (be it for gender, race, or any other class):

1) equal pay for equal work

2) equal represenatation among (higher paying) jobs

I routinely see these two issues conflated, and occasionally the purported resolution of #1 for gender being trotted as evidence of no more "gap".

Although I can see how that could be characterized as "cherry-picking" a statistic, it doesn't make the statistic any less valid, and it detracts from the real problem of conflation. If it's true, then additional effort at #1 would, indeed, be wasted. It would be better to criticize the notion of just one "gap" rather than any cherry-picking.

How does this relate to the topic at hand? The original commentor suggested a problem of conflation, between "unemployed" and "jobless".

Elsewhere in the thread, it's been discussed whether workforce participation is a more meaningful metric.

Even that risks conflating "employed" with "fully employed" (as opposed to "underemployed", such as part time or working for a lower wage). Real wage growth comes up repeatedly, presumably because of that confounding factor.


not every post has to be completely on topic, it was topical to the issue of unreliable figures skewing economic data which was what the subtopic was about. I admit he was bringing up an inflammatory topic, but really I expect a place like hacker news to have a user base that can handle that objectively

As for equal pay for equal work - I'd be very surprised if women aren't getting that, because that's illegal and you'd expect that to show up in the form of many many lawsuits.

Yes there does seem to be an issue of some workplaces that have a boys club type environment and fail to promote women - but I don't know if that's big enough to explain the dramatic wage gaps that are touted by some people.


If there is a pay gap, I suspect it's at least partially determined by a person's tendency to negotiate salary. There are many articles about how salary negotiation is crucial when applying for a job, yet many women and men often accept the first offer a company makes to them (which is usually a low ball offer).

Negotiating a higher salary requires a bit more drive/aggressiveness than the average person has. Making up numbers here, if you say that only 20% of the population has that personality trait, men seem more likely to have that trait (perhaps 15% of men have it and 5% of women), which would contribute to the equal pay for equal work gap.

To rephrase my above statement, the current job market rewards certain personality types with higher positions & salaries, and men seem to have a higher chance of having that personality.

A completely separate question is: Is the above an acceptable situation? I would say no.

For example, more men are three times more likely to be psychopaths than women [1], and CEOs have a much higher chance of being psychopaths than the general population [2]. There's a strong chance that certain psychopathic tendencies are rewarded in the current corporate structure.

Similarly, there are other stories you hear of there being a lot of backstabbing in certain companies at the higher levels. Personality types that are disinclined to engage in that will be unlikely to climb the corporate ladder there.

It's probably in the best interest of all companies and society in general that these kind of personality traits are not rewarded unless they are actually beneficial.

By fixing the problem at this level we'll not only be solving the gender/pay gap between men and women but also the gender pay/gap between differing personalities within a given gender as well.

[1](https://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/mental-disord...) [2](http://www.businessinsider.com/ceos-often-have-psychopathic-...)


> It's probably in the best interest of all companies and society in general that these kind of personality traits are not rewarded unless they are actually beneficial.

I have another theory. Some people are so incompetent that they end up as C-level execs. Incompetent people tend to promote equally or more incompetent people.


First, when you control for everything there is still a gap, it's just smaller. 94 cents on the dollar is nothing to sneeze at.

Second, when you do that you're sort of controlling the problem away. Women don't seek more work/life balance because they're not as crazy as men. They do it because they're expected to carry more of the burden of raising a child. The literature is clear that the wage gap is relatively small until children enter the picture. After that the gap skyrockets.

This is why the main practical goal of every wage gap activist is equalizing the burden of having a child. It's why the number one policy issue is universal mandatory parental leave for both genders.


Well there are other factors you need to control for too, men are more likely to try and choose higher paying jobs because social status and attractiveness to potential mates is impacted by a man's wealth. This is not the case for women, studies show that men are indifferent to a women's economic status when it comes to mate choice and focus more on physical appearance.

There certainly is sexism in the workplace, although the court ruled different I think Ellen Pao was a victim of this. That said, I don't know if it as prevalent and widespread so as to lead to meaningful and statistically significant wage gaps when all the factors are considered. Certainly the evidence for this sort of widespread institutionalized sexism is lacking in my mind.

Still I think the conversation here is more that the wage gap numbers are not as significant as they are often presented in discourse about gender equality


I'm just going to point out that status-chasing is controlled for in what he described. The .95 cents on the dollar figure appears when you compare populations of men and women in similar roles with similar performance. You're confusing wage gap 1 (pay for performance) with gap 2 (seniority/glass ceiling).

Saying you need to control for things that have already been controlled for doesn't leave a particularly good impression.


I assume you're refering to the CONSAD reserach study which found a gap of between 95 to 93 cents on the dollar. That study did not in fact control for status chasing - nor did it compare men and women in similar roles with similar performance, they also found that the wage gap was not statistically significant enough to warrant corrective action


Yes it did. It controlled for hours worked and industry. That is, it controlled for men working harder and choosing higher paying jobs.


What makes “that the wage gap numbers are not as significant as they are often presented” an important conversation for you?

To me it seems like an uninteresting tautology. Like these others:

“False statements about immigration numbers are often presented in discourse about naturalization policies”

“Misleading financial figures are often presented in discourse about what stocks to buy.”

It’s like... yah. So?

All discourse is full of garbage. If you are interested in the truth, you weed through that and evaluate the numbers and, according to best practices, find a good estimate.

When you do that, you find there is a substantial gender-attributable pay gap in many countries in many industries.

Why that is and how we change it seems like a worthy discussion.

I am curious to why you think the existence of people with a poor understanding of the facts is a worthy topic of conversation.

There will always be people in “the discourse” saying wrong things. If that’s all it takes to halt the important conversation about how women get pay equity, then you have yourself a surefire tool to ensure that conversation never happens. Or at least that you never have to participate.


Well in this case the people who are wrong include most of academia, most of the popular media, and the former president of the United States. They were all touting the 77 cents figure I think that's a pretty big deal.


You should read some actual research if you truly think the broad academic consensus is that women make 77 cents on the dollar and that's the end of the story.


I see much more media disputing the 77 percent figure than presuming it. Don’t you?

(And as a side note, the existence of a raw 77% gap is factually true. Media would have to argue that it’s entirely due to sexism for them to step into territory you object to)


https://web.stanford.edu/~diamondr/UberPayGap.pdf

"Female Uber drivers make 7% less per hour than their male counterparts—even though the algorithms that determine pay for the ride-hailing service are gender blind, according to a multi-year study."


If you read the study, they find the gap is fully explained by two factors: 1) men drive faster 2) men work more hours, and therefore learn the platform faster.

If their conclusion is accurate, I am puzzled as to what solution can be proposed. Should we lower speed limits or cut mens’ hours?


Wouldn’t driving fast earn you less? Cab drivers for years have been accused of taking intentionally longer routes to inflate their pay. Isn’t taking a long route effectively the same as driving slow?

Apologies if I don’t understand the uber cost structure. Is there not a time component in the service charge similar to cabs?


The biggest component of the price is distance traveled so driving faster means you make the almost fare for a trip and finish the trip in less time so that you can complete more trips in the same amount of time. There is also a time component, but it is pretty small, so it wouldn't be worth the driver's time to take more time without also covering more distance.

Taxis often take this even farther and make the time component only include time where the taxi is going less than fixed, fairly low speed (in NYC it is 12 mph), so slowing down from 25 mph to 20 mph wouldn't gain them any extra money on the fare but would cost them extra time.


I remember someone argued that the algorithm must be sexist because it rewards aggressive driving behavior (although in reality the difference in speed was 1-2 mph IIRC) and it should thus pay women more to account for their different driving style.


>control for everything

The studies do not "control for everything". For example I have never seen

1. Control for the much higher levels of sick days taken by women.

2. Control for the product of hours worked and years worked. Women work fewer hours and spend more years out of the work-force. This has a multiplicative effect on "hours of work experience"

Additionally the power of "controlling for X" is vastly overstated. In reality it is only reliable when the different factors are close to orthogonal, have linear relationships and are not causally related. Typically none of the above are true.


It gets downvoted because that topic has long transcended being a discussion about interpretation of available data, and has instead turned into a cultural and moral battle over "liberators of the oppressed" vs "evil misogynists" or "whiny snowflakes" vs "those who pull themselves by their bootstraps".

Almost impossible to make any progress in it without appeal to emotion and in-group/out-group dynamics.


But still there is an actual set of facts here.


Citations needed


work life balance: Men work longer hours

https://www.forbes.com/sites/karinagness/2016/06/30/new-repo...

Women tend to choose more fulfilling lower paying careers (last point on fortune and second last on time)

http://fortune.com/2018/04/10/gender-pay-gap-myths/

http://time.com/5230911/equal-pay-day-2018-wage-gap-myths/

I don't have the original studies but I think the news sources here are fairly reliable


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sealioning

Perhaps you can find the citation yourself and use it to counter the point you are replying to.


I don't follow the connection between your link and your comment. The user you replied to was, themselves, replying to another user making appeals to expertise about what "the literature" says, without actually supplying that literature.

The burden of proof is on the person making the claims. What is freely asserted is freely dismissed. How would the user you replied to even go about searching for the citation, given so little information to go off of?

The link you provided seems to allude to someone announcing their personal preference, which should not have to be defended. Assertions of what scientific literature have established as accepted wisdom are free game for questioning. That's what gives theories their fundamental efficacy, being able to withstand reasonable criticism.


> What is freely asserted is freely dismissed.

Then kindly leave it at that. It is, after all, the nature of friendly and disagreeable conversation. Crying to me about it certainly isn't productive.


You made an assertion that someone was being unreasonable in their requests for citations. You projected some buzzword made up by a webcomic, and then tried to associate it with something else entirely, as if demanding citations is the province of mouth breathers. You then misinterpreted my reply in the worst possible light, to fit the conspiracy that supports your original points. And now you're playing the victim card yourself because you have no further merits to argue.

If simple enumeration of the fallacies contained your arguments is seen as a personal attack, You don't have a lot of ground to stand on when you accuse other people of being trolls.


I think the misunderstanding here is that a conversation is not a contest. There aren't combatants or winners. But, there certainly is potential for harassment, emotion, and aggression of which all are unnecessary.

If you want a citation then go find it. Don't expect other people to do YOUR work for YOU. For more information on trolling: https://github.com/prettydiff/wisdom/blob/troll/Avoiding_Tro...

Anybody who anticipates a conversation is a thing that can be won, as in a contest or battle, is probably a troll.


Nonsense. It’s a complicated set of information that people try and reduce to a single number. If you want to actually discuss it you need to start by learning that there are multiple official unemployment rates.


sigh, and yet it's a key statistic needed to make decisions... improvements welcome!


You can get a lot of detail and try to correct things, for instance see this graph from the wikipedia article

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9b/US...


it's extremely political. By the way you define it you can explain the need for some reforms or display how good you were.


Arguably most importantly, the labor force participation rate for prime age workers continues to move up.

It persistently fell from 83.3% in January 2008, to September 2015, where it bottomed out around 80.6%. It has been climbing since then, and is now up to 81.8%. Getting that back up near 83% would be a big win for the economy.

The highest that has ever hit, is 84.5% in 1999/2000. Healthy has historically (in the last 30 years) been anything around or above 83%. I think it's plausible the US can return to that figure in the next year.

We've struggled with the prime age unemployment due in part to the big loss in production jobs since ~2000. The continued recent (curved upward again at the end of 2016 [1]) boom in manufacturing jobs (exports are at an all-time high) should pull a lot of blue-collar workers back into the labor market. The manufacturing sector unemployment rate is incredibly low at 3.1% (lowest since June 2000, other than the 2.6% it hit before Christmas 2017).

Trump, were he wiser on macro strategy, would resolve NAFTA, close out the trade conflict with Canada & Mexico soon, come to a deal with the EU, and then focus all the trade war on China. US manufacturing will continue to boom, cheap energy and improved margins will largely ensure that. The only serious threat is some really bad trade moves with the non-China trading world.

[1] https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/CES3000000001


i think this needs to be analyzed per gender. Because 2 curves are very different.

Female participation rates have been rising historically and it's completely recovered to pre-2008 levels https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/LREM25FEUSM156N

Whereas, male participation rates are declining and did not recovered completely yet. https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/LREM25MAUSM156N


In June: "And a broader definition of unemployment, which includes people who have given up looking for a job out of frustration, fell to 7.6 percent." - NYTimes

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/01/upshot/we-ran-out-of-word...


I have no reason to believe either of you are being dishonest. So taking what you've both posted at face value, i have to conclude that nearly every other adult demographic in the US, does much better employment wise than men. Which is odd?

I wonder if you actually only counted white and asian men, would the statistics look any better?

EDIT: I just realized how terrible that may have sounded. I'm genuinely only curious about what's causing this apparent disparity. (A disparity that must be a bit severe mathematically speaking.) So my "off the cuff" guess would be that large sections of black, hispanic, and native american men are not really able to participate in the employment markets. And that's maybe how the numbers get so high for men in general?


If you look at Glaeser's publication[0] (page 10) he defines the rate that he is citing as "the share of men who are not currently employed, or one minus the employment to population rate for prime men". That is a much broader measure of unemployment than even the already very broad U6 measure that NYT is reporting as this would include every single person without a job regardless of the reason that they don't have a job. This number would include full-time students, stay-at-home parents, disabled people, retirees and so on. For comparison, using that measure the absolute lowest level of unemployment that the US has ever had for the age 16+ population as a whole is about 35%[1] (this source reports employment to population rate, so it will be 100% minus the rate that Glaeser is using) or 18% for all people age 25-54[2].

Men in that age range are actually employed at a higher rate than most other demographics. He is making a point about men in that age range being employed at a relatively low rate compared to historic rates for that same demographic, not their employment rate compared to other demographics now. Men age 25-54 have at times had rates getting close to 5%[3].

However, this can't entirely be blamed on a poor job market because it has become much more acceptable for men to take the role of a stay-at-home parent or caretaker than it would have when their employment rate peaked in the late 1960s. There are almost far more students in that age range than there would have been in the 60s.

[0] https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/glaeser/files/jobs_for_the...

[1] http://www.multpl.com/us-employment-population-ratio

[2] https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/LREM25TTUSM156S?utm_sourc...

[3] https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/LREM25MAUSA156S


The parent poster said "11.9% of U.S. men aged 25-55 have been jobless for over 12 months." It's very possible that ~4% of those people don't want to work, or don't work for various reasons (stay-at-home-dad?).


The difference may more likely be due to different ways of classifying a particular person as unemployed?

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/080415/true-...


The first sentence in the article implies the second sentence in your comment.

This morning, the Labor Department announced that the national unemployment rate ticked up to 4 percent in June for good reasons, as hundreds of thousands more Americans sought work.


If they this is true, this will be amazing. For too long we have sold out the American worker to unfair trade and offshoring.

It’s great to see our workers in neglected sectors of the economy have a chance to get back in.


Economy has been on the same direction for many many many years, that was before the trade wars started. If anything, the trade wars might stop this whole movement.

Sure some workers of neglected sectors got a boost (coal), but at what cost? Funny how there is little talk of the solar workers that got laid off following those change in policies.. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/07/us-solar-industry-lost-nearl...


I'm seeing lots of "help wanted" signs. In fast food places. This isn't progress.


Maybe that’s a proxy for people being hired away into higher paying jobs?


Read the article

"Yet the experience of towns like Ames and Des Moines show that such “labor shortages” might be due to insufficient wages and crummy working conditions — not an unwillingness of workers to switch industries or improve their skills for a job. The trucking industry is instructive here: Trade groups have argued that it is facing a shortfall of 51,000 workers, yet businesses have not yet shown much willingness to cut hours, boost pay, and improve conditions to lure workers in. Indeed, across the economy, companies have shown a remarkable unwillingness to boost wages, with growth barely keeping pace with inflation even as the unemployment rate has dropped to 4 percent"

This isn't progress


...What do you think progress looks like?

Who works in fast food and why? Mostly people who are either don't have any skills to work anywhere else or people who can't work anywhere else.

When there is high unemployment, high skill workers will be more willing to take a less desirable job in order to survive. As unemployment drops, the high skill workers leave the undesirable job and find better work(more pay, better hours, etc.). Fast food places then have to either raise wages or higher less skilled workers to replace those who have left.

This is progress.


Did you read the article? This isn't progress

"Yet the experience of towns like Ames and Des Moines show that such “labor shortages” might be due to insufficient wages and crummy working conditions — not an unwillingness of workers to switch industries or improve their skills for a job. The trucking industry is instructive here: Trade groups have argued that it is facing a shortfall of 51,000 workers, yet businesses have not yet shown much willingness to cut hours, boost pay, and improve conditions to lure workers in. Indeed, across the economy, companies have shown a remarkable unwillingness to boost wages, with growth barely keeping pace with inflation even as the unemployment rate has dropped to 4 percent"


I think progress in this domain would be requiring equal benefits for equal work (and pro-rated benefits for pro-rated work).

The easiest way of doing /that/ is to make social benefits (retirement, vacation time, healthcare) public pools and 'single payer' (but with competition for benefits that provide services like healthcare).


My worst fear, the Worst Case Scenario that I see as being depressingly possible, is that the spread of automation will result in nonsense jobs. That our society is so completely wedded to the idea that everything of value must be gained through suffering and that this is the right and proper course of the universe that companies will be compelled to employ certain numbers of human workers despite there not being any actual need. 'Having a job' is not a natural, or necessarily fundamentally desired, state. Not for the individual, or for wider society. It was a purely utilitarian solution arrived at in the past when pressures were different. When pressures change, social practices have to change too, or the result is always bad. Concentrating on making sure everyone has a job while arduously fighting to ensure that workers are paid as little as possible can get us back to the era before the New Deal. I see nothing that would prevent that. Entire families, youth included (though likely not children, but certainly adolescents), working 16 hours a day, 6 days a week, and barely being able to feed themselves.

When all of society is willing to say "they don't deserve more pay, the machines are doing all the work" including the workers themselves, and 'being employed' is seen as some sort of moral imperative that is more meaningful than a paycheck and totally detached from actually producing value... things can get bad. We should always remember history, and that those people were not fundamentally different from us. They were willing to bear it. We will be too. And while they didn't have a century of fighting against 'socialist' policies so were willing to discuss the New Deal, we are in a different situation on that count. Such a solution would not be discussed seriously, much less attempted.

(But, I don't fear this too much. The fact is technology is cheap and has made people so productive that its far more likely they will realize that companies no longer provide any tangible benefit compared to working directly for customers online, especially once the software is there to facilitate it.)


Does that take into account the incarcerated? From Wikipedia:

> In total, 6,899,000 adults were under correctional supervision (probation, parole, jail, or prison) in 2013 – about 2.8% of adults (1 in 35) in the U.S. resident population.

It's very difficult to find work with a criminal record in the US.


And yet, without enough legitimate work opportunities, those with criminal records are strongly incentivized to resort to grey and black markets (or theft) to make a living. A vicious cycle.

We've got to get rid of the mindset that we need to "protect ourselves", both corporately and individually, from "dangerous people" (i.e. former criminals) by excluding them from our lives and our companies. "Love your neighbor as yourself" applies to them also. Love always involves risk. A noble society values redemption more than safety. Work itself is ennobling, especially when trust and responsibility can be earned.

That's not to say we should ignore background check results. But a crime (or crimes) in the past shouldn't mean they're automatically excluded.


To be fair, "You got caught smoking pot a decade ago, and therefore we cannot trust you to write Python code" isn't the kind of judgment a successful company would pass. That's the kind of thing a doomed company would do.

However, if you got caught stealing a bunch of electronics from a past employer, you'll have a seriously hard time find a job anywhere where they have to trust you with money or property.

Honestly, people who commit crimes against their employers do this to themselves. How could you ever be trusted again when your strategy at the beginning was to shit where you sleep?


"To be fair, "You got caught smoking pot a decade ago, and therefore we cannot trust you to write Python code" isn't the kind of judgment a successful company would pass. That's the kind of thing a doomed company would do."

I don't feel that's really relevant, and the person who is trying to get back on their feet likely doesn't care. They just want a damn job.

"Honestly, people who commit crimes against their employers do this to themselves"

Not many do. In fact, I'd say far more employers commit crimes against their employees than the other way around. And yet, they don't have to worry.


Arguably a low enough unemployment rate can combat this: People may not be automatically excluded for a criminal record, but a company may have "better" candidates without a record. But when unemployment is low and they're desperate for employees, they can't necessarily afford to exclude those on the reform path.


This problem goes pretty deep. Like, down to basic brain function and peoples epistemology. It is far easier for the brain to hang on to binary distinctions, to split things into good and bad. Even if a person looks at a list of 'pros' and 'cons' for making a decision, and decides a certain way is the best solution, they will adamantly refuse to admit or accept the notion that they agreed to bear those 'cons'. They will only admit (even internally to themselves) that they chose to pursue the 'pros'.

If most people were to look at safety only a bit differently, their world outlook would change substantially. If they realized that it is stupendously easy and simple for any of the multitudes of people they come into contact with on a daily basis to kill them, and that no police force in the world could possibly stop such a thing from happening if the person were to decide to do it with no warning, the initial response would probably be fear. But, upon further reflection, they might realize that despite the tremendous ease, despite what others might have gained at any point, it simply has never happened to them. What could possibly explain that? There are ex-convicts, unpleasant people, people with disturbed worldviews, psychopaths, and other 'bad people' everywhere and you've certainly been in contact with them quite regularly. And... you've been, and continue to be, safe.

While it is challenging to keep a human being alive, what with them having all sorts of needs, it is very easy to kill one. Someone walks up to you and pulls out a knife with a 2 inch tiny blade and simply presses it into your jugular and you will most likely die in a minute. Or you could get hit with a car, or something could be put into your food, or your house could be set on fire with you in it, there are innumerable methods that are all easy and entirely within the capability of any normal person. But, killing a human requires something else. It requires the willingness to kill. Almost no one has that. Military training is arduous and difficult because even giving this willingness to the average person is insanely hard to do (and they settle for simply ingraining killing as a reflex response since they have never actually accomplished manufacturing the actual will, so soldiers typically kill before their conscious mind can decide what to do, taking their will out of the equation, resulting in neurological damage that manifests as PTSD but that's another topic). To presume that even a "bad person" runs around with this willingness constantly within them is quite ludicrous once you've faced the reality of how rare it is for such violence to occur.

And then when you look at the violence which does occur, and try to understand it, what makes those situations so different, you quickly notice that essentially all occur in situations of desperation. You might be led to suspect that perhaps the desperation is more the problem rather than the persons involved. Perhaps the 'bad people' who didn't kill anybody the day before or the day after aren't simply murder machines who will always be a threat.

This all, however, requires a great deal of thinking. And thinking about emotionally arousing topics at that. Life, death, the uncertainty of strangers, the fragility of ones own situation, etc. Before you can begin down the road of thinking about these things, you have to know how to think. And you have to be willing to think. Both of those factors are in substantially short supply in modern society. The knowing how to think because we don't teach it in schools (the Republican Party in Texas actually had opposition to the teaching of critical thinking skills as a primary plank in their official party platform not long ago) save in college philosophy courses. The willingness due to a total reliance upon intuition as a guide to truth. Intuition can not deal with these topics at all. It arises from the 'default behavior' of our brains which arises from their structure that evolved to keep us alive (just) in small tribes on the African savannah. It is prone to obsession with fear, and fearing the unknown, and fleeing from threats rather than facing or dealing with them. Until a person can turn their back on intuition and use reason instead, the monstrous 'bad people' will be a constant bugaboo.


Finding work is required for people on probation/parole, if they don't they just end up back in prison. The majority of them are forced into contracting, factory labor, landscaping etc.


Yep, there are plenty of people who could be sucked up back into employment. I’m excited to see if after decades of atrophy, the blue collar worker of yesteryear can have another go at it.

With enough demand, we may begin to see employers willing to retrain these workers and bring them back into the fold.


Are the employees willing to be retrained?

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-trump-effect-coal-retrain...


The alternatives that coal miners have are garbage. They are being asked to leave union jobs with decent pay, decent benefits, protection from unfair treatment, and embrace radically lower pay, radically worse benefits, and active unfair treatment. You can't expect anyone to get excited by those prospects. If computers were outlawed tomorrow, would you sign up to stock shelves at Walmart with a smile on your face and with desire to gather in the mornings and sing the Walmart loyalty chant or whatever it is they sing?


> he found more than one hundred federally funded courses covering everything from computer programming to nursing.

That's the first sentence of the article. You're telling me that in a list of over one hundred course, covering everything from computer programming to nursing, there's nothing with pay and benefits comparable to coal mining?


I wouldn't be thrilled with it, but sure I'd take the Walmart job if I could get it. I've done worse jobs before.


There’s definitely an issue with retraining people who’ve had a job over twenty years and only know one thing and now we’re trying to train them to something diff and doesn’t pay as well... but I think there are folks who are more flexible, people in their prime working years who can be enticed if given the proper incentives.


If any industry is going to be killed, like coal, I think there should be retraining of course but you also need to create jobs in the area that the other jobs are going away in.

When NAFTA was being negotiated, there was similar talk of retraining all the blue collars. There were blue jean factories in Western NC, once they left there were no jobs to move into. Training or not.

Now it is easy to say, "Move to where the jobs are" but for someone who owns a house in an area but has little to no other assets, this is not a solution.


> People who stop searching for jobs are excluded from the official unemployment rate

The official employment stats cover both. U3 is the unemployment rate, which correctly covers only the labor force, while U6 covers the labor participation rate, which covers the population.


It’s worth noting that the job report from this week has explicit data suggesting that jobless people are now re-entering the workforce in higher numbers


"For the first time in recorded history, the number of job openings is higher than the number of people looking for a job."

So what? If there's a thousand Node developers like me looking for work, and a thousand job openings for dentists, that's a mismatch. You may say beggars can't be choosers, but do they expect Node developers who went through CS courses to throw that away and take dentist courses?


The openings seem to be largely in trades or nonskilled labor:

> Competition for workers has gone crazy, Joe McConville, who co-owns a popular chain of made-from-scratch pizza restaurants, told me. “At almost every restaurant that I’ve worked at, you always had a stack of applications waiting,” he said. “You’d call somebody up and half the time they're still looking for an extra job. That’s not happening anymore.”

> “There are not a lot of welders sitting around looking for work. The construction trades, the roofers, the framers, the dry-wallers,” said Dan Culhane, the president of the Ames Chamber of Commerce. “Those are [workforce] challenges that Ames and Story County and Des Moines face.”

> The trucking industry is instructive here: Trade groups have argued that it is facing a shortfall of 51,000 workers, yet businesses have not yet shown much willingness to cut hours, boost pay, and improve conditions to lure workers in.


The last sentence is the big problem. I feel like a lot of industries didn't just make the best of the advantageous labour market in the last 10 years, they reshaped themselves to become dependent on it (i.e., on cheap and easily-replaced human capital). Now that labour's tight again, they're finding that they've worked themselves into a hole they can't get out of.


This is one of the most insightful comments I’ve seen for awhile. Perhaps this is why low wages tend to create recessions as inefficient businesses start to fail. One could argue that these system stressors act as a cleansing agent.


This is actually a pretty common interpretation; Google "positive effects of recessions".

Also, all kinds of stressors can create recessions - from a supply shock (the sudden increase in oil prices in 1979 forcing the US economy to restructure to adapt), to a demand shock (a sudden drop in consumer access to credit in 2008), to sudden shifts in the type of demand (both WWI and WWII ended in steep, short recessions during the switchover from wartime to peacetime production).


Business just got a massive tax cut. They can dig themselves out by spending on increasing productivity and paying higher wages. The economy needs to be run very hot for an extended period of time, instead of getting crashed by an obnoxiously over-eager Fed that likes to kick the economy into a recession to dampen wage growth for the benefit of businesses in the guise of controlling inflation.

Businesses need to be made to squeal in pain here. Run the economy as hot as we can get it for as long as we can and shove wages through the roof at the cost of business margins (which were just considerably boosted via the tax cuts).

If the Republicans and Democrats weren't collectively so stupid, they'd be cooperating on hammering out a massive infrastructure spending plan paid for by a trillion dollars printed by the Fed across 10-15 years (or similarly constructing an infrastructure bank filled courtesy of abusing the global reserve currency while we still have it). And doing that would juice things that much more right now and for the next decade.


Not much point increasing wages if you are just going to erode them with inflation.


The myth of the link between rising wages and inflation is very common in the media, but there is hardly any connection in reality.

Wages will naturally adjust to the equilibrium supply and demand. If the needed increase in wages to increase production pushes prices up such that supply falls then production will be cut to adjust. That is what actual economic theory says.

In the real world their is a lot of lag, so some market participants will be increasing wages and producing too much, and then they lose money, and have to overcut on the other side, but in a massive diverse economy this random noise balances out.

The market will never over price labor, therefore inflation cannot come from increasing wages.

Inflation comes from printing money (or creating it digitally since we don't actually print any more). When the inflation from printing money results in rising wages, then that is a sign to the bankers that they should cut back so that they can keep the poor in line, and keep them from paying off their loans so that they can't get out of debt.

Real world economics.


Yes, I was thinking about the comment "a trillion dollars printed by the Fed" when I posted my reply.


Avoiding worker revolt is the point. If the inflation is bad enough, workers feel pain, demand wage increases. So far inflation has been low, wage increases low and thus cancel each other out (June wage increase 2.7%, May inflation 2.7%).

But from a business standpoint, no point in increasing wages above inflation until workers revolt. So what's needed is a healthy dose of inflation to get workers to revolt, and make business compete for workers by taking the risk, instead of hoarding, and paying more. Businesses and their shareholders have had it really good compared to workers, because workers have been docile and shareholders have been there to scoop of the profits that workers refuse to fight for.


Run the economy as hot as we can get it for as long as we can and shove wages through the roof at the cost of business margins (which were just considerably boosted via the tax cuts).

i gotta say, this idea has some appeal. since businesses tend to use the new tax savings for stock buybacks or paying out dividends instead of hiring and expanding, force their hand a little.


yes. i often think that, too. from the article itself:

Yet the experience of towns like Ames and Des Moines show that such “labor shortages” might be due to insufficient wages and crummy working conditions — not an unwillingness of workers to switch industries or improve their skills for a job.


> they reshaped themselves to become dependent on it

What does such a restructuring look like, in concrete terms?


Slashing benefits and wages. Making long hours and unpaid overtime the industry norm. Getting rid of whole departments and replacing them with third-party contractors. These all seem uncompetitive for businesses, but it must seem easy to do when your entire industry sector is doing it: truckers can't leave you if every other company is just as bad.

The dependent part is where these slashes and cuts are accompanied by lowering prices in a race to the bottom within the industry, to the point where every business in the sector is operating on near-zero margins. Then, when wages overall start to go back up, the first business in the industry to flinch has to raise prices immediately as well, and ends up getting out-competed into oblivion. But if nobody flinches, the entire industry's labour pool dries up, harming everyone.


“There are not a lot of welders sitting around looking for work."

That's a good thing. Welding is hard to learn and takes a lot of practice to get right. There shouldn't be people sitting around idle with that skill.

Ask employers who are whining about a shortage of skilled labor "how many people do you have in training right now?"


FWIW, I sit around idle all day long as a 6g certified welder. By "idle" I mean sitting at a desk writing python and trading commodities. Welding is for the birds, and humans that want to lose their sense of smell and eventually degrade their vision. Welding is not fun over any stretch of time.


Same for trucking. Who wants to spend a month at a time away from family?

When people talk about higher wages for these jobs as a solution for the labor shortage, I always bring up improvements in working conditions (safety, hours, etc.) as a perhaps more cost-effective way to make these jobs attractive.


> Same for trucking.

That strikes me as an exaggeration. Notwithstanding "sitting is the new smoking", I don't imagine trucking has nearly the permanent health risks of welding, especially considering that maximum-time regulations are now actually getting enforced, thanks to electronic logbooks.

> Who wants to spend a month at a time away from family?

Someone without a family (usually modified by "yet") or who's into making shorter-term sacrifices for the longer term. The latter would apply if the pay were high enough, but it isn't. The latter type seems to exist in the military.

The question makes an assumption that isn't necessarily valid, as there's another kind of person: one who has no kids and brings a spouse along to drive as a team.

None of this, of course, necessarily translates into an attractive long-term career, but it's also not high- or increasing-skill labor.

> improvements in working conditions (safety, hours, etc.) as a perhaps more cost-effective way to make these jobs attractive.

I suspect the reason such measures are particularly unattractive to employers is that many would be practically impossible to roll back once the job market turns. Wages are a "knob" that turns both ways, but once you've spent money on all those safety upgrades at the plant, there's no un-spending it.

As cynical as that may sound, for low-margin businesses, the fear of being out-competed is always on their mind. Whether the fear is exaggerated compared to reality is another matter.


And ask what they're paying. When an employer says they can't find anyone qualified, it's usually because they're not willing to pay enough. There is always someone qualified.


truth


Some employers don't have the luxury of selecting the employees that work for them, many union shops in the construction business for instance.


The trucking industry is instructive here: Trade groups have argued that it is facing a shortfall of 51,000 workers, yet businesses have not yet shown much willingness to cut hours, boost pay, and improve conditions to lure workers in.

Now that's a good point. The job could be much better if the employers were better organized. Employers want to send someone out on the road for weeks at a time. With better scheduling, the first driver drives for four hours, stops at a truck stop, and swaps trucks with another driver going the other way. Both drivers end up back home at the end of their shift. Where's that Flexport guy who's always on here when you need him?


There are many loads where that system would create a lot of inefficiecies. The type of loads where it makes sense are already run that way. It's called LTL (less than truckload) and is one of the most volatile sectors of the industry. Wages tend to be higher in that sector, though, and there's more home time, so they tend to go to more experienced drivers with excellent driving records.


Yes, overworking drivers is more "efficient". Right now, the labor market won't let employers do that. The winners will now be the employers who figure out how to give their truckers a better life without wasting too much time sitting around at crew change points.


Or buy a semi-autonomous truck that can be used in convoy mode - one driver in the lead, two trucks behind following. Once it gets to a city they all get drivers to navigate to the depot. This is already a feature of the Tesla Semi.


I don't know much about the job market, but it seems weird that they push people throw college for degrees they can't use. My friend got a masters degree in pharma and he didn't get a job for about 2 years, his wife had to work as a retail manager to support their whole family, and he had a mental breakdown because of it.

That's the point I was getting at.


> masters degree in pharma

Is that a pharmacist degree? Don't those need a PhD equivalent to be most beneficial?


It may be a PhD for pharmacist, yeah. We lost touch a few years ago when they moved away, but he went to school for something like 10 years. So I think it is a PhD. But there were no jobs. Last I heard, even the job he has now doesn't cover insurance, so he pays for that himself and they're still living like he works at Burger King.


I've always heard it was in high demand because every drug store needs a pharmacist and the education requirements are stringent so the supply is not great.


There was a 10 year lag time between when he started school and when he finished. It's extremely difficult to predict what's going to be in demand and what's not over that time period.


Even still there should be plenty of steps in a career between a PhD in Pharmacy and working at Burger King.


Why didn’t he learn JavaScript?


Yes, the requisite degree these days is a "PharmD"


If your thousand "node developers" aren't at least willing to drop the "node" part (assuming there was saturation in that segment) to use their skills in other languages/environment...then they probably have a problem.

(I know that wasn't really your point since you were comparing with something more different like dentists...but the fact that the example specifically said "node developer" instead of just developer is scary)


Because most companies aren’t just looking for “developers”. They are looking for developers who know “X”. The companies that are willing to hire someone who is not a perfect fit are going to usually pay a lot less.


That's... basically the opposite of true.


It really is in deed. "Node" or "Java" or "Rails" engineers are a dime a dozen. There are exceptions and it's more complicated than an explanation on Hacker News can do justice to, but generally speaking, the places you'd want to work for, including (but not limited to) the likes of Facebook, Google, and other smaller but worthwhile companies are hiring for general skills, not tech du jour knowledge.

No Java shop worth its salt gives a flying duck if you know Java's syntax. They care if you understand how to build systems. Caching, queuing, service to service communication, algorithms, performance, debugging etc. If you learnt that stuff in Go instead of Java, who cares? Yes, the job reqs and lazy recruiters will come at you with a list of keywords, but that's usually not what the hiring manager truly cares about.


Most of the worlds developers aren’t working for FAANG companies. I would even say that many aren’t working for software companies. They are working for corporate America writing bespoked apps that just want to get stuff done and want to hire someone who can hit the ground running. If you are coming in at a senior level to a C# position with prior knowledge of Java. You’re going to waste a lot of time. It’s not about the language. It’s about the ecosystem, knowing the popular third party packages that will make your life easier etc.

How many Java developers would come in knowing how to use LINQ efficiently and know the difference between

customers.Where(c => c.Age > 65).ToList()

And

customers.ToList().Where(c => c.Age > 65)

when using Entity Framework or the Mongo linq driver? They would both give you the same result but one is much more efficient.

You can’t imagine the number of times I’ve seen people use a Func<T,bool> instead of an Expression<Func<T,bool>> and wonder why their code is so slow in production.

How many Java developers would migrate toward log4net because they have heard of log4j instead of using the much better Serilog?

How many would come in knowing how to efficiently use ASP.Net Core and plug things in the pipeline?

Knowing the language is the easy part. Knowing the frameworks and the ecosystem takes time.

No one would hopefully ever say a Windows system admin could function at the same level with Linux as someone who had Linux experience.

That’s just like the “AWS Architects” who translate all of their knowledge of on prem deployments to AWS without knowing AWS best practices and wondering why the same infrastructure costs more.

I’ve been a hiring “manager” - more like the architect. I’ve got deadlines and deliverables. Why am I going to hire a Go developer when I can find perfectly competent C# developers that have the skill set I need? Why would I learn Go knowing that the local market wants C#, Java, and Node developers?


> when using Entity Framework or the Mongo linq driver? They would both give you the same result but one is much more efficient.

The competent developer with knowledge of systems know that the first step when using any form of ORM or sql generation tool is to figure out how to look at generated queries.

Also in that particular example, you're dealing with a reasonably common concept across all languages (generators). While LINQ works by letting you introspect the AST and its a reasonably unique concept, when looking at the snippets here it actually doesn't matter if you don't know that: in basically any data structure manipulation code, doing a data structure conversion followed by a predicate operation is almost always a mistake, because the whole point of "toSomething()" functions is to go from the specialized domain into the language's generic's constructs. LINQ is a particularly accessible implementation of concepts that are age old. The Rx family of tools (which do exist in java) follow similar semantics, and then most ecosystems have very similar constructs even outside of RxWhatever.

Those fundamentals won't let you figure out edge cases, but they're pretty easy to pick up once you get it. The system building aspect is what takes a lot of experience to catch. Other examples would involve how to debug a server's memory dump: it's very different between C++ and .NET, but very few people know how to do it in EITHER environments, while anyone who knows how to do it in one can pick it up in another by skimming a blog post in the middle of an outage.

Probably a reason why people should learn Category Theory too. Not quite the same thing, but it would help people make more solid assumptions.


Outside of Silicon Valley in the rest of the country -- look at the job reqs.


Job reqs are a lie, and a lot of jobs (I almost want to say most, but I don't have data to back it up) never even make it as far as the job boards. The ones that do are often not even drafted by the hiring manager, and just written by someone who asked "So, what kind of skills would be nice?". Most companies will absolutely hire outside of what's written. They don't have much choice unless they're looking for entry level folks. Competent senior folks get snatched up very, very quickly, so if you're looking for something too specific, the req will stay open forever.

At least, that's been my experience working in both Canada and in the US, and I've never been close to Silicon Valley (or the west coast for that matter, so if its true there, I stand corrected).


(I can’t reply to your second comment directly)

Whats harder is finding a job you'll love with great career advancement opportunities, using the tech stack you like, with a manager you "click" with, and where you're appreciated.

What does “career advancement” look like to someone who doesn’t care about management? Career advancement for me means keeping up with the most marketable tech stack and getting paid as much as I can in my local market and still staying hands on.

“The tech stack I like” is whatever stack pays the most and has a reasonable amount of opportunities. By definition, a popular tech stack will have plenty of openings where you can stay current.

I choose to work for small companies with highly technical managers. A small company can’t afford to silo you. As far as “clicking with the manager” that kind of just happens with more technical managers when they trust your judgement. The only “appreciation” I need is to be paid market rates based on my skill set. I’ve had managers “appreciate me” verbally but didn’t push for the salary I wanted - I left.

I’ve been offered signing bonuses by recruiters who really wanted to get thier cut of my first years salary. I’ve turned them down. Out of my three requirements for a job - right technology, right environment, and money. Money is the least important as long as I’m making the median for my market/skill set.


I don’t do job boards either - I always go through recruiters. But if you are a “senior Dev” that knows Java and they are looking for a Node Developer, you aren’t going to be anywhere on thier list to hire.


to me, recruiters === job boards.

The interesting openings are through direct connections and referrals.


Recruiters are not the same as job boards. I have recruiters that I’ve worked with for years as both a job seeker and hiring employees, I have met them for lunch.

I can sit back, tell recruiters I’m looking for a salary that pays no less than $X and sit back. It’s never taken me more than a month from the time I’ve started looking to having another job.


It's always going to be better for you if you get direct connections and referrals, but that is not happening at a fast enough rate to satsify employer demand for vetted employees. Additionally it's putting the onus on the employees entirely for making sure they are a good fit for the companies.

If they truly have a shortage of workers they are going to either reduce the stringency of their requirements, raise wages to entice workers to come to them instead of competitior's, or train employees. The SF area does some of the wage raising, when they aren't colluding with each other to keep wages down, but the rest of the country seems content to just complain about a lack of qualified people without doing anything to change their situation


I kept a spreadsheet of when I was looking for a job in 2015 using recruiters. This was after filtering for location and salary. This was all within a two week period.

I network like crazy - with people who know where the jobs are.

Leads: 16

Position filled: 4

Phone Screens: 9

I didn’t like tech stack: 2

Didn’t have qualifications and didn’t apply: 1

In person interviews: 4

Offers: 4

Rejections: 0 - I took myself out of the running after accepting an offer.

I actually had 6 phone screens in one day from different companies.

Notice that out of the 16 “leads” none of my resumes disappeared down a black hole. I always knew where I was in the process and I knew that someone in the position to hire me was considering my resume.

Also, I don’t contribute my 100% non failure rate to being a special snowflake. I was able to discuss each lead with a recruiter and had inside knowledge of what the hiring manager was looking for.

I’ve worked with recruiters to hire people. The good ones form a professional relationship with the hiring company.

Back in 2012, I left a job with nothing in the pipeline for a new job. I called one of the recruiters I had been working with and within 4 days I had an offer making $10K more with what was then a Fortune 10 company.

My last job search last year took 7 days from the time I started looking to getting an offer with the salary, (slightly higher), the technology stack, the location, and the company size I wanted. The pickings do of course get a lot slimmer though the higher your salary requirements.


I don't doubt there's people like you who can make it happen and have it better off but there's no way your results are typical. I don't know of a single fortune 10 company that even has a hiring pipeline that could be gotten through in 4 days unless you know someone with some pull, and the entire industry can't be friends with that small group of people.

Additionally look at all the work you've put in. "Networking like crazy" as you say. This obviously had benefits for you and is probably worth it for the vast majority of engineers. However, why is this amount of work necessary to find a job in an industry that constantly complains about a shortage of engineers? It seems like they're crying wolf when they say there's a shortage but the hiring process gets more insane every year


> However, why is this amount of work necessary to find a job in an industry that constantly complains about a shortage of engineers?

Getting a job is easy. I used to work with a guy who had (severe) mental issues, did significant drugs (enough to pass out in front of everyone on the job because over overdoses), couldn't code for crap, sexually harassed every person with breasts in the office (long story on how he got hired in the first place). When they threatened to fire him, he quit, and had a well paying job 3 weeks later.

Whats harder is finding a job you'll love with great career advancement opportunities, using the tech stack you like, with a manager you "click" with, and where you're appreciated. This is where networking starts to matter. Job boards and (non-internal) recruiters are automatically biased against this: most of the jobs that fit the above criteria are filled by insiders before they ever need to be advertised. There are exceptions (its a crap shot if someone knows someone qualified to pick up that director/VP position), but there is a bias. I've worked for about 15-16 companies, from tiny 3 people startups to some of the largest companies in the world, and I've (almost) never seen the best positions advertised, except when large companies are growing and hiring hundreds of engineers at a time, and for very niche roles or roles where the company did not have the expertise to train (eg: the first site reliability engineer hire at a company).

Then you also have the cost of job advertisement. Recruiters often take 10, 20 or 30% cut, which can translate to tens of thousands of dollar or more. If you bypass and go straight to the company, and a friend refers you, not only will you usually skip the stupid phone screen and maybe a phase of the process, but guess where some of the money they save will go? Your first year's sign on bonus!


I don't know of a single fortune 10 company that even has a hiring pipeline that could be gotten through in 4 days unless you know someone with some pull, and the entire industry can't be friends with that small group of people.

The Fortune 10 company having a fast hiring process was dumb luck.

The department I got hired in was originally a small startup that had been acquired by the larger company. The hiring manager was the founder of the original company. At the time, they hadn't been fully integrated with the company as a whole.

As far as the results not being typical, I've had a former coworker who was laid off that contacted me because they call me the "job whisperer". I put him in contact with three of my recruiters and he also had a job within three weeks working for a large well known company. I did help him with his resume.

As far as why I had so many leads, I attribute that to aggressively learning only what the market cares about, and at the time, my salary requirements were right in the median for what the market was paying for senior developers (and still $10K more than I was making).[1]

I've since changed jobs again, but the learn things->change jobs -> make more money process stops being as affective and gets slower once your salary requirements go up.

[1] I stayed at one job way too long and became an "Expert Beginner". My skillset and salary suffered the consequences. 10 years, 5 jobs, and a lot of studying later, I'm just now at the median salary for an "architect" and still have some gaps I want to fill in my skillset.

Networking like crazy" as you say. This obviously had benefits for you and is probably worth it for the vast majority of engineers. However, why is this amount of work necessary to find a job in an industry that constantly complains about a shortage of engineers? It seems like they're crying wolf when they say there's a shortage but the hiring process gets more insane every year

Out of all of the interviews I've done, I don't think any have been "insane". My technical interview at $largecompany consisted of a pair programming exercise correcting a program and making the unit tests pass. All of my other interviews have been the standard "explain your projects", talking and demonstrating architecture and best practices. I didn't have any programming work for my last two sets of interviews.

But with so many "developers" out thier who can't implement FizzBuzz, you have to be careful.


Your experience is vastly different from every other developer I know. Other than people having a friend who can literally give them a job, ex a startup CEO, it's all multiple days of interviews, round after round of whiteboard coding, engineers being thrown into interviewing you with zero warning so they just middle through the whole thing, and getting ghosted by the companies at any point in the process.

These same companies are ones I see talking about shortages of engineers


"For the first time in recorded history, the number of job openings is higher than the number of people looking for a job."

No way. WWII, for example.


No they expect you to learn COBOL and keep the economic machine turning.


How much of underemployment is caused by people not willing to move? For instance, I can almost guarantee you that if you’re a good Node developer you could find a job in less than a month in my market.


Why should economic growth be constrained to a handful of coastal urban centers when NAFTA and other effects of globalization have hit the Midwest and rural areas of the country the most?


Someone can complain about what should happen and stay unemployed or you can deal with the reality that tech jobs are in large urban areas. I’ve never lived on the coast, but I do live in a large metropolitan city.

I can either complain about the direction that front end development is going and Node or I can look at the current technology landscape and where the market is going and learn what’s hot and keep my family fed.


Couldn't this argument be flipped to say that perhaps underemployment is caused by the lack of willingness of employers to go where the employees are? Judging from the increasing housing expenses, employer and industry concentration has serious effects on local inflation, thus seriously driving up the risks associated with migration.


There is an old saying - “The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.”

But there is s move toward “rural sourcing” where outsourcing companies would use foreign outsourced labor are now setting up shop in rural areas where they can both pay people less than in the major cities and still get the benefits of being in similar time zones and people can travel more easily to be on site occasionally.


Where? Not being sarcastic or anything... really want to know.


Atlanta. Don’t aimlessly submit to job boards. Go through local recruiters.


How am I supposed to go through local recruiters in Atlanta, or have any idea who they are, when I don't live in Atlanta? Are many of these companies willing to pay for relocation?


Just the ones I have used and found jobs through.

https://www.matrixres.com/

https://prestigestaffing.jobs.net/

https://www.htrjobs.com/

http://www.professional-insight.com/

http://www.hays.com/index.htm

These are all reputable agencies that don’t submit your resume without your permission. They will tell you the salary range up front and once you talk to them, they will tell you the name of the company.

As far as relocation. Probably not, but if you’re a good developer and not finding jobs quickly in your market. You need to relocate anyway.

It’s neved taken me longer than a month to find a job as a developer in over 20 years - always paying more.

I moved from a small town the week after I graduated from college in the mid 90s because I knew there were no jobs there.

The salary survey posted by Matrix jibes with my experience at least for Atlanta.

https://www.matrixres.com/resources/salary-survey/


Yeah I would like to find a good recruiter for my area.


I don’t get why it’s so hard to find good recruiters. I’ve had relationships with reputable recruiters for 20 years.


I think for some of us it is just our only recruiter experience are the folks who talk to you and never call back who work for a specific company, and the folks who want to spam your resume or something. It's hard to know who is who.


When a recruiter reaches out to you on LinkedIn, check to see whether the company they work for is local to the area.

I just picked a random city -Boston - and Google’d “Boston software recruiters”. I found two or three just now.

Even with the job boards, recruiters post jobs thier and instead of sending your resume, talk to them. If you have the skills, and interview well, they will be more than happy to work with you. They get a 20% finders fee from the company you are eventually hired through and it doesn’t affect your salary.

If they won’t give you the information for the hiring company when you ask - don’t deal with them. Also, don’t be shady. Don’t go behind the recruiters back, make sure you aren’t being submitted by more than one company and make sure they always ask before they submit your resume.

The general rule of thumb is not to tell them your current salary. I’ve never gone by that rule. I always tell them the minimum salary I want - and no “target compensation” and bonuses don’t count - and don’t waste my time discussing any company that can’t meet my requirements.

I’ve had them negotiate on my behalf after a company was interested for more than the salary the company offered. The more I make the more they make.


I'm not sure it's possible to measure the number of job openings anymore. It used to be an expensive thing to do, as a human would read all the responses, but now they sometimes advertise a bunch of fake positions just to measure the current available talent.


Amen. Try just breaking into it in a world where entry level is 3 years experience minimum.


The "so what" of it is that more jobs than people looking for jobs is a good thing, in the general sense.

As for mismatches, what is your solution?


That’s exactly where wage growth begins to occur. If the market supply can’t match demand, wages rise and employers compete for talent.


You would consider yourself lucky if it was dentist jobs. Most likely it is crappy jobs in service industry.


Des Moines resident. "Full" just means that the number of minimum wage jobs exceed the number of those unemployed. Software industry here is total crap. Only large tech employers are Principal, Wells Fargo, DuPont, John Deere.

Principal will tank when the market drops (company almost tracks large index funds), they have already hearded most employees into shared community desks like cattle with draconian policies against any personal items or even paper.

DuPont is about to be eaten alive by State funded Chinese seed corn.

John Deere is at an inflection point where they need massive RD spending in a bad economy. Either they ship autonomous bots for seed/weed/feed or they become a dinosaur.

Wells Fargo ... isn't exactly the most ethical corporation.


> Only large tech employers are Principal, Wells Fargo, DuPont, John Deere.

Those are pretty impressive honestly.

Wells Fargo is 2008 Bank of America. They will do everything they can to improve their image -- good time to join actually, IMO.

DuPont will be fine. JD can become a dinosaur and still live another 50+ years on name alone.


I've heard John Deere has a lot of self-driving / automation for their farm equipment. That sounds like it would be interesting.


We're also 9 years away from the end of the last recession.

The longest we've gone without a recession in the past 100 years is 10 years.


Goes to show that Obama did much better than he was often given credit for. While Obamacare fell fall short of the medicare for all that is needed by business - imagine not having to worry about covering healthcare for employees for your startup - his overall job of captaining the ship through incredibly hard times was very successful.


This isn't about the President, at least not directly. Obama doesn't deserve credit any more than Bush Jr. deserved credit for navigating us through the .com bust. Since days of Alan Greenspan, the Fed has been inflating us out of recessions, into longer and more unsustainable booms, which are naturally followed by even worse busts. Our economy is like an over-correcting tightrope walker in slow motion. It's teetering back and forth further every time and you know at some point this whole thing is coming down, it's just a matter of when.

To use a different metaphor, the Fed and the Presidents are playing a game of musical chairs with their successors and no one wants to be the one standing when the music stops.


That's not actually the case. If you look at the money supply for the US it has a pretty constant growth rate over the last 8 decades - while the Federal Reserve claims to be messing around with the interest rate to control the economy, the actual evidence that this is the case is quite lacking. (Illusion of Control problem)

So yes, it's not about the President, but the nature of control over the financial system is not through the interest rate channel either.


"If you look at the money supply for the US it has a pretty constant growth rate over the last 8 decades"

I'm not sure how you can come to that conclusion given it is common knowledge and fairly obvious that the Fed has been inflating the economy at absurd amounts to get us out of the 2008 crash.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/BASE


Are the busts worse by % or just by $ amount?


This.

Sadly, it's highly likely that the current administration will - of course take credit - but more importantly - reap all the rewards (i.e. votes) in the next federal election.

I still am amazed at how Obama pulled the US from the brink of utter financial collapse shortly after taking office. Hopefully the next incoming administration will be as lucky.


He did not pull us out of anything - just delayed the inevitable and prolonged the mis-mangement of the monetary policy by the Fed (with cooperation coming from other central banks).

The public debt almost doubled from 11T to 20T during his presidency). He also created moral hazard by not only NOT prosecuting people who he himself called "fat cats of Wall Street", but actually continuing to bail them out (started by W. Bush)


The financial rescue and QE happened in 2008 while Bush Jr. was in office.


You might remember that Bush agreed to making a brand-new "Office of the President-Elect" just so that there could be a single plan of action.


If the market goes up under Trump, Obama gets the credit. If the market goes down under Trump, Trump gets the blame.


More like, if the market continues the upward trajectory it had under Obama, he gets the credit for establishing that trend. If Trump does something stupid to upset that trend (ill advised tax cuts or tariffs, for instance) he gets the blame. He'd get the credit if he meaningfully accelerated the growth we saw under Obama, but outside of a short bump after the tax cuts that saw a predictable correction shortly thereafter, he hasnt.

It's worth noting I do blame Obama era policies for wage and working condition stagnation/deterioration, which is the thing I actually care about (gdp and unemployment numbers are basically pointless if people who have jobs are living in third world conditions). That said, I have zero hope that the current administrations policies will reverse that trend in any way.


The market went flat the year after Obama's big tax increase.

The market started rising promptly after Trump's election, presumably in anticipation of the coming tax cut.


The President of the United States does not plan the economy.


They certainly set directions and champion initiatives.

Also, impose tariffs as we're seeing with the last 24 hours.


They can't make it, but there is some historical evidence that they (or, more broadly, the USG) can ruin it.


While Obamacare fell fall short of the medicare for all that is needed by business - imagine not having to worry about covering healthcare for employees for your startup

Businesses don't have to worry about being the primary source of food or housing for their employees either, and somehow this is true without the government taking over agriculture and real estate.


We'll likely have an inverted yield curve before the end of 2018 for sure. Go back in history to see the correlation to past recessions:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/T10Y2Y

Obviously it's not as simple as that but it certain implies that something uncommon is happening in the financial markets.


One wonders about the extent to which this correlation is a self-fulfilling prophesy. If everyone gets skittish when indicators look too good and reduce investment, they end up causing the recession that they predict!


An inverted yield curve isn't a random indicator to look for to bet on a recession... rather, it is a sign that the market has bet on a recession. Whether or not the market betting on a recession causes a recession is another question, but it is the skittishness that causes the indicator - so any time you see an inverted yield curve, investors have already become skittish and reduced investment targeted at certain dates.


reflexivity is a wonderful thing.



Thanks for this counterpoint, it provides solid context for the data!


It’s from the Federal Reserve, so people may discount it either from a belief the Fed doesn’t know what it’s doing, or a belief the Fed is biased in how it sees things.

But I was happy when it showed up recently. It provides a good explanation about the yield curve and a more specific way to look at things.


Also a correlation between low unemployment and past recessions. It's looking pretty grim...


Conversely, over the last hundred years, the length between recessions has been increasing, especially compared to the previous century.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_recessions_in_the_Unit...


Australia has not had a recession since June of 1991. That simultaneously does not mean they can go another two decades without a recession next time, and it does not mean their expansion has to end shortly.

There's no rigid guide that the US expansion has to end anytime soon just because ten years was the longest expansion in the prior century. Perhaps this one will last 19 years and set a new benchmark, who knows (answer: nobody).


Australia had (has?) the benefit of feeding China (both actual food and minerals and other resources). At some point China will grow like a normal country.


No one said it's a rigid guide, it's just a bit of a signpost.

Could we double or triple the length between recessions? Sure, but I doubt it.


There was a wobble around about 2k just after the olympics and just before the mineral boom.


Past performance is no guarantee of future results.


Yup, you also want to look at macroeconomic conditions around the world, tech trends, demographics, etc.

For example, 10 years ago we had quantitative easing done by US/Europe, which led to subprime loans. Now, all of the major economies around the world is tapped out with QE, so deflation is the theme going forward

Also, 10 years ago the dollar prime rate was 0%. Now it's close to 2%. That drives the emerging market capital outflow back to United States, since there is a great need to pay back dollar-denominated loans before rates go up even higher . This means as opposed to 10 years ago where there was capital diffusion from US into the emerging markets, now there's capital consolidation back into US, leading to great FDI for US.

10 years ago, US had the dual threat of energy crisis and offshore/globalization. today, US is the major oil/energy exporter, and robotics/automation/tariffs is bringing factories back to US.


"For example, 10 years ago we had quantitative easing done by US/Europe, which led to subprime loans."

QE did not cause subprime loans - QE was the response to the effects of the subprime loan era.

There was no QE before the liquidity crisis and subsequent economic recession, although it had been discussed academically.


Also the US federal government has been spending an extra $1 trillion in stimulus into the economy since 2009. We've had continuing budget resolutions since the ARRA was passed, and those always continue spending at the prior year's level. This is why the deficit went up $10 trillion. Or, if you're a half full kind of person, it's why private sector and foreign savings have gone up $10 trillion. Unfortunately it doesn't appear much of those new financial assets ended up in the hands of the so-called middle class.


If US is the beneficiary of the past few years of emerging markets deleveraging and economic stimulus, middle class is a big recipient of the benefits. For example, any middle class who invested in the stock market would have seen great returns, maybe close to 10X if they invested in amazon, netflix, or apple. also, US middle class income has been increasing, reaching highest level in the last year: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/us-middle-cl....


I am honestly curious... where does that income come from? We know it doesn't come from wages, because median wages of the lower 90% have risen less than 2% since 1980. Since the statistic is based on families, is it due to a larger number of 2-income families out of necessity?


For those of is comfortably in the top quintile, this is no doubt true. I'm certain many of us who post here have done quite well over the last decade. However the historical American middle class has, by and large, not benefited nearly as much. The vast majority of the gains have been captured by the top 0.1%.

Please don't mistake me for some kind of commie, PG's essay on the necessity for income inequality to drive innovation is convincing. But that doesn't mean we should celebrate shameless cronyism, kickbacks, and rent-seeking either.

Growing middle class income is nice, but income is a very poor metric to use to determine economic class. Net worth is what really matters.


Er, no. 25 years ago we had Wall Street championing computer backed loan securitization, and repackaging of the those instruments into CDO's etc. That led over time to the subprime loans - as by creating the means of providing more debt instruments, Wall Street them had to find more borrowers. Which didn't end well - it never does. QE was done to stop the financial system imploding when those loans defaulted.

To explain the deflation story especially over the last 4 or 5 years, you need to look at the drop in Oil Prices - which as you point out, is primarily due to fracking and the US going from the #1 oil importer in the world to a small exporter. I wouldn't call the export aspect major statistically, but the change in oil trade terms certainly is.


> Now, all of the major economies around the world is tapped out with QE

Tapped out?

1. Kuroda and Draghi are merely taking a breather. BOJ and ECB balance sheets were still growing as recently as April 2018. SNB shows no signs of ending their relentless buying of the QQQs.

2. No global central banks are prevented from restarting QE or QE-like programs at any time of their choosing. The very second deflation again becomes a threat, you can bet your ass that Powell, Kuroda, and Draghi will step on the gas.

"Tapped out" implies limits to the volume of beer in the keg. Central banks have no limits. It is extremely trivial to begin printing money again if these governors/presidents will it so.


The BOJ will eventually run out of domestic bonds to buy (at around 50% now) They also hold almost 80% of japanese ETFs.

What happens when they buy all 100% of ETFs and bonds? Venezuela?

https://www.japanmacroadvisors.com/page/category/economic-in...

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-09-11/wtf-chart-day-boj-...


As long as the USD is the global reserve currency, the Fed can print its way to inflation at will. Even the most diehard bears during the last recession conceded deflation required the rejection of the USD as the world's reserve currency resulting in the nullification of the power of the Federal Reserve.


> deflation is the theme going forward

I sure haven't seen it. The price of gas, rent, food, etc. have gone nowhere but up for me. Is there any sector of the economy where deflation is actually happening right now?


But it is a reasonable indicator. In the absence of superior evidence, it is better to intelligently work from past data than it is to throw darts.


No, it isn't. Throwing darts is probably actually a better way to make predictions about a stochastic process than naive chartism.


I'm not going to rehash the finer points of a debate that stubbornly refuses to die among armchair economists online. But for the benefit of everyone else reading this thread:

1. The market, and the macroeconomic system in general, is not a purely stochastic process. This is a meme.

2. If by "naive chartism" you mean technical analysis, then sure, I agree. But if you're attempting to reduce the entirety of academic and industrial economic theory and practice to "naive chartism", then your middle brow dismissal here is both incorrect and breathtakingly arrogant.

Our entire economic system is predicated on the idea that there exist inefficiencies that can be profitably capitalized on through cause and effect. No one professionally or academically familiar with this idea claims it's a guarantee, but they also don't dismiss the concept of past data being a useful but imperfect measurement for the future state of things.

Even Fama walked back from the strong EMH, and to claim that we can derive no insight about the future from the past is to utterly dismantle everything we know about the credit debt cycle and market macrostructure. If you'd like to believe that then more power to you, but implicit in that belief is a fair amount of hubris.


Since you seem like you might know, I am curious... those who believe that inefficiencies in the market are what creates profit, and that markets will naturally act to reduce inefficiencies... how do they explain skyrocketing increases of profit and decades-long persistence and growth of profit which is supposed to be quickly reduced to zero by the optimizing market? It seems like a really obvious disproof of the concept on its face, but the concept doesn't seem to be losing any traction. Are companies simply better at generating inefficiency than the market is at eliminating it?


Food for thought. Thanks.


You appear to be making an effort to come off as intelligent and I thought you might like to know that your accusations of arrogance when your post drips with it seriously undermines that.

You fail to grasp a fundamental reality: data about the past can only tell us about the past. Data about the present can be useful for making predictions. Some of it is so useful that using it is criminally prosecuted by the SEC.

By "naive" I mean any approach that relies solely on trends rather than an actual understanding of underlying causal factors. Sadly there are so many of those factors that a correct analysis is virtually impossible, but that's no excuse not to try since some factors tend to dominate others and those can sometimes be found.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/gurufocus_userupload/508204100.jpg


Your third paragraph was enlightening and explained your position reasonably well. I'm not sure I'm convinced, but it seems like an interesting discussion.

I feel obliged to downvote you because of the first two paragraphs, why did you add them? You were trying to refute what you considered an "accusation of arrogance" with the most arrogant opening paragraph possible?


I don't think this response should be getting downvoted; I'll upvote it for the third paragraph, which I largely agree with.

We can agree to disagree on the exact definition of "virtually impossible", but in the broad strokes I think we're both saying some factor analysis can be sometimes productive. In particular, I definitely agree that 1) an "actual understanding of underlying causal factors" is imperative, and 2) an approach based on trends (and trend following) is naive.


Less is more. Your third paragraph makes a strong argument and cuts right to the heart of the disagreement. The rest is a distraction.


Other commenters already pointed out the main thing, but I need to let you know that we ban accounts that include personal attacks in their comments, so could you please make sure not to do that?

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Don't forget the N active trade wars we're in right now. Historically those have been bad for economic growth.


Yeah and full employment is also a recession predictor


It helps that we've been at war for ~17 years straight and are still largely quantitatively easing things.


We've been in armed conflict somewhere or another for over a century straight


Wars don't tend to grow economies, and QE stopped in 2014.


QE stopped in 15, but the balance sheets were still full of them until the end of last year, we are just starting to get out of the effects of QE and to see how things will really look over the next few years [q] And war is very profitable and keeps money circulating, may not grow and economy but it will sure stabilize it while there are people to kill and things to break.

[q] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/24/the-fed-launched-qe-nine-yea...


That article does not state QE purchases were made in 2015.

QE "Purchases were halted on 29 October 2014" [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantitative_easing#US_QE1,_QE...


They do if you win, and don't fight the war on your own soil.


Not even necessarily then. Wars divert resources such as metals, chemicals, food, to be consumed overseas instead of in better economic activity. The US has been in wars for decades, adding trillions to the current debt and trillions more to future liability. Those trillions spent on infrastructure, science, education, etc., would have had a far better effect on the lives of people in the US than spending it on wars.

Think of the amount - trillions already spent on war. And trillions more in debt because of it.


Tell me again how WWII didn't end the Depression because of the massive demand for workers and the associated economic activity they generated?

Confused...


Cherry picking one case where one economy entered a war in a depression and exited out of a depression ignores all the other cases where wars made a country poorer.

Tell me again how WWII helped all the various economies involved and was not a net loss to the majority of them?

Confused...


> Yet the experience of towns like Ames and Des Moines show that such “labor shortages” might be due to insufficient wages and crummy working conditions — not an unwillingness of workers to switch industries or improve their skills for a job.

I think this sentiment has been repeated time and again here on HN.

I suspect the tech community is particularly attuned to it, as our sector has something like this employment situation even when the economy as a whole isn't doing as well.


There are some other great numbers with respect to this full employment

- In 2017 the combined reshoring and related foreign direct investment (FDI ) announcements surged, adding over 171,000 jobs in 2017. he U.S. had gone from losing net about 220,000 manufacturing jobs per year at the beginning of the last decade, to adding net 30,000 jobs in 2016. http://reshorenow.org/blog/reshoring-initiative-2017-data-re...

- Within the United States, growth also has become more balanced across industries. As in past years, the service sector, supported by growth in employment and real wages, has grown steadily with increases in retail trade, business services, personal services and construction activity. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/bbrbin/166/

- Job-hopping increases, in possible boon to wage growth and productivity https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-this-economy-quitters-are-wi...


And here I am. Laid off after 2 months, among hundreds of workers, and unable to find employment. Someone tell me more about these "more jobs than people" again. BTW I have a B.S in Computer Science and living in the USA.


Since you're using a throwaway, could you provide some real details to back your statement? E.g. experience level, skill sets, region, jobs you aren't interested in applying for, what kind of things that you think could make the situation better for you, willingness to relocate, willingness to accept a shit job with a good company to work your way to a better job, etc?

I ask because my mom is a 68 year old woman with a high school education in a rural community and she's had probably 6 jobs in the last two years. They aren't awesome paying jobs but at least half of them were full time and enough to squeak by. She just tries them on for size and quits them if they don't fit. Definitely a job hopper, but I don't understand how she can get so many jobs in a depressed area in the midwest and folks like yourself remain unemployed.


Solidarity! I was unemployed for much of 2017 myself. It's not that you (or I) don't have skills. It's that employers now seem to have such precise preferences that everyone is the "spiky kid" instead of the "broad fit". I've been turned down for jobs because, "While you definitely have the skills and you're smart, you just don't seem to be moving your career in that Ruby on Rails direction." In the same job search, I was told that I didn't have enough Rails experience even though I passed all the interview tasks just fine. These were for junior engineering positions!

Well, self-fulfilling prophecy: now I'm following my more heartfelt interests and doing a PhD in neuroscience. Turns out finding a lab that fit my interests perfectly worked great.

Which is to say: being the "spiky fit" actually sucks, but it seems to be what the labor market is targeting right now.


Where in the USA? I know a lot of folks hiring, both regionally and locally.


"more jobs than people" can still be true, even if you don't find your preferred job.


Looking at statistics instead of stories:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/IAPCPI

In Iowa 2008 was the biggest drop in nominal personal income since 1955. The period 2009-2017 had the slowest nominal personal income growth since the end of the great depression in 1931. 2017 was one of 3 years to record negative income growth in the last 50 years (2008, 1993).

This all speaks of a labor market working far beneath capacity, one that hasn't yet made up the loss of income from the last recession. One no where close to full employment which leads to constant and substantial overall income gains.


Interestingly, of the neighboring states, only SD exhibits the same shape of curve (although NE is close, with a decreasing of the slope at the end, like KS, which is nearby).

It certainly doesn't seem like full employment, but it also doesn't seem like it can be extrapolated to the other 99% of the population in other states (not that I'm saying that's what you were implying).


I hate these kinds of numbers because they hide the fact that most of these jobs do not provide a living wage.


The article says the exact opposite.

"employers bidding more to attract new workers and offering raises to retain their existing staff." "The rate of wage growth has doubled of late"


It also says:

> Yet the experience of towns like Ames and Des Moines show that such “labor shortages” might be due to insufficient wages and crummy working conditions

> Indeed, across the economy, companies have shown a remarkable unwillingness to boost wages

> Low wages continue to be an extraordinary problem preventing workers from connecting with a good job and keeping potential employees on the sidelines — in Iowa and across the country.

> “But there’s still this cliff, around $13 or $15. If you are making less than that, you can’t take a job. And we are not seeing too many companies go over it.”


The rate of wage growth may have doubled, but if you double next to nothing, you're still next to nothing.


Hey, how about instead of requiring employers to pay more we reduce the cost housing, medicine, and schooling which are the biggest drains on people expenses.


Why not both?

The economy is healthier with safety nets that prevent people from "dropping out" of the economy through homeless, excessive debt, being trapped under huge debt burdens that limit their options, etc.

But the economy is also healthier when it is fully participatory. When only a small slice of the public has any significant amount of discretionary spending the economy tends to stagnate.


The biggest change to safety nets I want to see is the restructuring of benefit phase out because currently people get in a position that earn more money will decrease their standard of living. That is an awful thing for them and for society.


Yes. That's why the argument against basic income of "it removes people's incentive to work" is so frustrating; to the extent that it's true, it's even more true of the current system.


So instead of having someone pay more for what is a scarce resource lets just reverse inflation? I'm not seeing how that is easier.


Rent, medical expenses, and college expenses have all out paced inflation so it is more important to fix the underlying issues in those markets than force employers to pay more.


Sure. That would be an efficient solution. No one wants to take that hit though. So we’re going to do the other thing.


Doing away with health insurance and student loans is unlikely to be a popular political position...


No, but changing the health system so it is cheaper could be workable. Also, if made colleges partially responsible for ensuring loans were repaid it would reduce student debt.


That doesn't make a lick of sense. Why are employers entitled to cheap labor?


The same reason that landlords are entitled to expensive rent, doctors to high salaries, and colleges to high tuition. Its the market rate for those things. I would say there are much better second order effects from focusing on bringing prices down than the second order effects of focusing on forcing employers to pay more.


I don't think the market explains most of those things. College tuition isn't because there is a short supply of educators and high supply of people wanting to be educated. There's not much scarce about it. I would argue that tuition increases because we've streamlined student loans and marketed college as a tool of mobility. Doctor pay is also highly abstracted from something like "market forces". Rent prices are probably the closest thing to a commodity determined by market.

Also, forcing employers to pay more is actually a supply/demand conundrum. If you want to buy unskilled labor for $8/hr but the going rate is $15/hr you're not going to have much luck.


I feel like we are strong agreeing. If we change the how student loans worked we could reduce the rate of increase. If we changed out medicine worked we could bring down prices (currently there are way to many links in the chain all making a buck). Also, if we allowed more housing to be built, prices would go down.

>Also, forcing employers to pay more is actually a supply/demand conundrum. If you want to buy unskilled labor for $8/hr but the going rate is $15/hr you're not going to have much luck.

The issue I have is most people who want a living wage, want to be done by setting the minimum wage so that a 40 hr week job gets you their. The causes lots of problems because it eliminates everyone from the labor market that cannot produce that much value. So in the end, you negatively impact the young, the old, the disabled, those who want to work part time, even ex-cons by setting minimum wage at a living wage value.


I cannot disagree more. It's a "minimum wage". What good is it if it's not a living wage? What's the point of having a minimum wage that one cannot survive on?


Honestly I would be fine with no minimum wage. I also tend a little more libertarian than most. I am fine with the minimum wage setting a floor to how much people are paid because it cuts down on explotive practices.

That said, putting the minimum wage to an amount that is surviable at 40 hours a week removes people on the margins that would benefit from a job that paid these than a living wage. Note I am taking as a given that a business will only employe someone if they on average produce more benefit than they cost.

Two examples of people on the margin that would otherwise be priced out.

Frank is retired and draws social security he is old and doesn't move as fast any more. He gets a job with the park service cleaning/resetting campgrounds. He enjoys being outside, interacting with campers, and the extra money is nice. Since the service pays per spot cleaned, Frank will never make a living wage. I think Frank should be able to take this job.

James just got done serving 5 years for felony distribution of crack. Seeing his son only once a month has made James decide to go on the straight and narrow from now on. As an ex-con it is hard for him to find a job. In fact because ex-con tend to be bad employees most business don't bother. If there was no minimum wage a business could hire James at a rate of the average ex-con and he could prove himself a good worker and move to a better paying job. I think such a job should exist for James.

I think these are two examples of productive economic activity that would otherwise be impossible if the minimum wage was set to a living wage.


"Honestly I would be fine with no minimum wage"

With all due respect, that's probably because you're not someone who's having to survive on it.

"That said, putting the minimum wage to an amount that is surviable at 40 hours a week removes people on the margins that would benefit from a job that paid these than a living wage."

I don't believe that population is significant, or more significant than those that do need it to be a living wage.

"James just got done serving 5 years for felony distribution of crack. Seeing his son only once a month has made James decide to go on the straight and narrow from now on. As an ex-con it is hard for him to find a job. In fact because ex-con tend to be bad employees most business don't bother. If there was no minimum wage a business could hire James at a rate of the average ex-con and he could prove himself a good worker and move to a better paying job. I think such a job should exist for James."

I do not believe that having a non-living wage job would help, because James would still need to survive, and on a non-living wage, he's going to have to supplement that income somewhere. A better thing for James would be "Ban the Box" laws, which prevent potential employers from asking about criminal history if it's not relevant to the job.

"I think these are two examples of productive economic activity that would otherwise be impossible if the minimum wage was set to a living wage."

And I don't. Just about every example for why it shouldn't happen comes down to business wants cheap labor. And that's not an argument that I am sympathetic to.


You have quite a few objections and I will try to address them one at a time.

>With all due respect, that's probably because you're not someone who's having to survive on it.

I have a lot of respect and empathy for those working multiple minimum wage jobs to make sure their children have food to eat. With that said, whenever I consider a policy I start with how I think the world ought to be and then I make considerations for how the world really is. Hence why I say it is probably a good thing that we have the minimum wage.

>I don't believe that population is significant, or more significant than those that do need it to be a living wage.

Data would be nice, but I would guess that the long term gain in increased experience from more jobs happening would be better than the marginal increased income for those with the now higher minimum wage.

>I do not believe that having a non-living wage job would help, because James would still need to survive, and on a non-living wage, he's going to have to supplement that income somewhere.

James would need to live somehow, by keeping the min. wage low, we give James the chance to gain a work history at a low paying job (while he is provided supplemental support) so he can transition to a better paying job.

>A better thing for James would be "Ban the Box" laws, which prevent potential employers from asking about criminal history if it's not relevant to the job.

Ban the Box is a bad idea because it hurts young black men[0]. tl;dr when employers cannot know that a person does or doesn't have a criminal record, they don't hire from the populations with high rates of criminal records (young black men).

>And I don't. Just about every example for why it shouldn't happen comes down to business wants cheap labor. And that's not an argument that I am sympathetic to.

I feel like you missed an important assumption I made, business will never hire a person if the value that labor produces is less than the cost of the wage. The min. wage sets a floor on the value a person and this hurts people that cannot produce more value than the floor. This is different from the fact that a business seeks to minimize costs of which labor is a major one. That is capitalism, some business seek to pay people that absolute minimum they can to cut costs. Others (like QuikTrip and In-N-Out) pay a premium for better workers to get better value.

What is your suggested fix for businesses wanting cheap labor?

[0] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ban-the-box-laws-may-be...


Frank should get a part time job.

One issue with the current model is that Frank has to retire in due time. He cannot be allowed to work for cheaper while receiving benefits, otherwise he's taking the spot of younger folks who are supposed to be working there at a normal wage and finance his benefits.


I guess you misread my example. Frank is not worth $15+ a hour. Thus a business will never hire him for a part time job because it is a net negative for the business at that price point but both Frank and the business would be willing to agree to a wage that is less than a living wage.


Forget about working in a park. It's a job that is too demanding physically.

You misread the conclusion. There is no need to bring down the minimum wage for everyone, just because he doesn't need a full wage. He can simply work part time and get half the money.


I think we are disagreeing on terms. People support a living wage normally mean legally mandating that the minimum amount of money that is exchanged for an hour of labor is set to $X where X is higher than today's rate.

I gave two examples where increasing the hourly rate would make it so that the business would not hire the worker because it would provide negative value to the company.

Working half the hours does change the fact that each hour loses money for the company.


You were arguing for lowering the minimum wages. It doesn't need to be lowered in your examples.


I was arguing against setting the minimum wage to a living wage. I like the status quo of cities and states raising their minimum wage while the federal minimum lags behind. It's federalism in work.


Because not everyone needs to survive on it. As pointed out above students and the elderly can easily be priced out of the labor market if the minimum wage is pegged to this standard.


I can't really agree. There are enough who do need to survive on it that it should be a living wage. And I can't agree that them being priced out is a problem, because back when it was a living wage, students were able to get part-time jobs at minimum wage just fine.


My father went to college in the early 80s, he was able to work as a ditch digger in the sunmers and pay for his school, books, and living off of that. Let's say he worked 80 hr/week 12 weeks a year. Say it now cost 25k a year (that's low) to go to college. To cover that now you would need to net ~$26 hr to do the same thing. The issue isn't that wages have grown to slow, it is that important costs have grown to quickly.


"My father went to college in the early 80s, he was able to work as a ditch digger in the sunmers and pay for his school, books, and living off of that."

Your example is completely invalid today.

"The issue isn't that wages have grown to slow, it is that important costs have grown to quickly."

And employers bear the responsibility for that.


>>"The issue isn't that wages have grown to slow, it is that important costs have grown to quickly."

>And employers bear the responsibility for that.

Per the article [0] after adjusting for inflation "That makes the current cost [of college] more than two-and-a-half times as much as it was in 1988 — a markup of 163 percent."

How are employers responsible for a 163% increase in the real cost of college?

[0] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/29/how-much-college-tuition-has...


"Its the market rate for those things. "

I don't think you can say that when they're the ones who set those rates. Especially when they constantly complain about not being able to find qualified workers.

"I would say there are much better second order effects from focusing on bringing prices down than the second order effects of focusing on forcing employers to pay more."

Maybe, maybe not. But that's not an argument for not increasing wages.


When you hear someone say "I cannot find qualified workers" always add "at the price I am offering" because if they doubled or tripled the wage they offered, they could find a qualified person so it is a matter of price, not a matter of availability.

>Maybe, maybe not. But that's not an argument for not increasing wages.

The initial comment was about paying a living wage. There are two ways to make a non-living wage a living wage. Make the wage higher or make the living cheaper. I think way to much political energy is focused on making wages higher when I think it would be more productive in the long run to focus on making living cheaper.


> When you hear someone say "I cannot find qualified workers" always add "at the price I am offering" because if they doubled or tripled the wage they offered, they could find a qualified person so it is a matter of price, not a matter of availability.

Somewhat related, but sometimes the issue is an unreasonable definition of "qualified". I feel like there are a lot of choosing beggars, particularly in the tech industry.


Isn't the aphorism "beggars can't be choosers" exactly about price, though? (Just the price happens to be zero)

That said, I don't actually mean to merely quibble over semantics and wish to clarify: Is what you meant that many tech tech companies are hoping to hire someone that just doesn't exist at all [1], rather than not existing in sufficient number?

[1] Expecting, like Dilbert's pointy-haired boss that, just because qualifications can be listed in a job description, there must exist someone who fits them all.


>>> I feel like there are a lot of choosing beggars, particularly in the tech industry.

Assuming true, that would be limited to the silicon valley and new york area.

Try to work in tech in smaller cities and you will quickly realize that there are few employers and they can be picky.


True. They're not. Neither are employees entitled to high wages.


Yet, we're in an economy where employers are constantly complaining they can't find workers.


When you hear someone say "I cannot find qualified workers" always add "at the price I am offering" because if they doubled or tripled the wage they offered, they could find a qualified person so it is a matter of price, not a matter of availability.


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