Full Employment and "Good Jobs"

A blog about business and economics.
Sept. 21 2012 12:36 PM

Full Employment and "Good Jobs"

There's a lot that I often find frustrating about the conversation around "good jobs" so I was really glad to see Neil Irwin's piece about what we can learn about the economy from Darden Restaurants (Capital Grille, Olive Garden, Red Lobster) park this in the right place:

This isn’t to blame Darden; any employer pays only the wages it has to pay to get capable workers. It is instead an indictment of the U.S. economy as a whole. If the unemployment rate were 5 percent instead of 8.1 percent, it would surely be harder for Darden to find qualified chefs and waiters, and it would have to pay more. In fact, you would expect an industry that is growing as a share of the economy to see higher wage gains than shrinking industries, as workers’ training lags changes in the economy.
High unemployment means that workers at Darden don’t have the negotiating leverage to demand big raises; there is always another jobless worker around to take their job.
Advertisement

Food service jobs are often considered "bad jobs" and they are in fact often bad. But this isn't a mystical property of restaurants. It would be profitable for Darden to give its workers' raises rather than close down restaurants if the workers started quitting in droves. But they're not, because the economy on the whole is weak. And there's just no substitute for full employment. Workers' skill levels will still put some kind of ceiling on their earnings power no matter what the state of the economy, but it's persistent mass unemployment rather than anything in particular about specific workplaces that drives wages into the floor.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 23 2014 6:00 AM Naked and Afraid Prudie offers advice on whether a young boy should sleep in the same room with his nude grandfather.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.