The Future (no less!)

David Leonhardt has kicked off quite a discussion with an excellent piece in the NYT. Here’s the key bit:

In 2008, only 13.2% of the labor force was unemployed at some point. That compares to 18.1% in 1980, and 22% in 1982.

Real wages, which normally fall during recessions, have risen in this one. Even nominal wages are up.

Arnold Kling’s view (?) -this quote is out of context, but I think still gets the message across.

I am inclined to view what is happening today as the death of the pre-Internet economy.

Arnold goes on to say that this trend may change education and health care, which suffer from Baumol’s cost disease, of course.

I think he’s skipping a step, though, and is perhaps too influenced by Robin Hanson, the ultimate long-range thinker. I think that Arnold’s out-of-context quote is more normative than positive, more what-should-be than what-is.

The what-is is, to me, that, at the margin, the non-technical are having much more trouble getting a job.

I know that any time I have any influence in a job hiring situation, I push hard for someone who has math/science/programming skills or, at the very least, inclination.

As administrative roles are replaced by capital and ‘engineers’ are hired to run them, the unskilled labour either gets pushed, wrongly, into sales and fails or has to tool up with some technical skills.

Two effects: one, get those skills; and, two: the ways in which those skills can/will be deployed are exponentially increasing.