Politicians love to talk about creating jobs and bringing jobs back to areas with high unemployment. They love to point fingers at previous politicians and claim the policies of the past caused jobs to leave and once corrected these jobs will return quickly.

Most recently the discussions have focused on coal mining and manufacturing where history does not line up with the promises.

Coal mining jobs from 1985 to 2016 fell from over 178,000 to 50,000 primarily due to improved mining productivity, not increased regulations.

Manufacturing productivity changes have delivered a similar change across many more jobs than mining.

Manufacturing output increases since 2010 far exceeded job creation.

Government officials must stop ignoring basic economics and glossing over the simple fact that many more jobs are eliminated due to productivity increases through automation, process improvement and higher skilled workers than ever move from town to town or country to country. And even when jobs do go to low wage countries only to find those wages move toward parity with onshore production, the changes are in lower labor costs regardless of where the production resides.

It’s time to start talking about how best to support workers and stop funding corporations to create jobs in industries that no longer need workers in the numbers they once did. This cycle of job replacing automation is only going to happen faster and faster, leaving fewer and fewer high paying jobs for low-skilled labor while high-skilled, high paying jobs go unfilled.

Governments and corporations are working together to balance this equation, but not enough effort is going into retraining available labor in areas where the skills no longer match the available work.  Just in time skill development through targeted apprenticeship programs is one of several tools available to help workers prepare for the jobs that companies are looking to fill.

 


Also published on Medium.