WASHINGTON, D.C. March 9, 2013 — The most important, yet seemingly forgotten crisis that faces America today is a four letter word: J-O-B-S. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.
The bloated tax code, the skyrocketing national debt, the burdensome federal regulations, and the lack of an immigration or energy policy are all part of the problem. They all deserve attention.
But it’s the jobs, stupid!
There are too few of them. Those that have them are not seeing raises, bonuses or promotions. No upward mobility.
On the surface, the February job numbers look good. The economy added 236, 000 jobs, and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, the lowest in four years. Average hourly earnings for workers rose by 4 cents to $23.82. More jobs were added in food services, and wholesale trade. Retail trade added 252, 000 jobs over the past 12 months.
But that is only part of the story. The rest is less rosy.
In February alone, approximately 885, 000 Americans stopped looking for work. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) stayed the same at 4.8 million. There are still 8 million Americans that are stuck with part-time jobs. 13.8 percent of African-Americans still cannot find work. 9.6 percent of Hispanics and a staggering 25.1 percent of teenagers remain unemployed.
Where are the jobs?
While it is true that some companies are not hiring because of uncertainty about taxes, and regulatory policy, it is also the case that other companies have been unable to find workers with the advanced technical skills that are needed for certain job vacancies.
So, embedded in the jobs crisis is a structural problem of a relatively unskilled labor force in the fields of manufacturing, and science and technology.
Meawhile, schools like Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in New York continue to show the importance of education-to-employment initiatives. P-TECH is a partnership between New York public schools, City University of New York, and IBM. After the six-year program (grades 9-14), students earn a high school diploma, an associate’s degree in computer science, and they become first in line for a job with IBM.
This should be a model for private sector companies and educators in all 50 states. Partnerships between the private sector and higher education schools will help prepare young students with the skills and job training they need for high-tech jobs of the future.
America needs to refocus on jobs.
Is Washington even aware that there is a jobs crisis? Republicans and Democrats are obsessed with taxing and spending. No one is talking jobs and economic growth. Getting Americans back to work should be the top priority.
When there is growth, fewer Americans will need government assistance so deficits will go down. More Americans will be working and paying taxes, so government revenues will go up.
Everyone will be more optimistic about the future of the country. There will be a new energy, a new confidence, more vigor.
Solving the long-term fiscal crisis is important. Reforming entitlements is essential. Simplifying the tax code is necessary. But getting Americans back to work now is crucial.
Can’t Congress and the president walk and chew gum at the same time?
Ayobami is a graduate student in George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.
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