Monday, September 06, 1999

Jobs plentiful, but not all gain in market's flux

The Associated Press

        WASHINGTON — With unemployment at a 29-year low, work is relatively easy to find this Labor Day, but the U.S. job market is hardly a placid place.

        For workers, times are tumultuous, with the significant transition under way in the mix of jobs available, skills required and benefits offered. For some, it has meant opportunity; for others frustration.

        Charles Goldman, for one, is sick and tired of being told, every time he turns on the TV or picks up a newspaper, about how there's a good job for everyone in the miraculous 1990s economy.

  The change in the number of Americans on company payrolls, full or part time, from July 1989 to July 1999, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  Figures exclude proprietors, the self-employed, farm and domestic workers, and volunteers. The sectors do not equal total due to rounding.
  • Total: 21,058,000 net jobs gained.
  • Services: 12,347,000 jobs gained.
  • Wholesale and retail trade: 4,272,000 jobs gained.
  • Government (federal, state and local): 2,215,000 jobs gained.
  • Construction: 1,153,000 jobs gained.
  • Transportation: 1,049,000 jobs gained.
  • Finance, insurance and real estate: 994,000 jobs gained.
  • Communication and public utilities: 119,000 jobs gained.
  • Mining: 147,000 jobs lost.
  • Manufacturing: 946,000 jobs lost.
        The 30-year-old Phoenix resident has been looking for full-time work as a mechanical engineer since he got his degree in 1995. It's not that he can't find work. Mr. Goldman toils on and off as a telemarketer or selling computer equipment. But those jobs are part time, lack benefits and don't make use of his hard-earned education.

        “I'm very frustrated,” said Mr. Goldman.

        The manufacturing industry, where Mr. Goldman's education would be most relevant, is a dark spot in today's bright economy, losing 946,000 jobs in the past decade. No one seems to want to help the inexperienced young engineer make a start.

        “They could maybe train and help us along a little bit,” wishes Mr. Goldman.

Construction booming
        In contrast, the booming construction industry, which has added more than a million jobs since 1989, is rolling out the red carpet for inexperienced job seekers.

        Overall, the U.S. economy generated more than 21 million nonfarm jobs between July 1989 and July 1999, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

        The biggest job gains have been in the service sector, with more than 12 million employees added.

        The Labor Department estimates that about three-quarters of the jobs created since President Clinton took office in 1993 pay more than $11 an hour.

        “These are not low-wage, low-skill jobs,” said Labor Secretary Alexis Herman. “You've got good jobs being created at the high end of the wage scale, but the critical factor here is skills.”

Skill factor
        Labor leaders, however, worry that those without education and training will be worse off as traditionally unionized manufacturing jobs, with high pay and good benefits, dry up.

        Those in the market now for jobs, especially young people, are encountering other disquieting trends, says AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

        “Young workers see fundamental inequities that education alone won't solve,” Mr. Sweeney said.

        Among these is erosion in benefits offered by employers. Recent studies show:

        • The percentage of workers with a high school diploma who are covered by employer-sponsored health insurance fell from 72 percent in 1989 to 69.5 percent in 1997.

        • Overall, the annual growth in what employers spend on employee benefits has slowed during the 1990s to 4.2 percent from 8 percent in the 1980s.


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