Many years ago, in an era of economic upheaval, my grandfather was assigned to perform one task: design machines to produce products on a massive scale. He was a clever man and found great pleasure in his magnificent contraptions. At the conclusion of his career, having crafted his finest creation, he was terminated in a mass layoff. His superiors, unsure of how to operate his device, had it promptly cut up into 1000 pieces. Technology changes, but it appears that human behavior does not.
I had never stopped to consider that perhaps these machines he developed replaced jobs. In many ways, we are living in such a revolution again. The financial crisis, globalization, and technology have vaulted us into a paradox: insufficient job growth, insufficient wage growth, and low inflation. For it is true that while your politicians want to talk about the unemployment rate, they do not want to talk about the elephant in the room – the labor participation rate.
We have disturbing signs in our economy of people leaving the job market search in frustration, underemployed workers, and inefficient uses of resources. It would be wise, for instance, to allocate more resources to job seekers in trades given these have been some of the most stable jobs in our present economic conditions. It would be a more effective use of existing resources to evaluate the vacancy rate per town, removing barriers to ramp up business. Beyond the tangible tax benefits, this also has the benefit of protecting our remaining open space. Finally, it would be noted that nursing too is another skilled area where demand is high, yet the number of people applying has a shortfall. We have the means to shore this up with proper refinement of our talent.
As we embark into the 21st century, we must heed the call of our small business leaders for they are the true job creators not our government. We expect Trenton to incubate the conditions of job growth. Our future prosperity depends on it.
Robert A. Quinn is a candidate for New Jersey State Assembly in Legislative District 17 (Franklin Twp, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, Piscataway, Milltown)