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Our View: Job losses

Updated: March 21, 2013 6:37AM

The Lake County Chamber of Commerce’s sixth annual forecast luncheon yesterday at the Cuneo Mansion in Vernon Hills highlighted a few of the grim numbers weighing down the state’s economic picture. But we are not alone in Lake County or Illinois when it comes to dismal business news.

The United States lost 7.5 million jobs in the Great Recession that started in late 2007. So far, only 3.5 million jobs have been created, but few of them in the so-called “mid-skill, mid-pay” category. Most new jobs are in lower-paying, lower-skill categories.

According to an Associated Press report, middle-class jobs eliminated by technology and the recession aren’t coming back. This is not the first time to hear such dire warnings. Imagine the fuss in the horse carriage industry 100 years ago as it tried to compete with the fledgling automobile. More recently, the typewriter has all but vanished after being conquered by the personal computer.

Generally, a disruptive improvement such as the automobile winds up creating more jobs than it eliminates. Historically, such changes have been good for the economy, such as the 1958 recession. However, the AP report indicates that this time may be different due to the rapid improvement in computer software that allows machines to do more jobs with greater accuracy.

Another difference is that a lot of the jobs being eliminated, such as an accountant or office manager, involve a college degree. So far, the recent improvements in technology are eliminating more jobs than they are creating. Freshman 10th District Congressman Brad Schneider, D-Deerfield, who spoke at Tuesday’s Chamber function, noted his co-sponsorship of the America Works Act, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Pennsylvania Republican Lou Barletta that Schneider said would strengthen the manufacturing sector by creating national standards for vocational training to replace an aging workforce.

However, it’s easy to push for retraining bills, along with Americans believing that all the manufacturing jobs are going to China. But a more accurate answer is that some of these jobs are not going anywhere. They’re just disappearing.

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