When “Job Creators” Create Lousy Jobs

By Dan Fejes, who lives in northeast Ohio. Cross posted from Pruning Shears

One of the most interesting links I found while researching last week’s post on Teach For America was the item on how TFA hiring in Connecticut was denying job opportunities to local residents.

It occurred to me that the author was getting an on-the-ground look at a similar phenomenon I’ve observed with the oil and gas industry in Ohio (and presumably elsewhere): both TFA and fracking rely on short term, out of state labor.

(I know TFA recruits have the opportunity to extend beyond their initial two year contract, but the very fact of a two year contract sends a strong message that the job is not intended to be permanent.)

The degree to which this is happening makes aggregate reporting on job gains inadequate. Necessary but not sufficient. With fracking, for instance, the numbers are terrible – and what were considered dire warnings from activists a few years ago about the dubious economic benefits of it are now blandly accepted as conventional wisdom.

Last summer the Plain Dealer reported that “employment levels increased by less than 1 percent in 15 eastern Ohio counties where the highest number of horizontal shale wells have been drilled.” Then it followed that up a few weeks ago with an article that painted a very rosy picture of a dismal reality: Jobs are going to migrant workers, and the main economic impact is bumping up business to the hotels and restaurants that serve them.

As a side note, moving the goalposts appears to be a feature of crappy job boosterism. In the August PD article, note that we are once again just a step further down the resource extraction path away from JOBS: “Future job growth will depend on whether Ohio’s shale wells produce ‘natural gas liquids,’ or NGLs, which are used by industry and whether the price of ‘dry gas’ used for heating, power production and manufacturing increases beyond the current prices.” Meanwhile, an industry flack mumbles that jobs were never the point anyway: “I think the real indicator is sales-tax receipts that have grown in the eastern counties where this activity is taking place.”

So the relevant question is, are meaningful jobs created? I’d say a meaningful job has three characteristics: It employs locally at a living wage for the long term. As I’ve written before the oil and gas industry would like the public believe fracking does all three, and will be an anchor for communities much like steel mills once were. The reality is far different.

Jobs created for migrants or in a boom town – where there isn’t sufficient housing for the influx of new workers, and those lucky enough to have a roof over their heads often have no toilet or running water – don’t seem like much to celebrate. (To be fair, it’s been positive for at least one ancillary industry.) Similarly, TFA’s transition from plugging individual vacancies to wholesale replacement of local workforces seems like a really raw deal for the communities targeted by it.

This process has been happening for a good long while now. A scrap of folk wisdom from the Clinton years shows how many people intuitively understood that. Deals like NAFTA (which ought to be called free capital agreements since trade is incidental to their purpose (via)) destroyed hundreds of thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs, while new positions were created in the lower-paying service sector. The running joke went something like this: “I know they’ve created millions of new jobs. I have two of them.”1

That trend – which again, folks were very much aware of from the start and had no illusions to the contrary about – is our new reality. We should take that into account the next time we are assured that a good jobs report means that this time, for reals, pinky swear, the Great Recession is totally over. The jobs number by itself is not nearly enough.

We also need to know how much those jobs pay, who is filling them and for how long. It may not be possible to break it down to that level of detail, in which case fine. But such reports should be seen as of limited utility. People need steady work nearby at good wages, and a report that doesn’t address that isn’t (and shouldn’t be) of much interest.


1. Additional appearances:

  • Here: “He said I created 11 million jobs. Well, I met a guy the other day that got three of them. “
  • Here (PDF): “President Clinton has created millions of new jobs—I have three of them!”
  • Here (PDF): “Oh sure, America is creating millions of new jobs. And I’ve got three of them.”
  • And I remember seeing it in an editorial cartoon as well (that’s where I first read it) but don’t remember who or where.


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  1. Rob

    College Grads Taking Low-Wage Jobs Displace Less Educated


    “The share of Americans ages 22 to 27 with at least a bachelor’s degree in jobs that don’t require that level of education was 44 percent in 2012, up from 34 percent in 2001.”

    “The labor participation rate for those ages 25 to 34 with just a high school diploma fell four percentage points to 77.7 percent in 2013 from 2007. For those with a college degree and above, the rate dropped less than 1 percentage point, to 87.7 percent. “

  2. j gibbs

    Good jobs are generally limited to areas of anti-social and predatory activity. Non-predatory activities generate mostly poor jobs, because competition and technological change steadily diminish the value of labor in those activities. It is very difficult to extract surplus value from non-predatory activities because these two factors always affect them the most.

    Surplus value is maximized by intense competition among workers, and the competition is exacerbated by down sizing, off shoring and programmed unemployment. These are all cornerstones of the neoliberal paradigm.

    1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

      As most of the illegal immigrants who came here seeking jobs, as well as the vast majority of jobs off-shored, took place during the Chimpy Administration, I guess “neoliberal” is the new “neocon.”

      Don’t get me wrong — neoliberalism sucks. But misattributing these two phenomena to the wrong group (or, more accurately, the wrong sub-set of butt-licking skid marks), is misinformation, pure and simple.

      1. hunkerdown

        Neoconservative ideology provides the goal of a fragmented, oversupplied labor force. Neoliberal ideology provides moral cover.

        You could call it a division of labor, in more than one sense.

      2. Banger

        As far as I can tell the neoconservatives did not have a different philosophy than neoliberals they differed a bit in foreign affairs. Neocons wanted an aggressive military stance and neoliberals preferred multi-lateral actions though I think the difference nowadays is more slight than during the Bush II years.

    2. JGordon

      Predators will keep doing their thing until they eliminate all of the prey available to them. Then they will eliminate each other. The intelligent thing to do then is to reduce your market economy income as much as possible and learn to meet your needs in ways that don’t involve the market economy, thus removing yourself from the prey pool. After enough people do that, the predators will do the right thing and kill each other off.

      Or you could mope around, railing against the system, whining that you aren’t getting your fair share of the loot (being that most is stolen from fragile ecosystems and oppressed indigenous people the first place)–in a very real sense throwing your lot and morality in with those you claim to be so upset with. In that case… well. Maybe it’s better that way; we don’t need a lot of delusional or greedy people around when we’re trying to rebuild.

    1. susan the other

      Not to mention the Obama “administration” which waddles around with turds in its pants because it doesn’t know how to flush that stuff.

      1. susan the other

        I mean to say that we are operating on circular reasoning. Short-termism, like Teach for America (gag me) is clueless about the author’s requirements of local jobs, living wages, and long term security. Migrant labor is strictly an artifact of boom-town pillage and needs to be seen for what it is. Both Teach for America and Fracking rationalizations are totally circular because their means justify their ends. And un-sovereign and un-democratic because they preclude both. Ah! Finance. It is above the rest.

  3. 12312399

    “So the relevant question is, are meaningful jobs created?”

    Do the profits stay in the region? I’d imagine that apart from payroll and expenses, all the money is leaves the region. I’d be surprised if fracking leaves a trail of renovated libraries and endowments to the local United Way.

    1. John

      Travel across the country, stop anywhere these days. Look around, nothing but chain stores. People paid barely enough to live on if that with ALL the profits sucked out and sent to the corporate headquarters where a few are made fabulously wealthy.

      It’s plantation America 21st century style.

      1. digi_owl

        Supposedly the singular currency makes this possible, as it makes it easy to move money around.

        Various local British communities have introduced regional currencies to counteract similar issues within UK.

        All in all the money circuit of wages > spending > production > wages are ignored in chasing the quarterly profit increase that mainstream economics take for granted.

        In a way, said circuit can be likened to the crop rotation system of farming. Where to maintain soil fertility, what is grown is changed around each season (and in part perhaps even left fallow to recuperate).

  4. JaaaaayCeeeee

    TFA and fracking have nothing on the Disposable Employee Model that’s been the twisted nightmare still cravenly reported, straight faced, as job creation this century.

    The day before yesterday, Gail Collins mocked Charles Koch telling the Witchita Business Journal, “Somebody has got to work to save the country and preserve a system of opportunity,” and Sheldon Adelson’s claim he’s motivated by a moral standard to squash online gambling (that would force him to compete).

    Amazon or Walmart’s warehouse workers and fast food workers know the Disposable Employee Model that Pete’s Workers’ Group defines so succinctly:

    Or listen to DJ McConnell of Las Vegas on working in Sheldon Adelson’s resorts, commenting on Gail Collins’ editorial:

    “… Take, for example, how his Vegas casinos handle certain of their lowest-paid hourly employees: There’s this thing at the Venetian and Palazzo called “on-call” employment. The rules are that the casinos are allowed to call these employees in to work at any hour of the day or night, seven days a week. If the employee doesn’t answer the phone, they have two hours to return the call or they’re fired. If the employee does answer the phone, they have two hours to report to work or they’re fired – no ifs, ands, or buts.

    Oh, did I fail to mention that the Venetian and Palazzo will not even consider giving these employees more than 24 hours employment per week? And they’re free to not call these employees in to work for weeks at a time? How are these people supposed to make ends meet? Take a second part-time job and risk missing that precious phone call from Shelley’s HR goons? That’s probably not a good idea, with unemployment as high as it still is out here in Las Vegas. Many of the casinos out here maximize the number of “employees” they have, while minimizing the possibility of providing enough employment that could be of any actual benefit to them.

    That’s how the law of supply and demand guides the beloved Invisible Hand of the Free Marketplace here in Nevada these days, folks, and no oligarch does it better than Sheldon Adelson”.

    Well, there are plenty of large companies giving Sheldon Adelson competition on wage suppression, not only in TFA and fracking.

  5. TomDority

    Good paying jobs is a relative term. The biggest determinant to the term ‘good paying job’ is the cost of living and working. The biggest component in living and working is the cost of shelter/rent/land. The biggest determinate to the cost of land is what the public space brings to the land…..water, access, energy, infrustructure, sewer, safety, educational opportunity….its why an acre of desert land ain’t worth shit unless the public goods are brought to it or if vast valued resources people want lie under it. Under our current economic/tax structure, where everybody thinks they can get rich by speculating in land values, where predatory and speculative activities are tax favored to the dis-advantage of the commons……it is a matter of mechanical force that money will forever concentrate into fewer and fewer hands……it is also true that the speculative rise in land values will equally rise the cost of living and working on this planet as every human activity requires land in the production of wealth.

    In short, if we raise everyones income – triple it if you want and it will still do no good in raising the standards of living for the simple reason that a coresponding rise in land values would occur under our revenue system. The cost of land would rise and, correspondingly, the cost of living and working would rise to the point of stripping any gains in income and living standards back to where it started….. I submit that the higher levels of ‘income’ would be offset by the higher levels of ‘outgo’.

    Until the speculative incentives for economicaly predatory activities are removed…no amount of general rise in incomes will increase the general standard of living. As currently structured…the continued inequality is assured.
    The solution is found in our revenue system….it is the taxation of predetory/ economically extractive actitivities whose revenue should be plowed back into the commons/common good (alt energy, education, infrastructure, reversing the damage to the environment and societies, the elimination of war for profit, the elimination of incasuration for profit etc.) The taxation would also make predatory/economically extractive activities less profotable or not profitable….this would remove the incentive.

    Note: Companies that produce tangible goods that people want while eliminating the negative externalities of their production are not predatory or economically extractive in nature. However, some forms of income derived by those who run or own the company are economically extractive.

    Taxes are the most important and powerfull tool ‘we the people’ have vested our elected representatives to control. Taxation is the least understood topic among ‘we the people’. Most of us, including our elected representatives, have never given thought to the question and are swayed as if by phantom deities and fear mongering…..this is to be expected when economic thought and teaching has been usurped for over a hundred years, where the Chicago boys, the neo-economics and all have been bought and ingrained with principles incompatable with the actual planet/space capsule earth we live on.

      1. The Dork of Cork

        Georgism in a debt based economy is seizure of land by the bank.

        I see these Progressives wanting to tax the Scottish highlands ……….it will merely industrialize a landscape for little return.
        Whats the point of it in the end ?

        The more and more I read Hudson the more I come to realize he is just another banking operative.
        Its all very sad really.
        So many deliberate intellectual cul de sacs.

    1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

      “Until the speculative incentives for economicaly predatory activities are removed…no amount of general rise in incomes will increase the general standard of living.”

      If this was true, we would not be seeing the middle class disappear, as there would never have been a middle class in the first place.

      If you want to see photographic evidence of what came before the New Deal, visit shorpy.com and do a search for “lewis hines”.


  6. The Dork of Cork

    Its not politically correct to say this but the Irish labour market is not Irish.
    The more dynamic Irish go abroad with a remaining less monetary or dynamic cohort left behind.
    At the same time of course external fellows of various clans replace the less capable Irish en masse.

    When todays 40 somethings die off the remaining population will have a American character where the only ties that bind is money.
    This will leave the cartel with even more power then what they have today as most people do not comprehend and never will understand how a true republic should operate.

    Visitors to Ireland now have that Fridtjof Nansen like experience of America,
    They are appalled by its mindless greed.

    Its exceedingly uncomfortable to look up at the stars from inside this banking petri dish.
    Whats most disturbing for me is the pointless nature of it all.

    You cannot tell the Irish this reality in the main as they believe travelling to gain access to external credit is somehow natural and is good for us.
    The destruction of all that is local is good for the bank so is good for us.
    We were the banks first born I guess.
    A shattered bunch of dumb misfits with no understanding of their history.
    Southern Ireland is now a second plantation experiment for the bank.

  7. washunate

    Thanks for highlighting this.

    The term ‘job’ is as meaningless as the term terrorism or health insurance. The details are all that matter.

  8. TomDority

    Neo-classical Economics as a Stratagem
    against Henry George
    Mason Gaffney

    Micheal Hudson

    Tax Facts published in the interest of Sound Economics and American Ideals – 1920’s

  9. The Dork of Cork

    How do you organize a political movement of whatever colour if the people in the country speak a different primary language and come from a different cultural background ?


    Answer : you cannot , its a impossibility.

    When after a generation or two of flux people finally become more American in character they then have no cultural bedrock and are perhaps even more easily manipulated.
    The intense and irrational nature of American society is proof of this.
    The society is capitalistic and the capitalism is defined by Americanism as they are one of the same.
    Post 1648 Europe was different from America in this respect.
    Capitalism in Europe attempted to combine the clans in its image via the national mirage that slowly became a new cultural reality.
    Obviously America was about the money first……….the concept of any real tribal connection was jettisoned for the idea of a republic.
    But true republics are not popular democracies.
    There you have the core problem of our time.

    1. allcoppedout

      Nah! It was worse than this Dork. Slavery and piracy formed the essential capitalism. When was the last good British job not reliant on cutting off thumbs of Indian weavers or bent trade agreements that suppressed the Argentine working class (to favour elite landlords there and British built railway rents)? Want to use ‘management techniques’ to give US firms competitive advantage or bomb the competition to rubble? Answers from the choices actually made in history …

      1. The Dork of Cork

        True all true.
        I could give you a beal bocht story of irish rednecks under the hot sun but I won’t.

        Capitalism has no more worlds to conquer ……except perhaps the Russian motherload which went off half cocked during communist times.

        There is so much living space for their precious conduit. machines,

        I can see those Fat F$%kers in the great hall now.
        “lets give it another go – third time lucky lads……..We have already turned the people into materialistic commies.
        Lets take what left of their material and leave them with our cultural heritage……..
        It will be worlds last great belly laugh”

        1. allcoppedout

          I’d come over for a pint Dork, but I hear sad tales of extortionate rent on the glass from friends in the pub. Even in the Army we used to cut up jobs into fair portions to do as little as possible to get the work done. Until economics gets round to letting us weigh up what needs doing, I can’t see how we can work out what our whack should be.

  10. George Finch

    When will people learn? The “job creators” myth is just that, a convenient story to create a moral and social good justification for the “capitalist”. The same goes for the “invisible hand” crap. They do not go into business to create jobs, but rather make something that sells for a profit. The name of the game is profit, and a major way to create profits is to reduce the cost of wages and produce more with less labor ( technology). The result is low wages, reduction of benefits, and automation whenever possible . If you listen to these guys, they are saying they cannot make profits by paying “good” or high wages, provide benefits or take steps not to degrade the environment. Still, people use the term “job creators”.

    1. allcoppedout

      A genuine part of what really needs discussion and action George. Let me suggest two business plans:
      1, Restore/build some social housing at rents people can afford, maintained by tenants and an administrative and direct works cooperative.
      2. Form a profit-making administration promising maintenance and rent collection services for tenants and landlords.

      In 1 real jobs and affordable homes. In 2 you run off with accumulated housing benefit and set up the same scheme in another town. Which scheme gets approved?

      1. participant-observer-observed

        And which one do the town residents themselves vote out?

        People understand that the plutocracy is corrupt because they don’t see any value going into the world (even that circulating in closed loops among the plutocrats) commensurate to the trillions of dollars pilfered out as “legal capitalism.”

        The trouble with so much “analysis” is that it always fails to account for the codependency enabling of the public for the plutocracy, while remaining stuck in the divide and conquer dualism fueling the dysfunction in the first place.

        The same greed providing Ben Bernanke a $250k lecture fee is the same greed providing the WalMart worker on food stamps buying a garments made by Bangaladeshi workers in death trap factories for pennies an hour.

        The short-sighted moral bankruptcy is an equal opportunity employer among both the job creators and the working poor.

    1. Massinissa

      Yet even in ‘good economies’, there are more crappy jobs than good jobs.

      It is not possible under capitalism to create ‘good jobs’ for everyone who needs one.

      1. huxley

        You’re attempting to excuse ‘bad jobs’ as unavoidable. I call bullshit.

        A bad job can be made better. Conversely a good job can be made worse. Capitalism as practiced is creating bad jobs because it’s under little or no pressure to make them any better. Worse still, it’s making even good jobs into bad jobs by cutting pay, increasing hours, and increasing stress and coercion.

        That some jobs require specialist skills and some jobs are dangerous or boring goes without saying. Naturally some jobs are better than others, but no job has to be made worse than it needs to be for the job to get done. If profit if your only motive then any job can be made worse than your darkness nightmare, as when Alfried Krupp brought in workers by the trainload, worked them to death, and simply dumped the bodies.

        Consider your apologetics for the evils of capitalism rejected.

  11. allcoppedout

    I agree with gibbs above. This leads me to suspect the very notion of “jobs” as a means of decent ways of life and wealth creation and distribution. The tenured academic living off the backs of student debt and cautionary tales the kids will starve without a piece of paper indicating they submitted to a very poor education is little different from middle-class polite society with investments in slavery.

    Even Hilary or some Gopper actually outed can promise a return of the good American jobs. There will be Potemkin villages of them soon. So what should a good job be? We posted lookouts for an invasion by Napoleon in about 1804, the jobs finally being removed in 1945. Nice work. I’d be a lighthouse keeper if it wasn’t for those damned robots. How do we fall for the jobs promises when we should know the work has long gone, and probably that what remains of it should be eliminated? We don’t need the work, we need the income So what would an analysis based on this be?

    We are prevented from serious analysis by traumatic ideology. This prevents us from working out how much work we need to do and sticks us with a financial system that forces us to work and prevents a rationality worth living in. We should beware both political job-promisers and our soak-up notions of what good jobs are. I’m really only prepared to debate in a new discourse free of this and other historical tyranny.

    1. j gibbs

      I am afraid the only answer is dropping out. It may not always work but it’s worth something not to be a slave, even one in an expensive suit and tie who gets to play golf weekends at a country club.

      When I dropped out I began playing golf weekdays on a ratty Long Island public course. It was great until they started playing the US Open there. Eventually, the nobs fuck up everything.

      1. allcoppedout

        I agree though I’d like a society we could drop into. The world could work on a three day week with the academic holidays I used to get thrown in. I love the way they are making us retire later as youth unemployment hits 20 – 50%. That must make sense in some kind of paraconsistent logic.

        1. John

          Retire later?
          True if you can keep a job if you are over 50 in America.
          The real losers are the ones who can’t and won’t get Social Security and Medicare for another 17-20 years.
          In other words, genocide.

          1. allcoppedout

            I didn’t mean we’d have any jobs to retire from. It was obvious 30 years ago that ‘growth’ in our economies was coming in care industries as those taking a long time dying with money increasingly hired younger people at poor wages to do the care. There is no logic in any of this other than we could extract from practice. Definitions get impossible as ‘retire later’ means ‘draw down later’. ‘Work harder and smarter’ is said to the – er – unemployed.

  12. fresno dan

    with apologies to Dickens
    The evening arrived; the men took their places. The capitalist, in his entrepreneur’s uniform, stationed himself at the well; his pauper assistants ranged themselves behind him; the work was performed; and a long grace was said over having a job. The jobs would soon disappear. Employed as he was, he was desperate with debt, and reckless with misery. He walked from the well; and advancing to the capitalist, insurance premiums, auto payments, food costs, utility bills, rent, and ON and ON, said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity:

    ‘Please, sir, I need some more money.’

    The capitalist was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupefied astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then clung for support to the copper. The assistants were paralyzed with wonder; the men with fear.

    ‘What!’ said the capitalist at length, in a faint voice.

    ‘Please, sir,’ replied Oliver the laborer, ‘I need some more money.’

    The master aimed a blow at Oliver’s head with the ladle; pinioned him in his arm; and shrieked aloud for the beadle.

    The board were sitting in solemn conclave, when Mr. Bumble rushed into the room in great excitement, and addressing the gentleman in the high chair, said,

    ‘Mr. Limbkins, I beg your pardon, sir! Oliver the laborer has asked for more money!’

    There was a general start. Horror was depicted on every countenance.
    The entire board sh*t their pants at the very notion that someone other than themselves should get more money. ASTOUNDING – it had NEVER been conceived, never the less heard of!!!!

  13. Johann Sebastian Schminson

    There is a threshold — invisible to any, but there, nonetheless — that will be crossed by the so called “job creators.” When this happens the whip will come down so hard that the French Revolution will look like the height of decorum, decency, and civil behavior.

    The electric chair or lethal injection? Nah. The guillotine (or being ripped to shreds by an angry mob) will, once again, be the preferred method of dispatch. The less humane, the better (as the mob will most likely have it).

    1. hunkerdown

      If I may offer my suggestion to posterity, 15-20 minutes of air hunger, livestreamed worldwide, seems about fit for the worst of them.

  14. kimsarah

    I hear that fracking jobs and nuclear waste cleanup jobs pay well.
    So does being a politician, under the table.
    Banker jobs pay well and provide good death benefits to the employer.
    That’s pretty much it.

    1. John

      Even getting nuclear waste cleanup jobs demand a good connection. They are highly sought after among the American un/under employed.
      Of course, the cancer is just an added benefit.

  15. Lafayette

    As I’ve written before the oil and gas industry would like the public believe fracking does all three, and will be an anchor for communities much like steel mills once were. The reality is far different.

    Frankly, I do not think the public believes this at all.

    Digging a well and capping it has always been an itinerant job and it does not require all that much skill. Just hard, back-breaking work.

    And that’s the problem. We have no legal definition of what is Difficult Work and we barely have a Minimum Wage. That is not the case in Europe, where the law stipulates a difference in work-hardship and thus different minimum wage levels that can be negotiated by unions.

    The problem therefore exists with the itinerant workers (yes, often a migrant worker) – who escape both the “minimum wage” and the “difficult-work”criteria that could change drastically the salary offered. But, of course, they never make it into a union – do they.

    The US does not have legislation in place – correct me if I am wrong – that protects either the migrant-worker or even the bonafide resident worker with the minimum wage for Hardship Work – particularly in sectors like gas-exploitation. (Some construction jobs would benefit from the same categorization.)

    And when one thinks of the tremendous profit that gas-companies make, well, the rip-off is damn well (pun intended) frightening.

  16. optimader

    Passed away a as a disillusioned geriatric whale, not realizing the opportunity for an apology from stone harpoonist had long since passed.

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