Less-skilled workers face bleak prospects

It’s bad out there — very bad — for laid-off workers seeking new jobs, reports the New York Times. Only 7 percent of people who’ve lost jobs in recent years have regained their previous incomes and lifestyles, concludes a study released Friday by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers. Fifteen percent believe their drastically reduced incomes probably will be permanent.

Though unemployment fell to 8.6 percent in November, most of that came from people leaving the workforce. Employers added only 120,000 jobs. Less-skilled workers — especially men — ave been hit very hard.

After 22 years on the job, (Bill) Loftis, 44, was laid off from a company that produces air filters and valves in Sterling Heights, Mich., three years ago. . . .

Despite applying for more than 100 jobs, he has been unable to find work. He has drained most of his 401(k) retirement fund, amassed credit card debt, and is about to sell his car, a 2006 Dodge Charger. “It’s looking hopeless,” he said.

“The news is strikingly bad,” said Cliff Zukin, a professor of public policy and political science at Rutgers who compiled the study.

What is Happening to America’s Less-Skilled Workers?, a project of Brookings’ Hamilton Project, looks at the importance of education and training, especially for men without a college degree.

The employment rate for male high school graduates has fallen from 96 percent in 1970 to only 75 percent today, as shown below. Median annual earnings are just $26,000 today—about half of the $50,000 the median man with a high school diploma brought home forty years ago.

Workers with only a high school degree now earn about 20 percent less than high-school graduates did 40 years ago.

A Hamilton Project forum advocated two approaches to job training:

Raising Job Quality and Skills for American Workers calls for $2 billion in competitive grants to fund job training for 250,000 disadvantaged workers each year. Community and technical colleges would collaborate with employers to train workers for jobs in well-paid sectors such as truck driving or nursing.

Policies to Reduce High-Tenured Displaced Workers’ Earnings Losses through Retraining focuses on helping experienced workers transition to new careers that pay well.


POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON December 8, 2011

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