Stalled on the job front

Friday's employment report showed that the nation's payrolls added 117,000 jobs, a pleasant surprise, but not nearly enough to put any significant dent in the unemployment rate. Why is the economy so stalled? Is this the new normal? After reporting on the numbers for Saturday's Philadelphia Inquirer, I asked some experts to provide some insight and we ran their comments on the front page of Sunday's business section.

Here are comments from Petra Todd, an economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania. You can read a brief bio about her here. She also has her own web page. She was the only one of six people that I asked that did not make it in the paper because we ran out of room. Next week, I'll be using this blog to print the other experts' views in their entirety. Newsprint is in short supply, so we had to cut their responses for length.

Petra Todd

Here are the two questions, each followed by Professor Todd's answer:

Is this the new normal?

Two important long-term trends over the last thirty years have been an increasing employment share of the service sector and an increase in the wages paid to higher skilled workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the last year, employment in the professional and technical services and in the health services industry rose, employment in the manufacturing and construction sectors were essentially flat, and employment in the government sector has declined. In the near future US economy, service sector workers and workers with more education, especially those with advanced degrees, will continue to have better job market prospects. Given population aging trends, health care workers will likely continue to be high in demand.

What would encourage hiring?

With unemployment rates over 9 percent and so many workers looking for jobs, getting hired is competitive. To increase the odds of being hired, workers need a combination of good education and training as well as noncognitive skills, such as punctuality, motivation and persistence and person skills. Also, workers who have a high school degree rather than a GED face much better employment prospects.




Monday: Nathaniel Robinson, unemployed since April 2009, wants to work as a driver.

Tuesday: The gallery of experts continues with Carl Van Horn, a Rutgers University professor who has studied longterm unemployment. He is the director of the John Heldrich Center for Workforce Development.   

Follow me @JaneVonBergen on Twitter