Service Economy Taking Over U.S.

High-paying manufacturing jobs are rapidly disappearing, only to be replaced by low-paying, and oftentimes menial, service sector jobs that produce absolutely nothing of value, according to the U.S. Labor Department’s 2009 Occupational Employment and Wages report. 

The report found that retail sales, cashiers, general office clerks, food preparation and service workers, and nurses were the occupations with the highest levels of employment in 2009.   
In fact, nine of the top 10 jobs in the survey pay such low wages that they put a worker supporting a family of four in near poverty. 

While the fast food, health care and financial services industry has been booming, the manufacturing sector has not.  The U.S. had just 8.9 million workers in what the report refers to as production occupations.  Workers in those occupations average a salary of over $33,000 per year.  By comparison, there were 11.2 million workers in food preparation and serving related occupations in 2009, who made just a little over $18,000 per year, on average. 

Employment for layout workers dealing with metal and plastic numbered just 9,020; bookbinders totaled just 6,430; jobs as tailors, dress makers and custom sewers employed only 6,020; and timing device assemblers, adjustors and calibrators employed just 2,260 in 2009, the report found. 

The findings are symptomatic of America’s failed trade policy, which has allowed the nation’s manufacturing base to be gradually offshored to low-wage nations, leaving only low paying service sector jobs in their wake.   

“With a more open economy and trade, we get a lot of our manufactured goods produced overseas where it is cheaper to produce, rather than producing it here,” Lynn Karoly, a senior economist with Rand Corp, told The Pittsburgh Post Gazette

The Post Gazette studied the report, comparing it to the same research from 10 years earlier, and the results were unsettling.  While millions of manufacturing jobs were disappearing, fast food workers increased by 43 percent.  Child care employment increased 68 percent over the decade as the number of one-income households dwindle due to the lack of jobs that pay well enough to support a family. 

At the same time, education, which Americans were told was the cure-all for the changing economy has not paid off for many.  The health care sector may be growing rapidly, but most of the jobs created are the more lower paying jobs in the field.  The number of nurses, who make roughly $25,535 per year, stayed relatively stable.  The number of home health care aids and medical assistants, who make an average of $25,535 annually, exploded over the past decade. 

Once the engine that drove the nation’s powerful economy, America’s manufacturing base has been drastically reduced through failed trade policies. In 1980, around the time that globalization exploded and free trade agreements became more prevalent, the U.S. had 19.2 million manufacturing jobs. Since then, the sector’s total employment has fallen to just 11.6 million as jobs are outsourced to low-wage nations, like Mexico and China. 

Because free trade agreements knock down trade barriers, Americans are now forced to compete with China’s 113 million strong manufacturing workforce, each of whom averaged a wage of 81 cents-per-hour, just three percent of their U.S. counterparts pay, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Mexico, whose 10.7 million industrial workers average just $2.92 per hour, is only slightly better. 

Even though other Western nations have liberalized their economies and experienced some structural change as a result, most have not been affected as adversely be free trade policies as America. 

“They have not seen the same rising in inequality or hollowing out of their middle class,” Heather Boushey, a senior economist with the Center for American Progress, told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, pointing specifically to Germany, Japan and other European nations.

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