The U.S. may have a job shortage; but there's no shortage of ideas, now, for how to create more jobs. With 25 million people looking for work and the unemployment rate stuck at 9.1 percent, the economy can't recover until the job engine is restarted.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this week that there were only 3.1 million job openings in June. The number is far below the number at the beginning of the recession (4.4 million in December 2007) and has been flat since February 2011.
President Obama devoted a weekend address to the need to reduce unemployment. Jobs, too, will remain his topic today, when he travels to Holland, Mich. today to inspect a Johnson Controls plant making advanced batteries--an example, says the administration, of how jobs can be created by promoting green technology.
Though the president has said that deficit reduction must remain part of the country's economic strategy, he stressed in his weekend remarks that, "Our job right now has to be doing whatever we can to help folks find work; to help create the climate where a business can put up that job listing. We've got to rebuild this economy and the sense of security that middle class has felt slipping away for years."
Ideas the Obama administration has put forward include a new tax credit that would give companies a financial incentive to hire veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; passage of free trade agreements now pending, which the president says would create jobs by boosting U.S. exports to Asia and South America; and putting unemployed construction workers back to work rebuilding America's roads, bridges, airports and other crumbling infrastructure.
These ideas represent a small fraction of job-creation schemes now circulating, some put forth by think-tanks and advocacy groups, other by unions as well as by politicians of both parties. Seemingly small steps, say advocates, could yield significant job increases.
Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, argues that merely by expanding the federal research and development tax credit, some 162,000 new jobs could be created in the near term. An ITIF report finds that expanding the Alternative Simplified Credit for R&D from 14 percent to 20 percent would result in a short-term tax loss to the government, but that net tax revenues would be "roughly even after 15 years."
Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, advocates putting young people to work by expanding Americorps and by creating new job-corps modeled on those of the 1930s--"the modern equivalent of the WPA." They would build or re-build parks, maintain wilderness areas and create public art. "We would be wise," he thinks, "to say we will employ every kid who graduates from high school, under the age of 22." Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, he says, has introduced legislation to create such jobs through federall-funded non-profit organizations.
Some of the most ambitious and wide-ranging ideas can be found in "A Vision for Economic Renewal: An American Jobs Agenda." The plan is the handiwork of Sen. Tom Harkin,D-Iowa, Reps. John Garamendi, D-Calif., and Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, and a task force co-chaired by Leo Hindery, Jr., chairman of the Economic Growth/Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation. Hindery calls the 15-point plan "a far-reaching prescription," which, if taken all at once in one heroic dose, would create "something north of 20 million jobs."
The chance of that happening in the present political climate, he admits, is slim. "No one believes it all can be enacted all at once."
Parts of it, though, might sail through Congress easily, bring quick and meaningful results. On that list, Hindery's top recommendation is the creation of a national Infrastructure Bank (an idea favored, too, by many other job-creation experts).
The White House likes the idea of the bank. So do Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who have authored legislation that would call it into being.