Monday, October 5, 2009

Lost Jobs May Never Return

The Wall Street Journal - The U.S. has shed 7.2 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. How long will it take for the economy to replace them? And where will the jobs come from?

The questions haunt people from the unemployed in San Francisco to officials in Washington. Glenn Atias lost his job as a $100,000-a-year statistician at a market-research firm in the Bay Area last summer when the work was outsourced to India. At 46 years old, he pores over job ads and online postings daily. "I'm stuck watching hundreds of thousands of people in my position grow in ranks each and every month," said Mr. Atias, who lives in Salton City, Calif., in a house worth less than the mortgage.

When unemployment benefits run out, he said, "I literally don't know how I'll pay my mortgage, how I'll pay my health care."

Economists say that when demand picks up -- as it is starting to do -- jobs eventually will follow. History shows that has always been true. But guessing which jobs will be created over the long run is often fruitless. Many of tomorrow's jobs don't exist today.

In 2003, Treasury Department chief economist Alan Krueger, then at Princeton, calculated that a quarter of U.S. workers at the time were in jobs the Census Bureau didn't even list as occupations in 1967.

Determining which fields will become popular is next to impossible. "It is very difficult, without a crystal ball, to know where the economy will be in 10 years," said Susan Wolff, chief academic officer of Columbia Gorge Community College in The Dalles, Ore. "Sometimes we think we're doing a pretty good job if we can guess where the economy is going to be in five years."

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