I was in a Rite Aid pharmacy the other day and about to pay for my stuff at their new bank of automated self-check out kiosks. I heard one woman behind me say to her friend, “Oh, I would NEVER use those things. They take jobs away from people.”
What’s that? You’d like to work for my small business? I appreciate your interest. And I, like so many others, feel terrible about how long you’ve been unemployed. We would like to do something about the situation. We’d like to help you. But there’s something you (and the woman from the Rite Aid) need to know. I’m not sure how to say this kindly so it’s best I just say it: many of us don’t really need more employees.
Of course the fact that you’re out of a job has a lot to do with the state of the economy. Growth is anemic. The uncertainty in the current business environment is holding a lot of us back from making the investments that we’d like to make. And regulations and the prospect of more regulations, let alone higher taxes to pay for our country’s deficits, are giving many of us pause for concern. For that we can certainly blame many: our politicians, the government, the banking system, the media…even ourselves.
But it’s not just that. In fact, one of the biggest reasons why you don’t have a job (and the prospects of finding a job are not encouraging) can also be blamed on someone else: Microsoft. And other technology companies like them.
Because there’s something else going on in this economy. Just look at the below chart. It shows that our country’s Gross Domestic Product, while growing at a painfully slow pace, is now higher than it was before the 2008 recession. And yet it’s common knowledge among those who track these things that there are more than seven million people without jobs than there were at the start of the recession. Which means that businesses are producing more products and services than ever before…but with seven million less people. And by the way…corporate profits are at an all-time high too.
Manufacturers are leading the charge. Just look at how manufacturing productivity has risen over the past thirty years in this country while the number of people employed to make stuff has decreased.
I know you need a job and I know this is a very difficult situation. And I don’t want to sound cruel because I’m trying to help you. And to get help with a problem the first thing we have to do is diagnose the problem. So here’s the cold, hard truth about why you’re unemployed: most businesses don’t need you any more. We can do just as much, if not more, without you.
Over the past twenty years, the technology industry, led by companies like Microsoft, have given us powerful databases, operating systems, networks and software applications that have made it easier for us to accomplish more tasks than we did before with less people. And it’s not just Microsoft who you can blame.