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Wanted: Smart workers for high-pay positions

Created on August 11, 2008

Wanted: Smart workers for high-pay positions

  1. For a study of trends in good jobs, click here.
  2. For a paper on compensation gains, click here.
  3. For an op-ed on jobs in America, click here.  

       The job picture in America isn't nearly as bleak as it's often painted on the evening news

     True, good jobs -- as well as bad ones -- are lost every day. But it's also true that employers are creating more jobs in high-paying occupations and fewer jobs in lower-paying occupations. Government data reveal both trends.

        "The proportion of Americans working in the three most highly paid job sectors has expanded 10 percent since 1980," says James Sherk, Heritage's expert in labor policy. "Most Americans believe they are personally better off today than a generation ago -- because they are."

     Those high-pay job sectors: executive and managerial, professional specialty, and technical and sales.

     In a study from Heritage's Center for Data Analysis concluding that "good jobs" abound, Sherk traces how technology and innovation in the past quarter-century alone transformed the work most Americans do. Repetitive tasks now are automated. Robots "man" the assembly lines that produce goods and the freight yards that ship those goods to market. E-mail and voicemail cut into the work of secretaries.

     Part of the good news, even as the unemployment rate in July reached a four-year high of 5.7 percent: Employers are looking for more skilled, educated workers to think, create and innovate. The economy has shifted from jobs requiring physical labor toward jobs requiring interpersonal skills and brainpower.

        "More Americans work as financial specialists, designers, medical technicians, lawyers and software developers than ever before," Sherk says. "Though some good jobs have disappeared, the long-term trend in the economy is toward higher-paying jobs that take advantage of our educated work force."

     That's one reason to reject calls to return to 1970s-style higher tax rates, Heritage President Ed Feulner writes in a recent op-ed.
         "The math is simple: Lower tax rates encourage more economic growth and lower unemployment," Feulner says. "Higher tax rates lead to slower growth and lower wages."