Trump and the American Workforce

President-elect, Donald Trump, gave a speech before he was elected and it touched on the supposedly huge number of Americans who don’t have a job. He cited old and worn statistics: “58 percent of African-American youth are either outside the labor force or not employed.” He went further to say that the 5% figure given by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is one of the biggest hoaxes in American modern politics.” Trump may be accurate that fewer Americans, as a percentage of the total population, are engaged in traditional employment today, but this isn’t proof that Americans are unemployed by any traditional measure. There are Baby Boomers who are retiring, while the next-largest generation, the Millennials, has yet to start working en masse. Most of the population included in the statistics is teenagers, retirees, stay at home caregivers; so, the actual percentage of the employment rate stands at 4.9% as of July 2016. We know where we are today, but where will we be moving forward?

There are more immediate concerns that Mr. Trump is missing that many of his supporters are experiencing today. Many are frustrated with the current economy: wages are growing slowly; service jobs are less lucrative than union backed factory and mining jobs of a generation ago; health care, child care and education are vastly more costly today, as a percentage of income, than they were three decades ago. These are the issues that many working class Americans lose sleep over.

Under Mr. Trump’s plan, he will implement a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety and public health). Efforts to freeze and fire the federal workforce are likely to find support on Capitol Hill. However, some say that this plan would be ineffective and injurious. The last time hiring freezes were imposed by former presidents Jimmy Carter ad Ronald Reagan, they had “little effect on Federal employment levels”. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the freezes only “disrupted agency operations and in some cases, increased costs to the Government. Because the Carter and Reagan freezes led to the loss of 445 IRS revenue agent and auditor staff-years, the amount of tax dollars lost to the government was more than 20 times the amount saved in salary and benefits.

There will be very important decisions for Mr. Trump to make concerning the American workforce. What will happen to the federal minimum wage? Will mass deportations make the American workforce great again? There is no doubt change is coming. There is much to think about and hope. We should all hope that Mr. Trump can make “huge” deals for the American people.