Highlighting the change in the Providence area’s mix of employment, Ted Nesi reviews a study finding that the metro has seen the nation’s greatest drop in manufacturing jobs, as a percentage of all jobs, with jobs requiring a college degree increasing in the mix.
This is a percentage, not the absolute number of jobs, so all sorts of jobs could go up or down, but if they do so at different rates, the mix will change. In that light, this metric could be indicative of Rhode Island’s government plantation approach. As the economy shifts toward emphasis on government services, more of the available jobs require college degrees (not because, by the way, government-service jobs necessarily require degree-level skill sets, but because it suits politicians and labor unions to require degrees.)
Beyond such considerations, the response from the governor caught my eye:
In his paper, Whitaker notes concerns “that the growing industries do not provide enough work opportunities or middle-class incomes for people without college degrees.” That echoes frequent comments by Rhode Island leaders including Gov. Gina Raimondo who say the state needs to do more to encourage the creation of jobs for workers who don’t attend college.
She may have said such a thing somewhere, but the emphasis of her policies has been on “well-paying” jobs in trendy fields. More importantly, her premise about government effort is wrong. State politicians and bureaucrats are not well positioned to create targeted jobs. And even if they were, they haven’t the right. When the government attempts to create specific jobs, it is either manipulating the public to match politicians’ preferences or replacing residents who don’t fit the plan with outsiders who do. Note this:
A study earlier this year by Boston Fed economist Mary Burke reported manufacturing employment in Rhode Island plunged by 57% between 1990 and 2015, and found a growing number of the state’s skilled jobs requiring college degrees were going to out-of-state workers.
If the state government is to maintain democratic legitimacy, it has to represent the people who are here, not a marked-off place on the map or a collection of preferred industries.