Sunday, June 12, 2011

An interesting piece of data

Mark Perry who is an economist from Michigan has a series of posts under the URL "Carpe Diem"  - while he generally is a conservative a lot of the data he posts is without ideological blinders.  For example, in the link above Perry shows that we have had a loss in agricultural jobs that is twice the size of the loss in manufacturing jobs since 1948.

When I posted this on Facebook a friend of the liberal persuasion took umbrage.  But the data is the data.  Most of these jobs have been lost to "productivity"- we now need fewer people to pick cotton or assemble cars.  That has allowed our economy to grow in new areas (computers, finance, other services, biotech) but it has also created dislocations among workers.  

From my perspective this is a lot like the data on suicides versus murders.  Most people think, because of the number of murders reported, that there are more murders than suicides.  Understanding the data is the first step in understanding possible responses in public policy.   Does a decline in agriculture jobs seem negative?  If not, why would the loss, which is twice the size of the manufacturing drop, be important.  Should we be concerned about all those lost jobs or should we simply celebrate that our economy is dynamic?   If the problem is real, what should we do about it (if anything)?

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