On the one hand, we’re told, robots are coming to take all our jobs any day now. But then there are 6 million job openings in the U.S., and large companies in a range of industries are telling us they are running out of humans to perform labor.
The reality, of course, is somewhere in between. Automation is substituting for human labor in ways large and small. The productivity engine isn’t completely broken. The volume of coal mined this year is up 17 percent, though employment in coal mining is up only two 2 percent. But American companies don’t have a shortage of people. They have a shortage of wages, benefits, and training. Companies could fix that problem, but they haven’t.
When you see articles about a teacher shortage, it’s usually in states that are openly hostile to teachers or that don’t pay enough. Hawaii needs 1,600 teachers for the upcoming school year, and first year pay is over $47,000. But, Hawaii is the most expensive state in which to live, Using a cost of living calculator, that $47,000 in Honolulu is equivalent to $22,000 in Columbus, Ohio.