Moving the Needle
What Tight Labor Markets Do for the Poor
Katherine S. Newman and Elisabeth S. Jacobs
The dynamics of the current tight labor market have gotten a good deal of coverage, but what is missing from the conversation is any discussion about the widespread social effects of today’s employment landscape. Given that the effects of the opposite trend – high unemployment and joblessness – are widely believed to have led to persistent poverty and its associated social costs, this is particularly surprising.
In Moving the Needle: What Tight Labor Markets Do for the Poor, Katherine S. Newman and Elisabeth S. Jacobs propose that today’s tight labor market is a critical and unmatched opportunity. As communities that have been blocked from the labor market are now gaining access, they are benefitting in unprecedented ways from the economic expansion that has previously been out of reach. And some of these benefits may persist even after the inevitable changes in the unemployment numbers.
As labor markets tighten, hiring managers have no choice but to give a chance to job candidates who would otherwise be kept out of the labor market. And when workers have more options, unpredictable hours and wages are no longer sustainable. The implications go well beyond improved financial profiles, as changes to families, neighborhoods, and communities reflect the benefits of better jobs, better working conditions, and the ability to plan for a different future.
Moving the Needle is an overdue look at the social implications of today’s changing labor market, and a call to consider ways that better labor practices might make some of these advances permanent. It is a call to understand the current economic climate in the broadest possible way.