Jun 9, 2017

Migration is a bad idea for automation-ravaged workers

The United States has historically been a place of great mobility — when local economies have lost hope, Americans have often picked up and moved to where the jobs were.

This time seems different: Americans have not abandoned the rust belt towns of Michigan, Wisconsin and elsewhere in droves as jobs have fled (see chart below), and some say they should. But MIT economist Daron Acemoglu disagrees: migration is too disruptive to families and the cities that workers leave. In an interview with Axios, he said policymakers shouldn't encourage them to go.

Data: Census Bureau, Current Population Survey; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios Acemoglu said:"Migration puts a lot of negative pressure on the families that migrate, who have to go and adapt with low income to an entirely different area."It can leave an economic "wasteland" in the wake of fleeing workers.In Detroit, housing prices and tax revenues have plunged, and it can no longer provide adequate schooling or other public services for those who remain.And while economists see the benefits of the historic readiness of U.S. workers to relocate, they say migration may not be the silver bullet it once was. Economic historian Robert James has written that current workers must have "skills and initiative" if they are to successfully migrate, unlike past great migrations in which just showing up was often sufficient to find a job. He argues, "In today's world, workers must learn to embrace adaptability and flexibility. ... Unfortunately, the U.S. and most other industrialized countries, with their stultifying and rigid education systems, have failed to prepare people for this reality."

Go deeper

Unemployment fell to 50-year low in 2019 but wages stagnated

Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

Friday's jobs report missed expectations, but still delivered solid numbers, showing the U.S. economy added well over 100,000 jobs and the unemployment rate remained near a 50-year low.

The big picture: BLS reported that the number of people who were employed part time but would rather be full-time employees declined by 507,000 over the year.

Affordability is driving Americans' decisions on where to live

Data: Prudential; Note: ±3.0 margin of error; Chart: Axios Visuals

Most American workers place affordability above jobs on the priority list when determining where to live, according to Prudential's Pulse of the American Worker survey conducted in November by Morning Consult.

Why it matters: The high cost of living in job-rich centers holds people back from looking for new opportunities there.

Go deeperArrowDec 31, 2019

U.S. companies are forcing workers to train their own foreign replacements

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Opponents of job outsourcing are making a holiday-season appeal to President Trump: Stop U.S. companies from forcing American workers to train the very same cheaper foreign laborers who will soon replace them.

Why it matters: Trump promised voters he'd end abuses of worker visa programs and save U.S. jobs — but as he campaigns for re-election, advocates say he hasn't done enough.