Mythbusting 2021 Edition

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As most of you know I was a HUGE fan of the TV show Mythbusters.  I trust those guys more than anyone else on TV before or since.  And, on occasion, I have given mythbusting a try myself.  Today is one of those occasions.

Specifically, today we are looking at myths related to employment and jobs in the United States.  There are a TON of really silly ideas floating around out there that need to be put to rest.

#1 There are millions of people who should be working but aren’t because of (insert name of Biden program/ policy here).   All extra unemployment benefits ran out months ago, so that’s just nonsense.  As September 2021 the unemployment rate was 4.8 percent.   Most experts consider anything 5% and under a fully working society.

There are always going to be people who aren’t working for one reason or another- 0% unemployment is just not possible.  The fact is, there are still 5 million fewer jobs now than there were before COVID 19 hit.  Yet, in many markets there are more jobs available than there are people looking for them.  Yes, we all know that one person who should get a job who hasn’t.  But, was that person contributing to society BEFORE the pandemic?  Most likely not.

We also need to consider the costs of working.  In my area, $4 an hour is a reasonable rate for an infant.  If I get a job that pays $10 an hour, that just doesn’t work.  I’m probably taking home $7 and change after taxes.  No one can live on $4 an hour.  Even if I don’t have a child to pay for I still have to pay for housing and food and (for most) transportation.  Again, if I’m making $10 an hour and clearing $7 and change, that nets me around $1200 a month.  A 2 bedroom apartment in my area goes for $650 give or take.  I think you can do the rest of the math.

#2 Self checkouts kill jobs.  I admit I used to believe this one myself.  While the pandemic has causes a lot of changes in this space, before COVID cashier jobs had been on the rise for 15 years and counting.

The supposed savings to the stores who installed them have been way overstated.  The machines themselves are expensive to purchase.  They need to be installed and maintained properly. They make it easier for folks to shoplift.  Some people just aren’t tech savvy enough to use them but try to anyway.  Live humans are still required to keep an eye on the customers.  Live humans are required to install, maintain, and repair the machines too.

#3 A 4 year degree is the key to financial success and great jobs.  This is a myth that many of us who are middle aged today were told when we were kids.  I don’t know if that was ever true, but it certainly isn’t now.  As of today, only a third of jobs in the US require a 4 year degree or more.  Of course if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer you’re going to need the appropriate schooling.  I have a 4 year degree, but I have never held a job that requires one.  This is the case of many of my peers as well.  We need to listen to Mike Rowe and get back to it being OK for your child to want to be a welder or a plumber or some other “trade”.  In many cases, these jobs pay more than entry level jobs in finance or business.

And then there is the issue of student loans.  The average cost of one year of college is 2019 was almost $35,000.  The cost of a 4 year degree has tripled in less than 20 years and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.  Long gone are the days when you could work a summer job to cover a significant portion of your tuition for the upcoming year.  At one point I actually thought I would be paying off my student loans with social security checks and I graduated from college in 1999.  I have no idea how kids today manage the level of debt they get saddled with.

So here are some truth nuggets for you to digest.  Which one surprised you the most?  Let me know!

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