Virginia Postrel thinks that the Bureau of Labor Statistics may be under-estimating employment.
the bureau has missed more than 300,000 manicurists. It puts the total at around 30,000, compared with the count of 372,000 -- up from 189,000 a decade ago -- by Nails magazine, using private survey and state licensing data. Even if not all licensed manicurists are practicing, the bureau number is off by an order of magnitude. There are 53,000 nail salons in the country, most of them with more than one manicurist. The industry supports two major trade magazines, each with about 60,000 subscribers.
...It is tempting, of course, to treat these undercounts as trivial. After all, what do 200,000 massage therapists or 300,000 manicurists matter in a country of 290 million people? ... the undercounts distort our already distorted view of economic value -- the view that treats traditional manufacturing and management jobs as more legitimate, even more real, than craft professions or personal-service businesses. But the truth is, value can come as much from intangible pleasures as it can from tangible goods.
The Economist tries to sort out the cyclical circumstances in the labor market from the secular issue of outsourcing.
Now that the economy is recovering after the recession of 2001, so will the job picture, perhaps dramatically, over the next year.
Outsourcing...still accounts for a tiny proportion of the jobs constantly being created and destroyed within America's economy. Even at the best of times, the American economy has a tremendous rate of “churn”—over 2m jobs a month.
...Even though some IT tasks will be done abroad, many more jobs will be created in America, and higher-paying ones to boot.
Update: A New York Times story quotes Fed Chairman Greenspan as saying, "Everything we've looked at suggests that it's the payroll data which are the series which you have to follow," which means that he believes the more pessimistic of the two employment surveys.
U.S. workers in the information technology industry often benefit from outsourcing. The German company Siemens, which makes electronic and electrical products, employs 65,000 people in this country. Sony Electronics employs 2,000 people in just New Jersey, while Belgium's Agfa-Gevaert Group, one of the world's leading imaging companies, writes paychecks to over 5,000 people in the United States...
For Discussion. What other recent articles would you recommend on the topic of outsourcing and the state of the U.S. labor market?