As we recover from the Great Recession ™, unemployment may go down, but something will have changed. Economic conditions have accelerated the trend toward what BusinessWeek calls the “disposable worker.” Americans’ concept of a full-time job–one that includes health and retirement benefits and a measure of security–will need to change in the coming years.
The workforce, as it recovers, will most likely be more dynamic. And while an insecure job is better than no job, the new norms of the labor force will affect us all.
The forecast for the next five to 10 years: more of the same, with paltry pay gains, worsening working conditions, and little job security. Right on up to the C-suite, more jobs will be freelance and temporary, and even seemingly permanent positions will be at greater risk. “When I hear people talk about temp vs. permanent jobs, I laugh,” says Barry Asin, chief analyst at the Los Altos (Calif.) labor-analysis firm Staffing Industry Analysts. “The idea that any job is permanent has been well proven not to be true.”
Of course, it’s an employer’s market right now, as people who have been laid off and can only find jobs at much lower salaries have learned.
Consumers already are saving more and spending less than they normally do, because of high debt and tight credit. With Becker and other newly hired workers keeping tight grips on their wallets, consumer spending could stay weak well into the recovery, sapping its strength. How much will hinge on how long and how deeply wage growth lags.
Yes, if consumers are fearful that they’ll lose their lower-paid jobs at any minute, they’re probably not going to spend recklessly. Who knew?