Are 50,000 New McJobs Worth Getting Excited About?

Some reporters can't quite bring themselves to say "I'm lovin' it"

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McDonald's is doing its big hiring spree today, hoping to add 50,000 new employees by the end of the day. The company is hiring at a variety of levels--from maintenance workers to managers--at 14,000 locations across the country. If nothing else, it's good PR for Mickey D's. But is there anything else to it? Does the McDonald's job push say anything positive about the American economy? Or is it just a lot of empty calories? A bit of the debate surrounding the day:

Don't get excited, warns Annie Lowrey at Slate. Lowrey argues that even if McDonald's successfully adds 50,000 jobs, it will only be part of a discouraging national economic trend: though the unemployment rate is shrinking, "the jobs we're adding, for the most part, aren't great ones." Lowrey cites David Autor, an economist at MIT who has warned about "employment polarization, whereby job opportunities are increasingly concentrated in high-skill, high-wage jobs and in low-skill, low-wage jobs." In other words, says Lowrey, we've got "the frightening possibility of a 'barbell' shaped economy, with jobs at places like fast food joints and universities--but not a lot of jobs in between."

50,000 jobs isn't actually an exceptional number, points out Christina Rexrode at the Associated Press: "The company usually staffs up for summer anyway. It added 50,000 new workers in April last year, so the blitz amounts to typical hiring, albeit compressed into a day." Rexrode also cites an analyst, Sara Senatore, who says that if there are 50,000 new hires at 14,000 locations, it breaks down to "about three or four new employees per restaurant--the amount that each store is probably usually looking for anyway."

How long will those jobs last, anyway? wonders Morgan Spurlock, the documentarian behind Super Size Me. "Let's see in a week," Spurlock said in a recent interview with BBC World News America. "Are the jobs gonna last a week, or is it a one-day-only? Like they show up, they get their mop, 'great, thanks for coming, here's your check, see you later'?" Spurlock added: "I think it's a publicity stunt, and I'm anxious to see if it goes beyond that."

On the other hand, a job is a job--that's the line McDonald's is pushing, naturally. Kim Peterson at MSN Money points out that the hiring blitz is as much about PR as anything: the company would like people to think of a McJob as an opportunity, rather than its OED definition, "an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects." And for a number of current and prospective employees, the counter-narrative is working. "I'm proud of my McJob," said one McDonald's vice president and general manager, as quoted in The Boston Globe. "With a McJob comes a McPaycheck."

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