It starts with infrastructure
The United States is now in its third straight recovery from a recession in which economic growth has revived but job growth hasn't followed at anywhere near the same pace. First 1991, then 2001, now the Great Recession -- jobless recoveries appear to be the economy's default setting, and a damaging one. Since mid-2009, gross domestic product has climbed by 3.6 percent in the United States (on a per capita basis) while employment has fallen by 1.8 percent, economists Nir Jaimovich of Duke University and Henry Siu of the University of British Columbia reported in a research paper in November. This is why more than half of Americans still believe the recession hasn't ended.
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Growth without jobs is deadly. To revive the economy, policymakers need to do more than just kick-start growth. They must target job-creation specifically. They can begin by following the emerging research that specifies which sorts of jobs don't return after a recession -- basically, anything that relies on a routine task that a machine or a low-wage foreign worker could do instead. The economy sheds bank tellers and assembly-line operators when demand falls and then, afterward, makes do without them for good. The decline in "middle-skill" work depresses wages, both for the workers competing for fewer jobs and for lower-skilled workers then forced to compete against the middle-skilled workers thrown out of work.
Many economists, across the ideological spectrum, say there's only one answer to this erosion: more education for everyone. "Given the reduction in opportunities for middle-skill workers," researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York wrote this fall, "it is especially important to help people build the skills necessary" for high-skill work. But that's a long-term proposition at best, and it assumes -- incorrectly, no doubt -- that every former steel-mill foreman can be re-invented as an engineer.