Opinion

Chrystia Freeland

The jobs council weighs in

By Peter Rudegeair
June 29, 2011

“Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! What can we do?” was the title of a panel Chrystia moderated at the New York Forum last week with members of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.  The Council has been tasked with jump-starting the U.S. labor market and recommending changes to the nation’s education and training initiatives, and each of the panelists touched on a different aspect of the Council’s findings.

Laura Tyson, a former chief economic adviser to President Clinton and an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, stressed that infrastructure projects were the low-hanging fruit of job creation.  She argued that $1 billion in infrastructure investment could create between 11,000 and 30,000 jobs.  Many infrastructure projects have been approved and are shovel-ready — the only thing that’s holding them up is the Department of Transportation’s lengthy permitting process, Tyson noted.

Valerie Jarrett, a Senior Advisor to President Obama, added that in order to offset the rise in structural unemployment, investments in education and worker placement must be made sooner rather than later:

The President is convinced that if we’re going to win the future, we have to continue to invest in education; we have to invest in innovation; and we have to re-build and build in order for us to be competitive…  We also want to make sure that the companies who are here have the resources they need to compete globally, and that means having a trained workforce.  That means having a workforce that’s trained for the marketplace of tomorrow, not the marketplace of yesterday, and so focusing on science and technology and engineering and math and partnering with our community colleges and working with the private sector so they actually design the curriculum and offer a job when you complete a program.  So for the people who are currently unemployed, let’s get them into those programs, so when the opportunities arise because demand does increase there is actually a job waiting for you on the other end.

AOL co-founder Steve Case emphasized entrepreneurship in his remarks.  Case brought up a study from the Kauffman Foundation that found that high-growth, entrepreneurial companies created 40 million jobs in the past 25 years — that’s roughly all the net job growth the U.S. saw during that period.  Nevertheless, Case laments, the nation has taken its entrepreneurs for granted and hasn’t recognized that entrepreneurship is the “secret sauce” that flavors the U.S. economy:

Robert Wolf, chairman of UBS Americas, addressed the difficulties that small businesses facein getting loans .  On the credit demand side, uncertainty over the economy’s growth prospects have halted new investments, Wolf argued.  On the supply side, credit is constrained because one thousand banks have vanished in the past few years and because those banks that survived have been hit with higher capital requirements. One possible policy the federal government could adopt to remedy this would be to expand Small Business Administration loan guarantees. Case noted that they have a long history in allowing budding enterprises to grow and cited Under Armor, which would have never become the success it is today without an SBA loan guarantee.

 

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