How the recovery is leaving America's workers behind
In past recessions, it has been an article of faith that as the economy revives, the jobs eventually will return. But in a rebuilt economy, the lost jobs may not come back.
The huge federal investment in green energy has run headlong into the stubborn reality that the market for renewable energy products - and workers - remains in its infancy.
The trade debate in the U.S. usually focuses on jobs lost to factories in the developing world. But as a result of the recession, countless skilled workers in this country offer foreign manufacturers a resource that was far less common a few years ago: cheaper wages for better talent.
The lighting industry shows that even when the government pushes companies toward environmental innovations and Americans come up with them, the manufacture of the next generation technology can still end up overseas.
Labor mobility has nearly ground to a halt in the past two years, and policymakers are increasingly worried that the slowdown is not just a symptom of the nation's economic struggles but also a barrier to overcoming them.
At Detroit auto plants, about half the workers make $28 an hour or more, while the rest make $14. This oddity arises from the jury-rigged labor agreement that the UAW, automakers and the government reached during the industry's near-death. Now a revival of the industry depends on a compromise.
There is one factory left in the United States that manufactures the basic ironing board, and its survival against Chinese competition demands unrelenting, production-line hustle.
About This Series
One of the defining features of the recession that began in December 2007 is the magnitude and duration of unemployment, particularly among workers with no more than a high school education, who used to hold down manufacturing and construction jobs. Within the Obama administration, economists and policy makers refer to this as "the brawny man problem," though it sometimes includes women. These stories depict the crisis for these workers and explain the pressures, domestic and foreign, private and public, that have stalled the creation of jobs for them.