For every vacant job, there are 10 or more people, by a conservative analysis, who are looking for work, an industrial relations specialist for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told a House subcommittee yesterday.
"My estimates indicated that U.S. employers are currently in a position where they would like to hire only about 1 million additional workers at the same time that there are more than 11 million unemployed," said Katharine G. Abraham, an assistant professor of industrial relations at MIT.
"Even if every available vacant job could be filled instantaneously by an unemployed person, we would have achieved only a relatively small reduction in our unemployment count."
Abraham said that while well-designed job-training programs were appropriate, "large reductions in the aggregate unemployment rate will require the creation of substantial numbers of new jobs."
Abraham testified before the general oversight subcommittee of the House Small Business Committee. At the same hearing, George Washington University professor Amitai Etzioni warned the Democratic Party of dangers in overestimating the rate of change in the economy and focusing on the "new frontiers" of high technology at the expense of the rest of the economy.
"The political implications--writing off the old constituencies and hitching one's political wagon to the new stars--disregard that the traditional constituences are, and will continue to be, core constituencies of the Democratic Party, constituencies which need, and deserve, to be represented by it," he said.
The actual pace of change in the economy has been exaggerated, he said. He noted that, even though the United States has shifted from an agricultural economy to an industrial one, "even agriculture is still a very important U.S. sector that no sensible person would wish to close out." By the same token, manufacturing is likely to survive as an important sector even in the new information age, he said.
"We have been for a long time, and we will continue to be, a two-track society, with strong elements in both basic industries and high technology ones," Etzioni said. "The basic industries need to be retooled and may be trimmed; the new ones encouraged, but not one at the expense of the other," he said.