Your weekly paycheck isn’t your wage; it’s your wage multiplied by your hours. Over the last 40 years, hours overall have drifted down, particularly in retail, where in the last decade scheduling software has allowed companies to more efficiently call employees in or dismiss them. But manufacturing jobs, which are more likely to be unionised, still offer 42 hours a week. Mining and logging, which tend to run closer to capacity, offer 47 hours.
And in America, whether an employer offers benefits can make a huge difference. Last year 81 percent of production jobs offered health insurance. Overall for private workers, 68 percent. For service jobs — the single largest group — 39 percent. So the job that Gary Cohn says Americans wouldn’t choose at the same pay turns out to have better pay, better hours, and better benefits. People are nostalgic for manufacturing jobs not just because it’s nice to make something. It’s because they’re better jobs.
Trump was on to something, during the campaign. People are dissatisfied with the quality of the jobs they hold. Perhaps they want manufacturing jobs. Perhaps they just want the kind of security that manufacturing jobs offer. Either way, it’s hard to be sympathetic to the people in the administration who, confronted with the President’s inchoate but not entirely incorrect feelings on economics, attempted to explain them away.