• Fri. Sep 23rd, 2022

Car Parts, Celery, and the Labor Market: Planet Money Summer School: NPR

ByRandall B. Phelps

Aug 11, 2022

Illustration by James Yang for NPR

James Yang for NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

James Yang for NPR

Illustration by James Yang for NPR

James Yang for NPR

There is a lot in a job.

What a person does for a living can say a lot about their interests, areas of expertise, and lifestyle. Likewise, the types of jobs created or lost in the economy can tell us a lot about the direction in which we are all headed.

Over the past hundred years or so, there has been a massive shift in our national economic identity, largely due to the transition from an economy based on labor-intensive manufacturing jobs, from class worker, who produce goods to an economy more driven by service sector where more and more jobs require specialized training or higher education.

This transition has advantages. Jobs tend to be less dangerous, many goods become cheaper, and many workers have access to comforts that a turn-of-the-century factory worker could not have imagined even in his wildest dreams.

However, our shiny new skills-based economy also means fewer job opportunities for workers who don’t have access to education or training to enable them to compete for well-paying positions with great security. long-term employment.

Today’s lesson is a story from the front lines of an economic transition. We visit a factory, once a symbol of our strong manufacturing economy, where today all the forces influencing the transition are colliding at the same time and where workers and business owners are forced to adapt on the fly. . We enter the decision-making process of when to replace a worker with a machine.

Next, we go to a farm where even the salary increases are not enough to attract the necessary workers. International pressure and cheaper food from abroad prevent higher wages. We’ll see how immigration and trade policy affect wages and the supply of labor…and celery.

Concepts we cover:

  • Cyclical unemployment
  • Structural unemployment
  • Skilled workers and low-wage workers
  • Efficiency wages


Look in the news for articles about hirings and layoffs. What types of jobs are being lost? What kind are won? Are job losses the result of structural unemployment or cyclical unemployment? Show us your discoveries on social media with #PMSummerSchool.

Summer Eco Songs: Every week we pick a few of our favorites and add them to our playlist. Recommend your favorite on social networks. Be sure to use #PMSummerschool.

At Planet Money Summer School, phones ARE allowed during class. Check out this week’s Tik Tok PM!

Music: I need you, pacific thing, Psychistan Surfing, sleeper agent, Inner Desert Blues & Take that job and push it, Johnny Paycheck

Find us: Twitter / Facebook / instagram / ICT Tac

Subscribe to our show on Apple podcast, Pocket casts and NPR one.

Want extra credit? Subscribe to Planet Money Newsletter