Retail, Schmetail: I’m still lamenting the loss of manufacturing jobs and their replacement with retail jobs, and already I’m told I have to deplore the loss of the retail jobs? Karl Smith notes evidence of falling employment in “what we might think of as shopping center retail: clothing stores, department stores, general merchandise, books, music …”
However, because teenagers are especially suited to shopping center employment they are dropping out of the labor force in response. That is, the End of Retail is causing a permanent shift in teenage employment because there are no substitutes for retail jobs.
As an economist, Smith regrets the loss of this “factor of production” (teens). As a social-egalitarian, I’m less upset. If you care about having a society where nobody kowtows to anybody else, retail jobs seem distinctly less desirable than manufacturing jobs.
In retail you have to fawn over the customer–often in person–and if the customer balks, maybe he’s rejecting you, including your appearance and dress. Manufacturing you make something, and then the distant consumer buys it or doesn’t, a decision that has little to do with your personal appeal.
It’s not a big difference, but the latter relationship seems more like a relationship among equals than the former. If the manufacturing sector is now rising and retail is falling–as is the case–that seems like the opposite of bad news to me. …
P.S.: Why can’t teens get jobs in manufacturing? The answer can’t be that new manufacturing jobs require computing skills. Teens have those, no? …
P.P.S.: If there are “no substitutes” for lost jobs for teenagers, mightn’t there soon be “no substitutes” for lost jobs for 55 year olds? What’s so special about teens? Are 25 year olds next? Maybe we should all dust off our copies of Robert Theobald’s writings on what to do when technology is so productive there’s no work for anybody. My guess is we can keep them on the shelf for a few more years until 3-D printing and janitorial robots are perfected. [via Instapundit]