Shifting Job Market

By Don Coppock

   Ok. You’re out of a job. It’s been awhile and you’re investigating possibilities. You notice an ad for a human scarecrow. Hey it’s something, so you check it out.

   You’re told you’ll have to lose a few pounds, a scarecrow has to be bouncy, energetic and limber—‘Think of a herky-jerky Howdy Doody’ the guy chuckles. Then he asks you to jump around a bit and wave your arms in a threatening manner.

   ‘Can you scream ‘Yaaarrggghhhh get outta here you durn crows?’

   You laugh weakly and give it an attempt, not sure if he’s serious or not. Apparently he is.

   ‘That ain’t very convincing,’ he grimaces, ‘Try shouting it like you mean it. Go ahead…let ‘er rip!’

   So you give it everything you’ve got. You careen around that office like an amphetamine crazed, you let your dogs run free as you release all the pent up rage that’s been building up inside you since you lost your job. And it feels good, you have to admit, it feels real good.

   ‘That’s better,’ he grins, though it’s not a reassuring grin, ‘I’ll call you when I make a decision.’

   On your way out you try to think of the positives; fresh air, plenty of time to think, no shortage of corn…

   Then you ask about salary.

   ‘We’ll talk about that after you scared yourself a few crows,’ he barks.

   But hey, not everyone has what it takes to be a human scarecrow and not everyone was cut out to work in the fields. Still, there are plenty of jobs out there if you’re just willing to lower your expectations a tad.

   Republicans shout ‘Damn that Obama!’,  Democrats are quick to point enraged fingers at Bush, while the less partisan and sky-is-falling crowd stagger around pounding their fists, tearing at their hair, and weeping ‘outsourcing’ or ‘unions’ or some other convenient scapegoat planted in their heads by the fear-mongering media. But let’s look at some facts. If you want to affix blame the most likely candidate seems to be progress. Progress is the culprit.

   Entire industries have disappeared in the last decade alone, and dozens of others are in the process of obsolescence. Forget about the obvious losses such as real estate and construction, they do have the potential to return, after all, even if it will probably take a decade.

   I owned a retail music shop for 20 years. I bore witness to this economic seismic shift that has reshaped our economy. Cd sales, once a staple of my business, plummeted with the arrival of downloading and piracy, both on and offline. People, it turns out, like free music and free movies and began to feel entitled to it. Chains such as Tower and Warehouse, once considered fixtures of the American retail landscape, began to disappear. With them all the one-stops, huge warehouses that served as providers to small stores such as mine, disappeared as well. Valley Records, a huge enterprise centered in Northern California that was featured in Billboard Magazine one year, was declaring bankruptcy one short year later. Others toppled like dominoes. These days you’re lucky if you’ve a retail store in the vicinity, and if they’ve miraculously survived, it’s because they’ve diversified, selling anything from ‘tobacco’ accessories to clothing to jewelry.

   Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost with its downfall, and the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America ) suggests the US economy lost over 70,000 jobs last year alone along with $422 million in tax revenues. And that doesn’t include peripheral losses, such as the owners of the retail spaces they occupied, most of which sit empty now, because retail itself is undergoing a fundamental change.

   In fact most high priced items from shoes to sports cards can be purchased on the internet for significantly cheaper, which eliminates a whole lot of middle men and business’.

   Blame the internet. Blame the public’s desire for free music, movies and books.

   Blame progress.

   Newspapers are dying as well. Book stores are vanishing. Magazine sales are declining. And disappearing with these are all the peripheral industries such as makers of paper products. Because who needs a telephone book these days? Who needs to advertise in a telephone book? Who needs books? Who needs notepads? Who needs toilet paper, eh? Ok, toilet paper will probably hang around.

   Writing itself is becoming a thing of the past, and with its disappearance, the makers of pencils and pens and stationary and cards suddenly find themselves scrambling to make ends meet. The post office, of course, is losing jobs because who writes letters anymore? (I received one from my brother a month ago, but he’s an English professor, so he’s obligated. I’m thinking of offering it on Ebay if you’re looking for a piece of history).

   Meanwhile we have a huge underground economy. The drug business, which flourishes as always without the burden of paying taxes has plenty of job potential, jobs that would reach out to every corner of the globe, to farms, distributors, packagers and advertisers. Legalization and taxation of many drugs would solve some of our deficit problems as well, but many Americans seem to believe legalization amounts to the same thing as endorsing, which of course isn’t the case. I neither use drugs nor endorse them. A hell of a lot of  people continue to choose to, though, which is why I favor legalization, but how are you going to argue with dogma or idealogical illogic? So for now, if you’re looking for a good paying job that has its risks, you’ll have to consider breaking a senseless law, which will possibly lead to a prison overcrowded with people who have also broken a senseless law.

   Countries such as Thailand, poorer countries less reliant on the internet, have been affected as well. You won’t find any legitimate music stores such as Tower or Warehouse here anymore. Instead they’ve been replaced by thousands of small kiosks in virtually every city selling pirated versions of DVDs and Cds at a fraction of the price. Newspapers in English, such as the Bangkok post, are suffering, but the Thai newspapers still sell as they always have. People don’t shop on Ebay and Amazon here. The unemployment levels listed remain below 3 percent here, and business seems to be going on as usual (with the exception of the tourist areas). People here still do their shopping the old way, for the most part, and computer use is mainly restricted to a young game-addicted populace.

   What’s apparent is times have changed and adapting is once again the key to our survival. Every generation has its crisis. Many hoped the Obama presidency would usher in an age of exploring alternative renewable energy sources and that would create entirely new industries which we could then export to the rest of the world.

  Of course that hasn’t occurred, and the US seems so mired in political posturing and name calling it appears unlikely anything of substance will be achieved in the near future. Mutual intolerance has become as American as apple pie, and as long as that remains the case it seems unlikely there are any major changes ahead, which doesn’t bode well for the future.

   So for now you’ll have to settle for what’s out there. You can educate yourself (one of the many things the computer is good for) in your free time. You can try your luck at crime, or scoop up lottery tickets to test the power of prayer. There’s no shortage of Walmarts, McDonald’s, and 7-11s hiring out there. Or if you’re in good enough shape you can try to Howdy Doody it as a scarecrow and work in the great outdoors, that is, if the job is still available.