Since December 2007 the U.S. economy has lost 8.5 million jobs. In 2009 the federal government’s massive economic stimulus bill tried to create jobs through spending on physical infrastructure projects, such as roads and bridges.
Now the U.S. Congress is debating a new job stimulus bill offering tax breaks to businesses that hire new employees. Moody’s estimates that this could add 250,000 new jobs at a cost of $43,000 a pop. Many of these may be low-paying jobs that companies may already have been planning to fill. The paperwork involved may not be worth the potential benefit to a business.
What other ways might be more effective in putting people back to work? There are millions of jobs that even in this great recession have remained vacant for six months or more. Many of these are STEM jobs (”science, technology, engineering and math-related” jobs) in healthcare, aerospace, advanced metalwork, advanced precision manufacturing, advanced engine repair/maintenance, scientific laboratory occupations, information technology manufacturing, and computer-related design, manufacturing and maintenance. At least some of these positions might be filled if U.S. businesses were allowed to capitalize related training, development, education, and internship costs, just as they now are allowed to capitalize the cost of building new plants and buying equipment. This will prove a true financial incentive for a company to use job training programs for unemployed workers who have the aptitude to fill such positions, perhaps already have some of the required skills, and the personal motivation to learn.
Unless the education-to-employment system is updated, we estimate that over the next decade there will be 12 to 24 million U.S. vacant jobs. The socioeconomic forces that are driving this potentially disastrous shortfall of STEM and other skilled workers are detailed in my recent books, The 2010 Meltdown: Solving the Impending Jobs Crisis (2005), and Winning the Global Talent Showdown (2009).
Allowing businesses to capitalize training, development, and internships costs will help reduce unemployment. If Congress is serious about putting Americans back to work, it needs to seriously consider this alternative now.