One important note on the PISA tests, and other international benchmarks of student learning, is that the United States has never led the globe in student achievement — it has always been about where it is today, sitting around 15th place internationally, yet we have the largest GDP and most productive workforce. This suggests that educational achievement is the only factor in productivity and employment. As Friedman notes, this is partly due to the fact that we once had an economy rich in manufacturing — which required less skill in the workforce. Some believe the preference toward education and skill is overstated though. Harry Holzer and labor economists have shown that there is still, and will continue to be, a significant middle skill job sector in America. What they find is that these middle jobs will require some postsecondary training — in programs that may only be a few weeks or months at venues like community colleges.
Most American workers (about 70 percent currently) do not work in jobs that require a college degree (nor does 70 percent of the population hold the degree). Even as the country becomes more “high tech” and more “new economy” only 40 percent of workers (in the highest of estimates) will need a college degree. The major gap in learning is for workers who will need “some” postsecondary training, but not a degree. Our educational system doesn’t address the educational needs for future non-degree holding workers as well as it does for those continuing to a four year college.
203K jobs is steady (if not grand) improvement in hiring. The Washington Post suggests that this report shows that the government shut down had little effect on the economy and that the Federal Reserve could consider pulling back its bond buying program to support economic recovery. They also suggest that holiday sales will be 3 percent higher than last year – another sign of recovery.
I’d like to add one point. We need to create even more jobs to keep up with population growth. Klein gets at this in his third point about weak job creation, but we need to remember that we aren’t just aiming at getting back to pre-recession job levels. America is a growing country and getting back to pre-recession jobs levels in 2023 will mean that the country will still have high unemployment and numerous people out of the job market – we have to do better and create jobs faster.