New and Old Industries That Could Save American Jobs

industry
One of the primary concerns of this presidential campaign is jobs ― and rightfully so. The unemployment rate, which is now hovering just below 5 percent, has been steadily declining since the Housing Crisis of ’08, as government initiatives and a recovering economy have produced more than 14 million jobs. Yet, few Americans will admit that the economy feels any healthier than it did eight years ago.

Economists can cite dozens of reasons for this uneasy feeling, from the loss of baby boomer workers to a slump in wage growth, but the fact is much of America’s manufacturing jobs are simply disappearing. U.S. born-and-raised companies are outsourcing to factories in cheaper countries, leaving American workers without jobs.

Fortunately, a handful of solutions are emerging. By fostering growth in a few small industries, we could save the American workforce and finally lift Americans out of their post-recession poor spirits.

Environmental Sustainability
As voiced by Ken Bone during the second presidential debate, there is an enduring fear amongst workers in the energy industry that any move our country makes toward becoming green or sustainable will kill economic growth and leave millions of Americans unemployed. However, to reach international goals for energy consumption and pollution reduction, America needs to revolutionize its energy infrastructure, which will take years of work and require millions of workers.

Renewable energy is incredibly profitable. China’s sustainability industry grows by 100,000 jobs per year as the giant nation strives to reach green energy standards. Even in America, Pew Research Group found the rate of job growth in the clean energy sector substantially outpaced the average for all jobs, meaning there will be plenty of need for workers if we ramp up our investments in sustainability.

Tobacco Alternatives
Tobacco was America’s first cash crop, and through the centuries it has remained an important job generator, for everyone from farmers to executives. However, the 1960s revelation that tobacco was utterly disastrous for health has spurred a widespread abandonment of the drug, and today cigarette smoking is at an all-time low. Unfortunately, while this might be promising for the nation’s health, it is terrifying for the tobacco industry, which employs more than 100 million people worldwide. In America, there are a two viable replacements for tobacco production.

The first is hemp. Industrial hemp was been grown in America since Jamestown was founded, as the crop flourishes in the same swampy landscape as tobacco plants. However, hemp has thousands more applications than tobacco: paper, textiles, rope, health foods, beauty products, biofuels, plastic composites, and more. Thanks to laws passed in Colorado and Washington, marijuana is receiving more attention as a safe and taxable resource, so hemp might see a revival that could bolster the economy.

Alternatively, Big Tobacco might transform into Big Vape. Smokers are turning to e-cigarettes and vaporizers in droves, with studies suggesting about 10 percent of adults in the U.S. have some sort of vaping device. Production of vaporizers is more high-tech than tobacco cigarettes, but updates to the manufacturing industry could facilitate the transition.

High-Tech Manufacturing
To remain competitive, U.S. businesses have sought cheaper and cheaper ways to produce goods at price points Americans will accept. While many companies famously take their manufacturing overseas, some are staying domestic and replacing human workers with machines.

At first, this doesn’t sound like a viable solution to America’s economic woes. If America continues to fill human jobs with robots, the unemployment rate will quickly become out-of-control. However, that’s not what’s happening. Even as manufacturing plants fill with mechanical laborers, the manufacturing industry has added nearly 2 million jobs since 2010, and the openings continue to rise.

The reason for this a revolution in American manufacturing. For much of the country’s history, factories have been devoted to producing low-tech goods, like plastic toys and simple metal tools. Recently, American manufacturers have been moving in droves to high-tech alternatives, like medical equipment and computers. Though machines are still integral in high-tech manufacturing, skilled workers are needed to oversee the line. Industry experts predict that job growth will explode as the older generation of manufacturing workers retires and younger, more trainable laborers look for work.

Still, some economists suggest this bump in manufacturing job creation is a fluke. Over the past 30 years, manufacturing has lost more than 7 million jobs overall, and this bump might soon reverse to follow the general trend. Time will tell whether American high-tech manufacturing will save the economy.

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