Many people believe the middle class has been getting squeezed, partly because of the shrinkage of factory jobs that used to be the backbone of middle-class employment. Is the stark choice for a worker today a low-paying job or a high-paying job, with nothing in between? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.
“Well, actually … many economists would say no. Now let me give you some background. If you do look at the distribution of jobs, you still see that the highest percentage of jobs — actually over half of jobs in the future — will still require training of a high school degree or actually less. There’s been a big growth in jobs needing, however, college degrees and more. So, many people think that that’s really the choice. Either you stop at high school or maybe you’re a high school dropout or you have to go on to college to get four years of training or above to get a job.
“Actually if you look at the statistics, those jobs in the middle, these would be jobs that require more than high school but less than four years of college. These would be a lot of the technical jobs. They will be the jobs where people would get on-the-job training or they would go to a technical or community college.
“Those jobs, although they are the smallest in terms of numbers of the three I mentioned, they have actually been growing faster than the growth rate for all jobs. And so if you take that and run with it, what that would imply is, We’re actually not running out of those sort of middle-income jobs. We’re going to need more of them. And that means that there are places for people to go and get training if they don’t want to go onto four-year college but they don’t want to stop at high school.
“Again, going to technical school, community college, and getting yourself slotted for some of those middle-income jobs is a very, very real possibility.”