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March 8th, 2010
11:00 AM ET

Jobs and population: Can our big companies create enough jobs?

Editor's Note: This article continues our series excerpted from AC360°'s contributor David Gewirtz's book, How To Save Jobs, which is available now. AC360° viewers can download it for free at HowToSaveJobs.org. To learn more about the book, follow David on Twitter @DavidGewirtz.

David Gewirtz | BIO
AC360° Contributor
Director, U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute

Seventeen million people still need work. That's a lot of people. Add to that the ever-changing numbers from our current financial crisis: as of spring 2009, seven million jobs were lost. That's a lot more people looking for work.

Here the Bureau of Labor Statistics mucks with the unemployment numbers a bit, which is subject to raging debate among the talking heads.

BLS tends to not count every unemployed person. Those who are unemployed and have simply given up don't show up in BLS's estimates of the number of unemployed citizens. They call these folks "discouraged workers and others marginally attached to the labor force." Special.

As of the first quarter in 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us there are 2.1 million of these "discouraged workers" and another 13.5 million workers who are unemployed, but, presumably, keeping a stiff upper lip. By 2010, it's worse.

That's 15.6 million people who need jobs. That's a lot of jobs. That's a lot of jobs we need to create.

America needs 20.6 million jobs pretty much immediately and the top 40 employers only employ 18.3 million people.

Let's get some perspective on how big a task that is - and remember that if the job loss rates continue, there will be millions more unemployed who need work.

Here's the detail that no one is going to admit: corporate America can't absorb 20.6 million workers in six months. It can't absorb that many in six years.

Let me elaborate. On the sidebar is a list of the 40 top employers in the world (not counting the U.S. government).

As you can no doubt tell, not all of these companies are American. State Grid is Chinese, Indian Railways is obviously Indian, and so forth.

But even so, you're looking at a list of the top 40 employers worldwide. And if you add up the total number of employees across all of the top 40 employers, you get the magic number of 18.3 million.

America needs 20.6 million jobs immediately and the top 40 employers only employ 18.3 million people. The math is inescapable. It's going to be very, very hard to create that many jobs.

To create that many jobs, we'd have to create the equivalent of Wal-Mart, the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, McDonald's, Hitachi, IBM, Siemens, Citigroup, Target, Sears, Volkswagen, GE, Kroger, Toyota, Matsushita, Home Depot, Nestle, General Motors, and a whole lot more, all in the space of months or even a few years.

We're in an economic environment where GM and Chrysler declared bankruptcy and America is laying off more people every month than work for McDonald's worldwide. We've got us a very serious problem.

Bottom line: corporate America, as it's been run for the past 100 years, can't provide enough jobs for Americans who need them.

Most of these enterprises are decades old and are unique in all the world. There's just no way we can, for example, clone McDonald's overnight and fill the clone with jobs. There's just no way we can create another Wal-Mart in a week, and fill it with employees. There's just no way we can re-create General Electric in a month, and fill the second GE with out-of-work Americans.

Another problem? Since we add 2 million more people to the labor force each year, we not only need to get our currently unemployed workers jobs. We also need to account for the growing number of Americans each year who need employment.

We're going to have to start thinking outside the box.

By the way, there is actually a viable answer: very small companies. If each very small company added just one employee, we’d solve our employment problem. Read the book (it’s free) to find out more about how that can work.

Next week: jobs and population control. Tough topic.

Follow David on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz.

Editor’s note: David Gewirtz is Director of the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute and Editor-in-Chief of the ZATZ magazines. He is a leading Presidential scholar specializing in White House email. He is a member of FBI InfraGard, the Cyberterrorism Advisor for the International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals, a columnist for The Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, and has been a guest commentator for the Nieman Watchdog of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. He is a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley extension, a recipient of the Sigma Xi Research Award in Engineering and was a candidate for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Letters.


Filed under: David Gewirtz • Economy • Job Market
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. jerry

    WOW!!! How about some TRADE RESTRICTIONS!!!!
    Not protectionism but how can we compete with the cheap labor in China and India. Free trade was supposed to mean we can sell our goods to another population and they can sell theirs to us. When did it become, our companies use foreign labor to cheaply make stuff and sell it back to us? We can`t have free trade with china. They will never buy stuff made here because it will be too expensive. They will continue to buy domestic goods. How can we compete? American made goods are too expensive for Americans to buy. Chinese companies should be subject to the same rules Toyota and other Japanese companies are.
    And American companies manufacturing out of China should be taxed to the brink of bankruptcy.

    March 8, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
  2. Tim Gibson

    All well put, yet, how can every small business add another employee with the current state of the economy where many struggle to survive.

    No jobs equal no money to spend at any business regardless of size. And that is the bottom line. It is going to take much, much more than a role of the dice to turn this event around.

    March 8, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
  3. Denise Barlow

    I have saturated my hometown with resumes and have done so much on line hunting for a job my head hurts. I'm seriously thinking about moving to another area of the country to see if I can change my luck. (with the help of a good friend) I pray there are a few "big" companies out there who are willing to open their doors for me.

    March 8, 2010 at 12:39 pm |