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September 4th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #958 'It was the best of jobs, it was the worst of jobs"

Reporter's Note: President Obama will give his big jobs speech on Thursday.

Dear Mr. President,

As you continue to craft your big speech on jobs, I would caution you to remember one fact that is slapping many Americans squarely in the chops these days: A job is not a job is not a job. In other words, we always hear these reports about jobs being created or lost (mostly lost, lately) as if we are talking about Cheerios; they’re all alike. But that is not the case.

I’ve had good jobs (like the one I have now,) and I’ve had bad jobs (like the one I had at a grocery store stocking shelves, mopping floors, cleaning sinks, and disposing of spoiled milk.) The differences between the two can be enormous, in terms of pay, hours, conditions, you name it.

So it is not merely enough to say, “Let’s create jobs.” What we need are jobs that produce decent wages, decent benefits, and reasonable hopes for people supporting their families and moving ahead.

In the recession, the single biggest loss of jobs occurred among middle class earners. But since then, the most robust recovery in jobs has been among those at the bottom of the wage spectrum. In other words, even the jobs that we are creating to replace those we lost, are often much weaker; they pay less, demand more, and offer fewer chances for moving ahead.

It’s kind of like we lost a stack of twenty dollar bills, and we’re finding ones to replace them. Sure, they’re still bills, but try to buy a hamburger with them and you’ll see the difference between Jackson and Washington.

Just an idea to consider as you keep writing. Not sure what you can do about it, but thought I should toss it in the hopper.

Hope your Sunday is going well.

Regards,

Tom