Monday, April 17, 2017

Pondering shopping, and jobs, and the future of work

This is what a close-to-full-employment economy looks like. Apparently my chain grocery needs workers. Being naturally suspicious, I had to wonder whether "flexible" schedules mean all those attractive benefits somehow don't really extend to many new hires? A website where ex-employees write reviews suggests that part-time jobs at Safeway can work well for students and that the quality of the employee experience depends a lot on whether your particular location has smart store level management.

It's not at all clear that working at Safeway would enable someone to live here. In San Francisco, the current minimum wage is $13/hour, going up to $14 on July 1. For the state of California, the current minimum is $10.50. I suspect the grocery chain pays at least slightly above these levels for new hires. These aren't "living wages," exactly. According to an MIT Living Wage Calculator, a single adult working full time while living here would need to make $16.13 to enjoy a "normal" standard of living. Since the calculator assumes a minimum wage lower than the actual legal minimum, this seems suspiciously low.
Meanwhile, the Business section of the NY Times points to big, negative changes ahead in a sector which has been creating a lot of jobs.

Between 2010 and 2014, e-commerce grew by an average of $30 billion annually. Over the past three years, average annual growth has increased to $40 billion.

“That is the tipping point, right there,” said Barbara Denham, a senior economist at Reis, a real estate data and analytics firm. “It’s like the Doppler effect. The change is coming at you so fast, it feels like it is accelerating.”

This transformation is hollowing out suburban shopping malls, bankrupting longtime brands and leading to staggering job losses.

More workers in general merchandise stores have been laid off since October, about 89,000 Americans. That is more than all of the people employed in the United States coal industry, which President Trump championed during the campaign as a prime example of the workers who have been left behind in the economic recovery.

The job losses in retail could have unexpected social and political consequences, as huge numbers of low-wage retail employees become economically unhinged, just as manufacturing workers did in recent decades. About one out of every 10 Americans works in retail.

Whew! My emphasis.
You might think all this online shopping we're doing and consequent deliveries would be terrible for carbon pollution -- but Grist suggests that need not be the case.
Most anything beats driving when it comes to reducing the quantity of CO2 we personally are responsible for ...


Brandon said...

The San Francisco area wasn't always that expensive to live in. So what explains the rise in cost of living?

janinsanfran said...

Hi Brandon: basically, SF is expensive because too many people, with a lot of money, are chasing a limited quantity of housing and land.

Cities are where prosperity is happening and that raises many boats, even working class ones. Relatively speaking, prosperous cities are better places to live for most people who can manage it: safer, better schools, move innovative opportunities than small cities and towns. But they are also the site of the rat race.

Hattie said...

SF is fascinating, though the expense of living there has drained the city of a lot of its vitality, forcing young and creative people out. I would find it a much too demanding environment and prefer easy going Hilo. I've lived so many places, but Hilo is far and away my favorite.
I have several friends who lived in the Bay Area in the 50s and 60s and came to Hilo in the early 70s. We have our memories of a very different place from what it is now. Most of the things in art, music, etc. we cared about have been "appropriated" by culture vultures, and so we don't feel that they belong to us any more. My oldest friend lives in Minneapolis now, where she finds most of the cultural amenities--a community of artists, in particular--that she enjoys, but she has to deal with that awful Midwestern climate. An upside is that she is closer to NY and Europe, which she can afford to visit from time to time. I hear good things about St. Louis, which is very cheap and much safer than people think. A lot of people feel that they have to live in New York or San Francisco and are willing to pay any amount of money for the privilege.

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