As we search for ways to create jobs it is worthwhile to look carefully at the promising sectors of the economy. Where can we “grow” the economy?
I am constantly amazed by business men who, when contemplating how to grow their business, look at what they have on the shelf. On the national stage this means looking at our present industrial capacity which is greatly underused, i.e high unemployment. The thinking is how do we get this unused capacity back into full use?
Of course this is putting the cart before the horse. Any good business school will teach you to first look at the market, see what will sell and then build capacity to supply that need. Cranking up underutilized industrial capacity to feed a lost market, either lost to change in taste or to cheap imports or whatever, makes about as much sense as building a bridge to no where. Yes, in both cases people are employed but there will be no sale. And sales are what constitute “sustainable” develolpment.
So if we have to look at the market to give us direction, what do I see as the best bets. First, of all one should consider basic demographics. We have a growing populaton so there are growing markets for almost all goods and services. But more importantly, we have an aging population. This guarantees that demand for health care will grow faster than the average. We can crank out as many health care professionals as we want since they will be in even greater demand. Ditto for new pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.
Another major trend is increasing leisure. Americans have more free time now than ever before. And how do we fill this time? Entertainment, films, theater, music, dance, and the ever growing market for video games, looms large here. Fortunately America leads the world in most, if not all, phases of entertainment. So lots of room for job growth here.
Another leisure spurred growth industry is travel. You may or may not know that the USA is the most popular international travel destination. More foreigners come here for a visit than go anywhere else. Of course Americans travel more abroad than any other people so we actually spend more on foriegn travel than we earn from foreign travel.
Even more important, domestic travel will grow well. I live in Florida whose economy rests squarely on tourism, and while Orlando is the most popular destination for foreign visitors, most of the tourist revenue here comes from domestic visitors. Plenty of room for job growth in tourism as evidenced by tourism and health care being the only fields in which people are presently hiring in the “Sunshine” State.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of increased leisure is home improvements. What family does not spend more time on gardening, home repairs, home improvements, home decoration, and such than in the past? Of course the companies do well here are those that recognized this trend early, such as Home Depot.
Now one could ask me what about growth in new energy? I note that President Obama subtly changed the climate change discussion to focus on new, cleaner energy development, not reduction of energy use. He pointedly called for new investment in nuclear energy, off sore drilling for oil and gas, and alternative energy. In short, increasing energy production generates more jobs than energy conservation.
As we put more emphasis on creating new jobs we will be well advised to look in the growth areas of the economy and not gaze back at what , “we have on the shelf.”