The Workweek: A Round-Up of Labor Market Links for the Week Ending 7/14/17

This week’s labor market news on gig economy, e-commerce jobs, the middle class and more.

Welcome back to The Workweek, the Indeed Hiring Lab’s round-up of the latest research, news, and perspectives that made us think deeply or differently about the labor market this week. It’s your guide to the most important new insights about work.

These are our picks for this week:

Retirees Are Today’s True Entrepreneurs and Gig Workers

Today many aging Baby Boomers are working or planning to work past scheduled retirement. But recruitment practices and mandatory retirement ages have not kept up with their desire to stay employed. The result? Many retirees are transforming themselves into gig workers and startuppers. A quarter of Americans working in the sharing economy are over 55, according to the consulting and accounting firm PwC. At the same time, Kauffman Foundation researchers found that Americans age 55–65 are 65% more likely to start a company than those between 20 and 34. Employers need to take notice and reject the myths about less able-bodied or productive older workers. [The Economist]

Robocalypse Now? Maybe Not

As online shopping, automated cashiers and other forms of electronic commerce become more widespread, it sometimes seems the days of retail jobs are numbered. But Progressive Policy Institute economist Michael Mandel argues that ecommerce could be a massive jobs creator. According to his research, official statistics are not properly counting all the jobs associated with ecommerce. Mandel calculates that jobs in this sector are by far more than offsetting the loss of brick-and-mortar retail positions. And there’s another benefit—these jobs pay about 30% more than traditional retail work. Many analysts are skeptical, but Mandel’s optimistic argument is refreshing amid all the robocalypse talk. [NYT]

O Middle Class, Where Art Thou?

In advanced economies, the middle class is under siege. Blame it on automation and globalization, which have caused routine, mid-skill clerical and production jobs to disappear. But, according to Financial Times correspondent Sarah O’Connor, routine jobs ripe for automation aren’t inherently middle-class. The problem, she argues, lies with pay. Despite the increasing share of higher-skill jobs in the labor markets of OECD countries, average pay has largely remained flat. What’s more, in countries like Britain, new middle-paying jobs come with a catch—they’re more insecure. Jobs that offer security and good prospects, not routine middle-skill employment, may be the true marker of middle-class status. And such jobs are increasingly scarce. [FT]

If You Want a Raise, the Central Bank Has Got Your Back

On the subject of stagnant pay, an unusual advocate has emerged: the central bank. In many parts of the world, monetary policymakers are seen as single-mindedly focused on inflation and detached from the concerns of ordinary people. Now though, despite unemployment rates in many large economies reaching historical lows, sustained wage growth has been all but missing. As a result, in a number of countries, central bankers have taken notice. A few are even nudging workers to demand higher wages. So far, the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Bank of Japan have been the loudest voices on this score, but other central banks may soon follow. [BloombergView]

Throwing Cold Water on the Video Game “Funemployment” Story  

Last week, my colleague Valerie Rodden posted an item on a recent NBER paper that claimed video games may be keeping some young men out of work. Bloomberg columnist Noah Smith is having none of it. It’s true that men without jobs are spending more time on video games, he concedes, but overall they have less leisure as they clock more hours studying and looking for work. Smith argues it’s more likely that unemployment is leading to more game time rather than gaming leading to joblessness. The reduced work hours of young men may actually reflect deteriorating career prospects, not a decision to ditch work for what might be dubbed funemployment. Undoubtedly though, the final word on a subject this provocative hasn’t been heard yet. [BloombergView]