Those of you teaching AP Macro either already have arrived or soon will be at the chapter on unemployment. And the chapter on economic is probably in your rear view mirror. However, when you get to unemployment, you probably will spend some time discussing the relationship between economic growth and unemployment, specifically structural unemployment.
Joseph Schumpeter called economic growth creative destruction. He pointed out that a growing, changing economy is constantly creating new products and new methods of producing products while destroying others. The destruction of old products and methods results in lost jobs that never come back.
National Public Radio has an excellent photographic essay (A photographic essay on a radio web site?) showing jobs that have been eliminated. (HT to Cafe Hayek.) One of my favorites was the photo of the pinsetters in a bowling alley. When I was growing up, my elementary school had a four-lane bowling alley in the basement. The church, of which my school was a part, had several small leagues that used the alley on a regular basis, and one of my first jobs was as a pinsetter. Our lanes actually had machines that dropped the pins, but after each ball, the setter had to jump into "the pit", put the ball on the rails that returned it to the bowler, and pick up the pins that were knocked down on that roll and place them in the machine for the next drop. It was hectic and you knew you had become a "master" when you could handle two lanes at once. For this workout you got a straight rate per bowler, per game and half-off the price of a bottle of soda.
We don't see pinsetters very often. Heck, in modern bowling alleys you don't even have to know how to score. Times change, jobs change, and unemployment often reflects these changes. It doesn't make it easier for those who suffer, but it should shape how we approach unemployment.
Just as a follow-up to the NPR piece, there is an engaging but somewhat dated annual report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas (1992) that examines "creative destruction" and even has tables showing jobs that exist in 1991 that didn't exist earlier in the century. You might want to share some of it with your students when talking about the concept of unemployment.
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