Saturday, September 5, 2009

Unemployment: We Don't Need You Anymore

The goal of this post is to investigate the necessary employment of the United States. That is to say, the number of people that actually have to work in order for all of us to survive. For the sake of this post, survival will constitute the availability of food, water, shelter, and energy. My methods are a bit shady but will suffice for a quick post and to convey my message: we really don't need to employ that many people.

So what's the result? We only have to employ ~11,800,000 people, just 3.9% of our population here in the United States, in order to meet our basic needs. Data breakdown below. Why is this significant? Just a few hundred years ago, upwards of 30% of the population would have been employed in such tasks. People will argue that the farmer needs the banker and that we all need a police force and doctors... but those jobs exist solely to deal with problems generated by humans. When it comes to beating nature, surviving, we've become very efficient which presents a very real problem to economists and politicians alike: structural unemployment.

Note to the unemployed: in order to survive, we don't need you anymore. In fact, in order for you to survive, you don't need you anymore either. Bittersweet I suppose.

Here's the data breakdown:
-Food (agriculture): ~1,400,000
-Energy (oil, gas, coal): ~820,000
-Shelter (construction): ~9,500,000
-Water (water districts): unknown, highball guess of 80,000, that's 1600 per state
-Total: 11,800,000
-Total U.S. Population: 304,059,724
Sources: BLS  and Google PublicData
Methods: number of unemployed persons was divided by the unemployment rate for both 2008 and 2009. The resulting workforces were averaged. The number of people working for water districts and related services was a complete guess but I sure hope 1,600 people would be sufficient for a state considering that our water collection and distribution systems are almost entirely automated.

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