One of the things that's fascinating about the Trump presidency is some of the promises - direct and implied - he's made that the jobs environment is going to improve for the blue collar American worker. The Trump jobs platform is a cocktail of trade policy, economic policy, protectionism and more.
To be fair, there's no such thing as an easy solution to any of this, but one of the dirty little secrets is that a lot of the jobs are never - and I mean never - coming back. Whether it's automation, robots, global trade or societal changes, a lot of jobs are gone for good.
Which means the unspoken truth for a lot of blue collar workers is that their prospects won't improve with retraining and possible relocation. Consider this coal/solar/wind energy jobs rundown from Fortune:
"According to a recent report from the Energy Department, the coal electric generation sector employed just 86,035 people—57,325 of them miners—in 2016. That’s far fewer than the number who now work in solar: 370,000, up 25% from 2015. The wind-energy workforce, meanwhile, ballooned 32%, to 101,738, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics pronounced “wind turbine service technician” the nation’s fastest-growing occupation, projecting 108% growth between 2014 and 2024.
Compare that with the fate of coal miners, whose number dwindled by 24% last year. There are lots of reasons for that—the shale gas boom, declining demand, Obama-era regulations, and automation. Even for those in the industry, it’s hard to imagine all those coal jobs coming back. Luke Popovich of the National Mining Association has upgraded the industry outlook from “not great” to “improving,” in light of Trump’s early days in the White House."
My dad was a telephone line guy for years, and looking back, I'm proud of the adjustments he made when the business he was in become less POTS and more data and video. He embraced that OK, but didn't have to change companies to get retrained - and certainly didn't have to relocate for the job.
West Virginia coal miners can't get a job in solar or wind without retraining, looking for a different company to work for, and yes, moving somewhere else. And they're really going to hate the arid climates over Morgantown.
Many of the jobs aren't coming back. Retraining is key, but as the economy shifts, relocation is another dirty little detail.
God help us all when semi-trailers become automated and take out millions of jobs that blue collar Americans migrated to over the last 30 years.