The Trends That Matter

We have been writing for years about two dominant trends in the economy. The first – and the most important – is that the knowledge-based sectors of the economy now account for almost all the job growth and most of the good paying jobs in the American economy. The knowledge-based economy accounts for 80% of the nation’s job growth since 2001 and pays on average $24,000 more per year than the rest of the economy. Michigan’s fundamental problem is that we are 32nd in the share of our employment earnings from knowledge-based industries.

The second trend is that both college educated adults and knowledge-based enterprises are increasingly concentrating in big metropolitan areas anchored by vibrant central cities. So if metro Detroit and the city of Detroit primarily and secondarily metro Grand Rapids and Lansing don’t work the state will not be prosperous.

Along comes three recent articles that demonstrate the continuing power of these two big trends. The first from shows how college educated adults continue to move to big metros, particularly their central cities. As they write: To put it in perspective, the 171,000 college degrees added in Manhattan in the last nine years would constitute by my quick look the 141st largest city in the United States in its own right, roughly equal to the entire population of Chattanooga, TN. Pretty amazing!

The second is specifically about NYC from the Economist. They report that this year NYC  with less than 3% of the nation’s population has created 7.5% of all the new private sector jobs in the country. Sure the financial sector bail out helped. But this is more about the concentration of talent that is creating job growth across the broad knowledge-based economy.

Finally a real insightful article from Chris Farrell in Business Week. It is about the symbolic importance of Google’s recent 10% pay increase. That’s right: a big pay raise in these awful times. As Farrell writes: Workers in the most cosmopolitan cities are seeing wage gains. For instance, the average weekly wage increase for all private industry workers in the U.S. from the first quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of 2010 was 1 percent, according to the BLS. Yet average weekly wages in tech-heavy San Francisco over the same period showed an increase of 5.4 percent. The gain in information-rich Washington, D.C., was 2.8 percent. New York City had an 11.9 percent increase, with the biggest pay earned in finance (22.7 percent) and professional business services (10.9 percent). “This isn’t about information technology,” says Paul Saffo, a longtime Silicon Valley consultant and managing director of foresight at the startup Discern Analytics. “This is about knowledge work.”

Get aligned with these trends and you can prosper. If not, you will get poorer compared to the country. It is that simple.

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