The front page of the Akron Beacon Journal's Business section had a story today, (2.25.2007), about retail jobs in Ohio. It points out that retail jobs are paying less and that pay for retail employees is not keeping up with other sectors of the economy. In Medina County, for example, retail jobs have increased but retail pay has declined by 10% according to the article. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is quoted as attributing at least some of the decline in pay for retail employees to that sector's lack of organized workers. Other factors cited in the article include technology, which is allowing retail establishments to eliminate jobs by use of such mechanisms as self-checkout stations.
What is interesting about this article is that one of the arguments made by supporters of free trade treaties such as NAFTA is that while manufacturing jobs may be lost, service sector jobs will step in and fill the void. Well, as this article shows, the pay for such jobs is much less than the pay for the lost jobs. This affects all of us, not just the workers involved. If lower paying jobs replace higher paying jobs, then workers won't have as much money to spend on things like entertainment, cars, groceries, dining out, and recreation. It means that professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and dentists may find that their clients don't have as much to spend of their services. It will affect construction jobs because people who don't have as much money can't spend as much on housing. It will affect governments, especially governmental bodies like school boards, who have to go back to voters on a regular basis for approval of tax levies. In short, when one section of the economy suffers, all of the economy may suffer.