October 11, 2015

How to Create More Middle Class Jobs and Grow Our Economy

How to Create More Middle Class Jobs and Grow Our Economy

The next President must make noticeable progress in creating opportunity for more Americans to have sustainable jobs, careers, and businesses. We must enable them to live middle class lives and to give their children a chance to participate in the American Dream. How can this be accomplished in a reasonable time frame?

There are multiple job creation strategies that can be implemented within a President’s first four-year term, although many strategies will require leadership that influences other stakeholders, as opposed to driving the agenda through federal legislation and regulations.

There are six great strategies:

Subdivide high price jobs to create more middle class jobs.

Lower credentialed healthcare jobs can be carved out of much higher paying healthcare jobs. Nurses can perform many tasks doctors perform today; aides can perform many tasks nurses perform today; dentist and pharmacist tasks can be delegated. This concept is called “practicing at the top of the license.”

In some communities, nurses perform tasks because there simply are not enough licensed physicians, and the nurses perform at a comparable level.

Delegation actually increases the benefit to patients and payers, because the service costs less and the nurse can spend more time with the patient.

Highly skilled construction trades, as well as technical trades, have combinations of high skill and low skill tasks. Unlike healthcare, in which a nursing career track is completely separate from a physician track, construction trade task delegation in these enables a person to serve as an apprentice and do paid work while preparing to get qualified for a higher skilled job. It significantly lowers the financial entry barrier for a trade.

We must well-paying target positions with chronic, long-term shortages and lower skill entry barriers.

Tailors and weavers are in short supply. While new clothes and textile-based products are mass-produced, we always need garment alterations, hemming, finishing and reweaving.

Component-based entertainment and audio-visual system installation can be learned in a relatively short period of time. Historically, home entertainment systems were simpler and usually installable by the purchaser. Today, they are more complicated, especially if someone buys components from different vendors and tries to integrate them.

There are never enough people to do these kinds of work.

We need to reduce license and certification requirements to reduce entry barriers.

Anyone who surveys licensing requirements for particular jobs would make three conclusions:

  • The percentage of jobs and professions requiring some form of licensing and certification by governments has increased almost everywhere. By various estimates, the percentage of jobs requiring a governmental license or certification has increased from 5% in 1968 to over 1/3 today. Many of these requirements have created very high job entry barriers.
  • The variability in requirements for a particular profession is very high across states, with no measurable difference in public benefit. This suggests that entry barriers exist to protect incumbents.
  • License and certification requirements not only require demonstration of a level of skill, but also the completion of expensive coursework.

The next U.S. President should convene a summit of the Governors and leaders of the state Departments of Labor, as well as business and educational leaders, to develop more rational and uniform licensing requirements across the states, which also enables people to move across borders and qualify to practice their profession in the state to which they move.

Identify opportunities to substitute labor for technology that reduce costs and benefits society.

We have a crisis of excessive dependence on pain management medications. While the story of the addiction suffered by Prince is the most noteworthy, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that almost 5 million Americans are addicted to pain killers.

Yet, there are multiple non-medication physical treatments available from massage therapists, physical therapists, and various other professionals. These professions require licenses, as they should, and they are costly, but they are more effective and, over time, less costly than being dependent on prescription medications, and they increase middle class job opportunities.


Small-scale organic farming, even in urban areas, reduces our dependence on industrially produced fruits, vegetables, and herbs. While these products superficially appear to be more expensive, the absence of long haul shipping costs creates a net economic benefit for him or her, and new job opportunities.

The University of the District of Columbia offers a number of courses and certifications in urban agriculture and master gardening. Jobs in this field pay more than $20 an hour, and entry barriers are relatively low. As our country is more attuned to both organics and ethnic specialty crops that can be grown in urban environments, this marketplace can provide sustainable employment.

New technologies have created a potentially large artisan economy.

Historically, products and parts were produced in bulk, shipped long distances, and introduced into a complex supply chain. The continued improvement in capability and reduction in 3D printing provides opportunity to create new business and job opportunities making parts and products that are mass produced today, especially low volume, high cost parts for older, but perfectly serviceable, equipment with useful life.

As Sara Angeles of Business News Daily wrote in 2013, 3D printing is now being offered as a service in many locations:

“UPS recently launched a pilot program testing 3D-Printing-as-a-Service franchises at two of their retail stores in order to make 3D printing mainstream.

One of these UPS stores is located in the San Diego area and is owned by Burke Jones, whose 3D printing wait list spans three pages of customers ordering robotic arms, custom figurines and vintage parts — just a few examples of the wide range of products offered.”

Online selling, sharing, and transport services offer new middle class job opportunities.

Uber and AirBnB are the most well known examples of the “sharing economy,” in which individuals are able to share an asset that would be underutilized and to earn income in the process.

The online marketplace can operate as either a sale market, such as the eBay auction site or the Amazon marketplace, or as a short term rental site, such as Lumoid Local, which focuses predominantly on camera rentals, but is expanding to other kinds of equipment.


Historically, we assumed that any firm offering business-to-business or business-to-residence delivery services would need to operate on a fixed route, next-day delivery model, with items being consolidated in a central point, such as a UPS processing center or a Postal Service regional processing facility. Amazon challenged this model by shipping from local distribution centers.

However, there is no reason someone cannot carry packages from one location to another, as long as the carriage of the packages does not create public health issues, such as food or grocery delivery, and earn some income in the process. Retailers are beginning to experiment with same-day delivery models and to ship one item at a time, as opposed to handing over bulk shipments to firms like UPS and FedEx.

The Internet and mobile phone apps create a great opportunity for highly decentralized, small business delivery opportunities in communities. While many people will prefer the established services like Amazon, UPS, and FedEx for same day delivery, Uber creates many incremental opportunities for individuals to take advantage of their intimate knowledge of the community to establish themselves as a provider of delivery services.

Final thoughts

All these strategies have two common benefits, beyond their ability to produce middle class jobs:

  • They rely on either reducing the cost of a product or service, or providing other customer benefits, and/or
  • They can be implemented with expensive government programs.

Governments tend to look for big solutions to underemployment or wage compression problems. They also gravitate toward mandated wage increases that increase product and service costs without increasing customer benefits.

The middle class jobs and income problems are solvable, but they require more tailored approaches that demand collaboration among governments, businesses, non-profits and educational institutions.

Our middle class decline is reversible, but we have to approach it intelligently with sustainable, longer-term solutions and not with quick-fix minimum wage laws or big government programs.