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Economic Perspectives, Vol. 29, 2nd, No. 2, May 2005
Understanding and addressing the challenges of job loss for low-wage workers
When it comes to the debate over job loss and related programs, America’s low-wage workers seem to get little attention. Research and policy discussions about the impact of job loss on U.S. workers tend to focus on workers who have long work experience in skilled positions. In particular, research and programs often focus on the “displaced worker,” defined as an employee who loses his or her job due to plant closures or relocation, insufficient work available, or positions or shifts being eliminated. In this era of technological change and global competition, the term conjures up images of high-tech jobs moved overseas and factory production workers increasingly replaced by automated processes. By definition, these workers are relatively “long tenured.” The focus on experienced workers is repeated among those who conduct research on job loss. For example, although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) collects data on the full spectrum of displaced workers, it analyzes and publishes data only on those workers who held the job they were displaced from for at least three years. Many policy responses favor these workers as well. “Trade Adjustment Act” programs, “Rapid Response” initiatives, and high-tech training programs are all designed to meet the needs of this category of workers.
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