Four Real World Ways to Create More Jobs
What Works the Best?
The goal of all job creation strategies is to stimulate healthy economic growth. Economists agree that annual growth between 2%–3% is sustainable. This usually requires adding 150,000 new jobs per month to employ new workers entering the labor force. In a free market economy, the government doesn't need to do anything when growth is healthy; capitalism encourages small businesses to compete, thereby creating better ways to meet consumers' needs. Because of this, small businesses account for 65% of all new jobs created. The proper role of government is to provide a supportive environment for growth.
Even a healthy economy is subject to the bubbles and busts of the business cycle. When the economy contracts into a recession, the government must create solutions to unemployment. It may use expansive monetary policy, expansive fiscal policy, or both to stimulate job growth. Here are the eight job creation strategies that give the most bang for the buck.
Reduce Interest Rates
Expansionary monetary policy is when a central bank, such as the Federal Reserve, uses its tools to stimulate the economy—often lowering the fed funds rate to increase the money supply, which increases liquidity and gives banks more money to lend. As a result, mortgage and other interest rates decline. With cheaper credit, consumers can borrow and spend more, allowing businesses to expand to meet the increased demand. This increased demand lets companies hire more workers and give them more purchasing power.
The Fed can also increase the money supply through quantitative easing, which is when it creates credit out of thin air to buy U.S. Treasurys, mortgage-backed securities, and any other kinds of debt. They can quickly put trillions of dollars into the economy by making credit available without increasing the U.S. debt. They also have many other tools, such as lowering the federal reserve requirement and lowering the rate on the discount window—which should be done first when a recession is looming because decisions can be made quickly through the regular Federal Open Market Committee meeting.
The main disadvantage of this is that it relies on bank lending and doesn't directly put money into consumers' pockets. It can take six months or more to stimulate demand. It also doesn't work once a severe recession is underway because there won’t be much demand for loans. If people feel too poor to borrow, it doesn't matter how low interest rates are. If the recession continues, banks become unwilling to lend because borrowers' credit scores fall. Another downside is that expansive monetary policy can trigger inflation if overdone. To prevent that from happening, the central bank must begin raising rates as soon as the recession is over.
A University of Massachusetts at Amherst study found that all government spending is not created equal. The most cost-effective ones are building roads, bridges, and other public works. $1 billion spent on public works created 19,795 jobs. Public works create jobs because it puts people right to work. The federal government can quickly fund construction projects already in the approval pipeline. It can hire contractors, send money to the states, or hire workers directly. That was one reason why the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ended the Great Recession in 2009. It spent $85 billion in shovel-ready construction projects.
Another cost-effective solution is unemployment benefits. According to a 2010 study, unemployment benefits increased employment on average by 1.6 million jobs each quarter from mid-2008 through mid-2010. Unemployment benefits create so many jobs because the unemployed must spend all the benefits received, and they tend to buy necessities such as groceries, clothing, and housing right away. Retailers and manufacturers respond to the added demand by hiring more workers to keep up.
These benefits also help keep the unemployed from becoming homeless. It is more difficult for them to find a job if they lose a steady address.
Tax cuts create jobs by letting families or businesses keep more of the money they earn. The idea is that consumers will buy more things, thereby stimulating demand. Businesses use tax cut money to hire much-needed workers. All tax cuts are not created equal when it comes to job creation, though. For example, a Congressional Budget Office study found that while the Bush tax cuts created 4,600 jobs for every $1 billion in foregone tax revenue, payroll tax cuts did better—they created 13,000 new jobs for every $1 billion spent. Companies use tax savings in one of four ways, all of which increase the demand needed to drive job growth:
- Reduce prices
- Increase employee wages
- Buy more supplies
- Hire more workers directly
The best was a payroll tax cut given only for new hires. With it, every $1 billion created 18,000 new jobs. According to theories by supply-side economics, trickle-down economics, and the Laffer Curve, tax cuts on businesses and the wealthy drive the economy towards growth. With less taxes and more wealth to dispose of, companies and those in the upper-income bracket can spend much more and bring about activities that generate demand for new jobs. This is why so many people favor payroll tax cuts as the best form of tax cuts.
Defense Spending and Job Creation
When people think about the best way for the government to create jobs, they tend to think of World War II. According to a University of Massachusetts Amherst study, defense spending only creates 8,555 jobs per $1 billion spent—a finding that surprises many people.
It made sense back then because World War II was much more labor-intensive than today's defense spending. Now, more is spent on drones, F-16s, and aircraft carriers than the salaries of military personnel. Also, there were no unemployment benefits during the Great Depression, so the job creation ability of government spending now may not be able to offset the true cost of war.
When to Use Expansionary Fiscal Policy
Expansionary fiscal policy works best once a recession is underway or becomes severe. Tax cuts create jobs by putting more money directly into the pockets of consumers and businesses. Discretionary spending creates jobs by directly hiring workers, sending contracts to businesses to hire workers, or increasing subsidies to state governments so that they don't have to lay off workers.
One disadvantage of fiscal policy is that legislators disagree on whether tax cuts or increased spending is more cost-effective, which can delay action. Congress should cut spending or raise taxes once the recession is over.
Job Creation Statistics
When looking at job creation statistics, remember that not all jobs are created equal. Federal spending on public works creates construction jobs, which will successfully reduce the unemployment rate, but it may not stimulate as much demand as it would if the same number of better paying high-tech jobs were created.
In fact, jobs created after the last few recessions have led to greater income inequality because rehired workers became willing to take jobs that paid less. The high level of long-term unemployed and underemployed individuals in this recession means that this trend will only continue. For month-by-month job creation statistics since 2008, see Employment Statistics.