If you drive down Court Street in Kankakee, this sign has probably caught your attention.
It towers over a popular fast food restaurant. The sign advertises a beginning wage above the minimum wage, plus 401k benefits, plus $2,500 for college expenses. Think of it. A job at a restaurant now has retirement and educational benefits.
This location is not alone. Posters for job openings are everywhere. Many pledge a cash bonus for staying on the job — or successfully recommending someone for the job.
In April, the economy added 263,000 jobs. At the same time, The Wall Street Journal reports, wages have been growing at 3 percent per month. This is good news for the workers, of course. It is also good news for the rest of us, too. As more people make more money, that extends the life of both Medicare and Social Security, which are supported by taxes on wages paid by current workers.
For about a year now, there have been more job openings in the country than people looking for jobs. Numbernomics, a statistical website, says that in March there were 7.5 million open jobs and 6.2 million people looking for work. It went on to postulate that there is a skills gap. The jobs that are open require skills the applicants do not have. In other cases, the same analysis went, people may have disqualified themselves from work by having a criminal record or by failing a drug test. We may be moving toward decriminalizing drug usage, but we still do not want users in all types of jobs.
This is the challenge remaining before us — moving the square pegs into the round holes. Some of this involves counseling — making sure people know what jobs are available. Some of this involves training — making sure people are aware of what they need to know. Some of this involves responsibility — making sure people know the consequences of their actions.
Undoubtedly many people are prospering. The next difficult step is to keep spreading that prosperity.