A Problem With Geography

U.S. employment might be nearing its maximum limit, but there are still pockets of unemployed workers around the country.


In a speech on Wednesday, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen said the United States was nearing maximum employment and workers were getting difficult to find. This is the same Janet Yellen who less than a year ago said there was still much slack in the labor market.

The Fed also released its Beige Book yesterday, and the tight labor market theme was prevalent in that report as well. Several districts reported critical shortages of skilled labor.

The problem we have is not with the job market. The problem we have is with geography. The people without jobs are living in areas like the rust belt, mining towns, etc. Rather than moving to where the jobs are, they are waiting for the jobs to come to them. Trump promised that will happen, and that’s going to be a tough promise to live up to.

Make Dwight A TRUSTED Part Of Your Day

Read more insights from Dwight Johnston on TrustCU.com or register for his Daily Dose e-newsletter to receive his blogs straight to your inbox.

Read More Register Now

Some of you are looking forward to Donald Trump’s inauguration tomorrow, others not so much. Regardless of where you stand, I think we’re all ready to get the talk behind us and see what the action will be.

Everyone is expecting a wild ride, and we’ll get that from Trump’s tweets alone. People are also expecting some major policy changes, which are what really matters. But the future isn’t clear on that front.

Just remember this: As Trump is taking the oath, there will be 435 representatives and 33 senators thinking about re-election in 2018. 

Dwight Johnston is the chief economist of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues and president of Dwight Johnston Economics. He is the author of a popular commentary site and is a frequent speaker at credit union board planning sessions and industry conferences.


Jan. 19, 2017

More On:

Commentary Economy


  • I appreciate the author's efforts to introduce the premise that the underlying facts behind a statistic are more important than the statistic itself; but that argument is undercut by the statement, "US employment might be reaching its maximum limit" when over 95 million working age Americans are not in the labor force. Moreover, that doesn't account for the quality of what "job growth" has been occurring. According to the BLS, since the official start of the last recession in December 2007 the US has gained 1.7 million waiters and bartenders, and lost 1.5 million manufacturing workers. In my option, geographical effects on employment are important, but nearly so in comparison to these other underlying factors behind the unemployment statistic.