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September 2012
The Coming Jobs War
By Robert Norris

     I want to call your attention to a book entitled, “The Coming Jobs War,” by Jim Clifton. Clifton is the chairman of the Gallup polling organization. In that role, he developed the “Gallup World Poll” to give the world’s seven billion citizens a voice in virtually all key global issues. Beginning in 2005, he started focusing on international unemployment. He reports his conclusions in this book.

     In his words, “What everyone in the world wants,” more than anything else, “is a good job. Leaders of countries and cities should focus on creating good jobs because as jobs go, so does the fate of their nations. Jobs bring prosperity, peace, and human development—but long-term unemployment ruins lives, cities and countries.”

     Let me share some of his thoughts, findings and conclusions with you.

     As of 2010, the world’s total gross domestic product (GDP) was about $60 trillion. The United States’ share of that output was about $15 trillion or about 25 percent. Economists predict that the global GDP will grow to an estimated $200 trillion over the next 30 years. So, an additional $140 trillion will be added to current production and consumer spending. The mix of countries contributing to that growth in GDP will likely be determined by the ability of countries to create jobs that will deliver that output.

     Economic superiority in the United States has provided substantial moral authority around the world. Only recently, having experienced the Great Recession the last five years, unemployment levels still linger around at 15 million or about 10 percent and there is an equal number of underemployed in the U.S. As a consequence, economic superiority is being questioned, and, as a result, that authority is eroding.

     Significant economic growth in China has raised its authority in the world marketplace. China’s GDP is currently at about $6 trillion. It is followed by Japan at $5.3 trillion, Germany at $3.3 trillion, France at $2.5 trillion and the United Kingdom at $2.2 trillion. What matters most in the long term are growth rates.

     GDP growth in the U.S. is about 2 percent per year, while China growth rates are averaging 10 percent annually. If that continues, China will vastly exceed the U.S. economy within the next 30 years. When that happens, China will become the new “leader” of the world. That will change the world order.

     It is interesting that similar concerns existed 30 years ago when the economies of Japan and Germany were rising dramatically. Economists projected growth rates consistent with their performance at the time and predicted that both Japan and German economies would exceed the United States by 2010. Fortunately, they were wrong. U. S. GDP soared from $3.8 trillion to its current $15 trillion. The U.S. did not fall to third; its GDP grew at nearly five times the forecasted rate and is still number one.

     What was not predicted in those numbers was the quantum leap in entrepreneurial growth in the U.S. that surprised everyone. It turns out that classical economics cannot predict the future. Instead, it was American entrepreneurship that successfully capitalized on technology and the Internet, creating millions of new businesses and new jobs and exporting them everywhere.

     Now, we seem to be facing a similar challenge and predictions that we will lose the economic race with China. Similar (classical economic) forecasts have China exceeding U.S. GDP significantly over the next 30 years.

     To stay ahead in the global economy, the U.S. needs a growth rate of 5 percent of GDP annually. We need 5 million new jobs now and another 10 million jobs over the next 5 years.

     How can that be accomplished? We need to focus on a new wave of entrepreneurs…people who can take innovations and commercialize them successfully. The U.S. needs to stimulate entrepreneurship just like it has in the past.

     Clifton says that the next big breakthrough will come from the combination of the forces within big cities, great universities and powerful local leaders.

     Clifton states that jobs can only be created in cities, specifically the country’s top 100 cities. He says the top 100 universities, along with 10,000 local tribal leaders, represent America’s supercollider for job creation.

     Last fall, the Charlotte Chamber Entrepreneurial Summit identified the seven Cs they deemed necessary to create a stellar entrepreneurial environment: capital, connectivity, culture, corporations, competitive advantage, clusters and champions.

     From the combination of these forces, our strong allies in CPCC and UNC Charlotte, and powerful local leaders, we have the right mix of talent and resources to nurture entrepreneurs and create a supercollider for job creation.

     We can be a global hub for entrepreneurship. Let’s get moving!


Robert Norris is managing partner at Wishart, Norris, Henninger & Pittman, P.A.
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