America is deep in a jobs crisis. The unemployment rate is stuck around 9 percent nationally, with states such as Florida, Nevada and South Carolina in double digits. Real wages for educated workers are still plunging, while new college graduates are squeezed between rising student loans and the toughest labor market in recent memory.
Against this backdrop, the global economy looms large as both threat and promise. There’s a justifiable fear that America has lost its competitiveness, that our jobs are being siphoned to China and India, that the wages of our young people are being depressed by a global education glut. At the same time, the rapidly growing markets of the developing world could be a potent target for U.S. exports of goods, services, and intellectual capital, creating good jobs here.
In this global economy, we need to know which industries are internationally competitive, which ones aren’t, and whether the gaps are closing or widening. Unfortunately, the reality is this data currently does not exist. And what we don’t know hurts us, because it prevents us from pursuing effective strategies for boosting US jobs.
Although the government collects reams of economic data, it doesn’t measure what’s most vital to our ability to reverse America’s jobs decline: how our goods and services stack up against those of China and other competitors in terms of price.
You can’t fix what you can’t measure. We need a new national jobs strategy that begins with an accurate way of measuring America’s competitive prowess, on an industry-by-industry basis.
This policy brief proposes that the Bureau of Labor Statistics undertake a “Competitiveness Audit.” The Competitiveness Audit will compare the price of selected imports with the comparable domestically produced goods and services. That will tell us the size of the ‘price gap’ between imports and domestic production.