The World Needs More Good Jobs

A good job has ripple effects that boost the economy, support families, and strengthen businesses and communities

What the world needs now, are jobs, good jobs.
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.
No not just for some, but for everyone.

With apologies to Hal David for appropriating his beautiful lyrics, but next to love, good jobs are what we really need now.

In fact, what we really need are economy-boosting jobs.

I first heard the term “economy-boosting jobs” about a year ago from Topos Partnership, an organization that conducts research that changes mindsets and moves policy. Topos tested how the general public understood and reacted to the phrase “economy-boosting jobs” as part of messaging research around the minimum wage.

In short, it was a hit. The phrase had tremendous bipartisan appeal and people just “got it.” More than an appealing message, economy-boosting jobs is a powerful organizing principle that civic leaders, employers, economic developers, workforce groups, and others might use to transform their communities.

So what are economy-boosting jobs? Economy-boosting jobs pay people enough to maintain spending on basics like utilities, groceries, home and car repairs, doctor visits, and so on, thereby boosting families, local businesses, and communities in the process. Employers who provide economy-boosting jobs recognize that their workers are another business’ customers.

Over the last year, I began to test the concept of economy-boosting jobs while speaking about the National Fund’s job quality initiatives. One example I use is from a mid-sized manufacturer in Wichita who implemented a financial wellness program for their workers (financial counseling/financial wellness is one of the components of our job design framework). Through a combination of increased savings and debt reduction, the employees at this 150-person business improved their collective financial picture by nearly $900,000.

Just think of the impact those employees and their families can have on the local economy. Think of their impact at work because they aren’t fretting about their personal finances. Good jobs create a ripple effect for workers, businesses, and communities.

“When I first heard the phrase ‘economy-boosting jobs’ from the National Fund, it made me think. Over the past 20 years, Optimax has generated $300 million in revenue. We spend about half of each dollar on employee wages and bonuses – and they spend it at local grocery stores, auto dealerships, etc. Over the next 20 years, Optimax will generate $2 billion in revenue and hire hundreds of new employees, adding up to a $1 billion investment in our workforce. And that is how to grow the local economy and strengthen a community.”

— Rick Plympton, CEO of Optimax Systems in Rochester, New York

The COVID-19 pandemic, economic collapse, and racial justice awakening have revealed, with painful clarity, that America’s “booming economy” was a mirage, built on a shaky foundation of too many low-wage, low-quality jobs, especially for workers of color. An economy that is truly strong is rooted in the well-being of all, with economy-boosting jobs and an intentional focus on racial equity.

What the world needs now, are jobs, good jobs. No, not just for some, but for everyone.

Janice Urbanik

-- Senior Director for Innovation and Strategy, National Fund for Workforce Solutions