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Five Market-Based Ways to Grow Good Jobs and Local Economies

The availability of “good jobs” had been diminishing for decades even before America’s job market bottomed out in the Great Recession. Since then, our economy has produced more than 14 million jobs and unemployment has dropped below 5%. That sounds great on paper, but most new jobs have been in low-wage retail and fast-food occupations, and many parts of the country have been skipped over altogether.

Some companies are creating good jobs by offering benefits like paid family leave/sick days, child care, retirement programs and even an ownership stake for employees. These high-road practices reduce turnover and improve productivity for firms that embrace them, but how do we create an environment where more companies can take the high road?

Driven largely by globalization and technological advances that reduce the need for human labor, our jobs problem is too large and complex for even the best-intentioned individual companies and investors to solve alone. While businesses create jobs, government can incentivize investment that leads not only to more jobs, but to good ones.

Government doesn’t have to make massive changes to make improvements. Bi-partisan, common-sense federal policies and programs already exist, according to a new report by our partners Surdna Foundation and Pacific Community Ventures. Congress can adjust or expand these to create more economic opportunity and more middle-class jobs in communities that have been left behind by globalization, automation, or generations of discrimination.

The report, Public Policy and Investments in Quality Jobs, explores smart, targeted public policies that would encourage private-sector investments to create good jobs. Policies include:

  • Collecting and analyzing data we already have on the quality of jobs supported by Small Business Administration programs, and adding job quality provisions to existing loan programs.
  • Incentivizing banks and businesses to invest in American workers by including job quality in their existing lending requirements, tax credits, and public reporting.
  • Using the government’s enormous purchasing power to incentivize creating good jobs by prioritizing firms that offer high-quality jobs when awarding government contracts.

Government sets the rules, seen and unseen, for how our financial markets work. Government decides whether those markets serve mainly investors or empower companies to create good jobs for people that in turn strengthen our families and communities. This report recommends we double down on what’s working and lays out five market-based solutions to create good jobs and grow local economies.

With common-sense changes to federal policies and programs that are already on the books, we can incentivize companies to create many millions of good American jobs in a way that helps both employers and working people thrive, even in underserved communities. Creating good jobs for working people in every community across the country is key to the American Dream – and it’s a goal everyone can agree on.

Patrick Duggan is the director of marketing and communications for ASBC member Pacific Community Ventures.