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“Stealth Jobs” September 15, 2006

Posted by Tom in Economic Development, Technology, Workforce.

Ashby Foote of Vector Money Management in Jackson, Mississippi writes a fascinating article in the National Review about the 3.3 million person disparity between payroll numbers and household reporting of employed persons. The NatRev’s conclusion? In large part, it reflects the growth in home-based workers:

One of the most insightful commentators on the changes at work in the economy is Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine and author of a brilliant new book, The Long Tail. He cites three forces that are transforming the economy and creating vast new opportunities at the grassroots level for small and boutique businesses. Force 1: The democratization of the tools of production. (The obvious example is the PC as a tool for publishing and multimedia.) Force 2: The democratization of the tools of distribution. (For instance, the combination of the PC and the Internet makes everyone a distributor). Force 3: Connecting supply and demand. (Search filters and feedback loops like those found on Google, iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix help niche content find interested buyers and users.)


The best example of Anderson’s “long tail” dynamics is eBay. In just ten years this platform for selling and buying online has revolutionized economic behavior domestically and abroad. Consider this 2005 anecdote from BuzzMachine.com, a blog written by Jeff Jarvis: “724,000 people are using eBay as their full- or part-time employment up 68% from a year ago: another 1.5 million people use it to supplement their incomes. WalMart is America’s largest employer with 1.1 million workers.”


Rest assured that few if any of these eBay-enabled self-employed make the radar screen of the “headline” payroll survey.

First it was Web Worker Daily, then it was the Virginia Office of Telework. Now it’s 3.3 million new “stealth jobs” that end up largely being home-based (and wired) workers.

This is starting to remind me of th period when my wife and I were looking at new cars. She decided she wanted a specific brand and, surprisingly, I started to see that brand everywhere on the roads! It’s as if my radar had to tune in to that element of the world around me.

So where are the non-east coast states on the issue of telecommuting? Is government promotion of telework only tied to the mitigation of traffic congestion? The entrepreneurial economic developer will figure this out – and make their community a telework haven.



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