Good Burger – Going Into the Grinder

Dexter needs a summer job after wrecking his car, but he is unable to keep his first job at Mondo Burger because of his incompatibility with his boss. In an all-hands meeting, Dexter makes multiple wisecracks that cause his boss to fire him and have him physically removed from the premises. Fortunately for Dexter, he will find an employment opportunity with the local competition, Good Burger. Frictional unemployment may also occur if there is a mismatch between employer and employee.

Thanks to Amanda Mandzik for the clip and summary.

Adventureland – Summer Jobs

It’s the summer of 1987, and recent college grad James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) can’t wait to begin his long-anticipated dream trip to Europe. Unfortunately, James’ plans come to a screeching halt when his parents announce that they are unable to subsidize his trip and he’ll need to get a job.

When an individual is actively looking for work, unemployment can be categorized as frictional, structural, or cyclical. James is thrown into the job market early, but finding a job does not happen immediately for James. He is turned down for a restaurant job and an asphalt mixer driver because he lacks the skills necessary to do the work. For classification purposes, James is finding that he is structurally unemployed. If there were jobs available in other areas that needed his skills in comparative literature, economists would consider him frictionally unemployed.

Thanks to Amanda Mandzik for the clip suggestion!

The Office — Frictional Unemployment

Frictional unemployment comes from voluntary transitions within an economy and is naturally occurring, even in stable/growing economies. It’s healthy for workers to choose when to leave their jobs in search of new (and often better) ones or when people enter the labor market in search of work. In this scene from The Office, Michael Scott quits after being annoyed by how his company has treated him over the past 15 years. Michael is comfortable quitting, even after it seems that he will get what he wants because he believes there is more out there for him.

Thanks to Allison Anthony for the scene suggestion!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer — Dentist Dreams

There are numerous characters in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) that experience some sort of job loss challenges. Hermey is an elf that doesn’t like making toys and would prefer to be a dentist. After talking with the head elf, Hermey proclaims “they can’t fire me, I quit” and leaves the toy shop. Despite being a skilled toymaker and possessing dental knowledge, Hermey is frictionally unemployed as he waits to transition to a new job.

Thanks to Mandy Mandzik for the clip recommendation. Check out her working paper, All I Want for Christmas is an A on My Econ Final: A Holiday-Themed Review Class, for more Christmas-themed economics examples.

CBS TV — Kennedy on the Labor Market & Unemployment

In a 1963 Labor Day interview with Walter Cronkite, President Kennedy discusses his position on handling the labor market of the United States with around 4 million unemployed (about 5.5% at the time). Kennedy notes that the growing labor force in the United States requires that if the US wants to “stand still,” they still need to move very fast. Kennedy’s main policy focus at the time was retraining workers who had been displaced by technology and making sure that significant amount of workers have the necessary education to handle the growing workforce.

Kennedy also speaks to the lost jobs in “hardcore unemployed” industries like coal and steel and how it’s important to make sure those workers are retrained because those workers are no longer needed. He then laments that there’s a different issue with older workers replaced by technology and younger workers who don’t have the education to handle that technology. Kennedy ends this portion of the interview with a very powerful quote about the fear of automation:

Too many people coming into the labor market, too many machines are throwing people out.

You can view the entire interview, courtesy of the Kennedy Presidential Library, on YouTube.

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