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The Workweek: A Round-Up of Labor Market Links for the Week Ending 7/29/17


Welcome back to The Workweek, the Indeed Hiring Lab’s round-up of the latest research, news, and perspectives that made us think deeply or differently about the labor market this week. It’s your guide to the most important new insights about work.

Here are our picks for this week:

The Virtuous Cycle of Rising Productivity and Economic Growth

Standard economic theory treats productivity growth as a magical improvement over time in the amount of goods and services put out for each hour worked. And, since the Industrial Revolution, economies have gotten attached to this ever-increasing ability to churn out stuff.  But what if productivity gains aren’t quite so magical? Suppose instead of just being an important factor for determining the economy’s overall growth rate, they’re also directly affected by that rate of growth? That potential feedback loop suggests that the predominant pessimistic view on future US economic growth might be misguided. According to new research from the Roosevelt Institute, a growing economy could push companies to invest more in productivity-enhancing technology, which might spur further economic gains. Since rising productivity typically boosts wages, this could eventually mean more money in workers’ pockets. [The Upshot]

Silicon Valley and Its Cousins Still Rule the Tech Job Roost

Research on tech jobs by our own Jed Kolko found that, in the first half of 2017, just eight metro areas accounted for over a quarter of tech job postings. San Jose, aka Silicon Valley, is still dominant, but Seattle is gaining share. Notably, not all tech jobs are alike. Some are higher paying and faster growing than others, and these elite tech roles are even more heavily concentrated in the eight tech hubs. Only lower-paying tech jobs are dispersing nationally. The bottom line: The best tech jobs are still found in the tight-knit tech hub family.  [U.S. News]

Japan Is Benefiting from ‘Womenomics’

The number of working-age Japanese is falling, so an important way to grow the economy is to draw more demographic groups into the labor force. In Japan, women represent a pool of workers that’s not fully tapped. Since 2013, the Japanese government has put in place a number of policies to encourage women to enter the workplace, initiatives that appear to be working. Japanese female labor force participation is now higher than that in the US, with the increase particularly notable among the 55–64 age group. And not only are these opportunities  paying off for the women individually—the policies are also helping the overall Japanese economy. [Quartz]

Macron Mulls Overhaul of France’s Labor Laws

Business groups often cite France’s restrictive labor laws as the cause of the nation’s high unemployment rate. They say employers hesitate to hire because job protections make it so hard to fire workers once they’re on board. The scholarly debate on the topic is more nuanced, however. Prominent research has found little evidence that moves to weaken employment regulations will change hiring behavior. France’s President Emmanuel Macron may soon provide economists with new data to test their theories. He’s looking to overhaul the country’s labor laws not by the usual route of going through parliament, but by decree. Such a gambit may allow him to accomplish something that has eluded previous French leaders—making a speedy change to labor policy.  [Bloomberg Businessweek]

Is Email Distracting From Real Work?

Are distractions like email keeping knowledge workers from tackling demanding tasks? Tim Harford, also known as the Undercover Economist, argues it’s human nature to be intimidated by hard work and lured away by easier stuff, even if we know there’s more to be gained from challenges. Email is a prime temptation—it feels like work, but typically isn’t as arduous as the assignment staring us in the face. How can people find a way to focus on what really matters? Maybe it’s to make the hard jobs seem more like email by breaking them up into bite-size pieces. [Financial Times]