Thursday, January 04, 2007

Who will the casino employ?

Who will be employed at the new casino? Without getting into the issue of whether the casino is good or bad overall, it's still a good question in itself. I note the question because the it was raised by KDKA and I assume others will raise the same question in the future.

First off, the question should not be asked in such a narrow way. It's not who the casino will employ, but how much net new employment will be generated. A worker could benefit because someone else gets hired by the casino, opening up a job elsewhere. At least in the short term I suspect a lot of workers, and a lot of other local businesses, will notice an impact as the casino starts hiring. In the long run the question more becomes how much of that casino employment displaces other work in the region. How much is net new job growth vs. how much is displacement is a research question if nothing else. But assuming some net new job growth, which workers will benefit the most?

The bigger question is who benefits from new job growth period, whether it is from a casino or other new growth. There is a requisite book on this by Tim Bartik at the Upjohn Institute actually titled Who Benefits from State and Local Economic Development. I am not presuming that the author would consider casino generated employment a good thing or not, but he surveys the research out there on this question. It's something like a quarter of new workers are typically hired from the existing local population and workforce; which means 75% or so of new workers come from outside a region. Why does new employment not benefit local workers more is a big question. Local skills may not match the needs of the new jobs may be the best, if overly simplistic answer, but there are other reasons. Whether skill-matching is as big an issue for the new casino employmnt will need is another question worth asking. Job growth that induces workers to move into the region is a driver for migration and population growth in the end.

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