I saw this article in the Book of Face. It was being shared by a couple of my more progressive friends who were crowing that Wal-Mart was the largest employer for large swaths of the country. This was evidence that the low unemployment rate was all low-paying jobs. Now, I try not to step into folks’ digital living rooms and start a fight. That’s what I have the blog for.

First, it is the height of arrogance to assume that:
1. All Walmart employees are low-paid wage slaves earning at or just above the minimum wage. I don’t doubt that a large section of the employees are lower paid because A) that’s true for all retail, and B) they’re unskilled labor. I don’t pay a cashier the same as I do a carpenter.

  1. Walmart employees are somehow locked into horrible jobs because they are too stupid to find better work or Walmart somehow destroys all other opportunities. I don’t doubt that for some employees, they feel locked into the job because it’s the best they can do for their circumstances. Hell, I felt that way working for McDonald’s. Circumstances change though.

Another thing I noticed on the map was the prevalence of healthcare systems and university systems as large employers. Two industries heavily subsidized by government funding. Hell, Colorado’s largest is an airport, which is another government-run entity. This could be bad when interest rates go back up to historic norms and governments have to make hard choices.

Lastly, the one thing that’s missing from this map is what percentage of the total workforce is represented by the largest employer. Let’s take Florida for example. Florida has approximately twenty million residents. For the sake of the argument, let’s say just half of them are gainfully employed. Even if all of Walmart’s 1.5 million employees were in Florida, that would represent just fifteen percent of workers. Which means that eighty-five percent are doing other work. Some will be low pay, but not all. Probably not even most.

These maps can be interesting, but not the basis for in-depth economic analyses.