Cramer’s memo to the Fed: Consider the jobs being wiped out by technology before hiking rates

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The Federal Reserve isn’t paying enough attention to the jobs being wiped out by technological innovation, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Friday.

“Right at the moment when Silicon Valley is laying waste to white-collar jobs and many factory positions — that’s why companies love the cloud, it lets them fire people — the Fed is obsessed with the disaster that is full employment,” the “Mad Money” host said.

“Never mind that we’re not at full employment,” he added. “The labor force participation rate is below 63 percent; it was above 66 percent before the financial crisis.”

Reflecting on his recent trip to San Francisco, Cramer once again lamented that the Fed was so eager to raise interest rates, which it does in an effort to combat inflation, without considering the less obvious forces slowly transforming the U.S. employment landscape.

“The cloud isn’t shutting down factories. It’s not driving companies out of business like we’re seeing with Sears,” he said. “It’s a subtle displacement, but given time, I think it can do a great deal to keep inflation in check.”

In September, the World Economic Forum released a report predicting that by 2025, there would be more machines in the workforce than humans — but stipulated that 58 million net new jobs could still be created in the next five years to offset the shift.

A January report by the World Economic Forum and Boston Consulting Group said that almost 1 million U.S. workers would see their jobs wiped out entirely by 2026.

Cramer understood the pitfalls of letting tech-led disruption play out. There is indeed a “skills mismatch” between the jobs at risk of being lost and the jobs being created, he said.

“The people who are losing their jobs because of software from Workday or Salesforce aren’t going to pick up and start making RVs in Indiana,” he said. “They’re aren’t going to serve tables at a casual dining spot in New York City. They will not pop up in the Permian Basin.”

But if there was truly a shortage of workers, then wages would be skyrocketing to keep people in their jobs and the number of jobs being created each month — currently in the hundreds of thousands — would drop dramatically, Cramer said.

“That is not happening now,” he said. “That’s why I think Fed Chief Jay Powell should try to [wait] things out. … The workforce that’s being destroyed by tech is not easily slotted back into the industries that are desperate for labor. But if you wait long enough, I think it’s going to happen naturally and organically. People need to pay off their mortgages. They need to pay their car loans. They need to save for retirement. So they’ll ultimately accept retraining by necessity.”

The “Mad Money” added that if he was a member of the Fed, he’d “organize a field trip” to major tech companies to show central bank officials that the trend of digitization is “doing a better job of keeping inflation in check than the blunt instrument of rate hikes ever could.”

“Every minute, there’s someone in Silicon Valley who’s trying to think of a way to eliminate waste and overhead and duplication,” he said. “Memo to Fed: there’s more slack in the labor market than it seems thanks to all this technological disruption and dislocation.”

“You just need to give all these displaced people time and they’ll come back to the workforce in places where they’re most needed,” he continued. “In other words, you can stop and take a moment to reassess after that next rate hike because, given what I just traced out, prudence dictates giving these obsoleted-by-tech people … another chance at a job.”

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