ARBOR OUTLOOK: Springsteen, Travolta, Shark Tank and WhatsApp

Published: Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 04:12 PM.

“The foreman says ‘These jobs are goin’ boys …

And they ain’t comin’ back…’” “My Hometown” by Bruce Springsteen


There’s a poignant campaign speech in the political drama “Primary Colors,” one of my favorite movies. John Travolta, playing a Southern governor running for president, is addressing a group of downsized workers in a small New England factory. And he’s informing them that while he sympathizes over recent employment cutbacks, the jobs his audience once held are simply not coming back.  And the future jobs which may become available are going to require significant new training. 

“Primary Colors” was released in 1998, but the message is even clearer today: the job market in which our parents labored has disappeared forever.

Last week we examined how globalization and automation continue to eliminate jobs. Now, consider Facebook’s recent offer to purchase WhatsApp for $19 billion. WhatsApp, a company that allows free messaging, is only five years old and employs 55 people. Of these 55 employees, 32 are engineers, according to Robert McMillan of WhatsApp is the primary texting device used in countries like India , Brazil and Mexico , and is adding one million new users a day.

Compare other U.S. companies whose market capitalization is in the same general ballpark, writes J. J. Calao of Forbes Magazine. These include Chesapeake Energy ($17.2B); Consolidated Edison (Con Ed) ($16.2 B); Dr. Pepper Snapple Group ($10.2B); Harley Davidson ($14.1B); Hertz ($11.5B); Sherwin-Williams ($19.4B); and Tyson Foods ($13.1B). 

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