David Leonhardt has a good response, pointing to the increasing college-high school wage premium as evidence that I am wrong and that the unemployment generated by the current downturn is structural:
Debating the Causes of Joblessness: The data that the Bureau of Labor Statistics released on Thursday gives me a chance to explain why I disagree [with Brad]. In short, the relative performance of more educated and less educated workers over the last few years has not been the typical pattern for a recession. Less educated workers, by many measures, are faring worse than they ever have.
The ratio of the typical four-year college graduate’s pay to a typical high-school graduate’s pay hit a record in 2010 — 1.56. Since 2007, the inflation-adjusted median weekly pay of college graduates has risen 1.6 percent. The inflation-adjusted pay of every other educational group — high school dropouts, high school graduates and people who attended college but did not get a four-year degree — has fallen since 2007. The same is true over the last decade; amazingly, only college graduates have received a raise.
It’s pretty surprising that college graduates’ real pay has risen during a three-year period when the economy was in miserable shape. It seems like a clear indication that our economy has an undersupply of skilled, educated workers. To put it another way, if there were more of these workers than they are, more of them would have jobs today...
I think that less-educated workers are faring worse in relative terms than they have since the end of the Gilded Age. I think that the economy is definitely short of well-educated workers--that that is why the college-high school wage premium is so high and continues to rise.
But I also think that these are issues that are almost completely separate from those of whether current unemployment is "structural"--by which I mean that an increase in aggregate demand would not produce higher employment but rather higher inflation.
After all, a rising college-high school wage premium was perfectly consistent with sub-five percent unemployment in 1999. Why should it require anything close to ten percent unemployment today?