So I was walking the woods last week with my friend, aMidwest-based power company executive. His company has laid off 10%of its work force over the past two years and isn’t in the rehiringmode. His firm is into “clean coal”, not wind or solar. While wewere hiking basically in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York,he was constantly checking his blackberry for company missives andYankee news updates, even though we passed through numerouscoverage dead zones. We were talking about the economy and myfriend was telling me about how the nation’s standard of living wascontinuing to get better and that job opportunities and wages wereincreasing.

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Now my friend is a smart guy, a tip-top business school grad,who can out duel anyone in any game from poker to Scrabble andMonopoly. He still does his own rather complicated taxes and hasbuilt up a sizeable investment nest egg without the help of anyfinancial advisor.

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But I had to challenge him on the standard of living issue. SureI say, the top sliver of workers at your level and above have madeout well over the past decade. But the average guy has barely heldhis own. And if he has a mortgage, car loans, and a credit cardbalance, he’s now way behind. You kept your job, but yourcompany now has fewer workers, and no one has gotten a pay raise inthe past two years. So how is that emblematic of any recentprogress? And the government economic statistics clearly showwages and benefits on a flat line to down for most workers over thepast decade. And we haven’t even touched on the 10% unemploymentnumbers or the statistics that suggest that far more Americans areout of work.

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Then I pointed to his blackberry. “That little device in yourhand has helped eliminate a ton of jobs in offices across thecountry,” I said. “Secretaries, clerks, receptionists, travelbookers, and on and on.”

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“That’s not true,” he said. “Technology is creating many newjobs and opening up new opportunities for many workers.”

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“You don’t get it,” I said. “Maybe your exalted level is doingfine, but the average guy isn’t benefiting. What happened tomanufacturing workers can now happen to just about anyprofession.”

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Just then we hit a fork in the road. He was going one way and Iwas going another. Our conversation ended on a high note ofdisagreement.

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Later over after dinner drinks on the porch, the talk pickedback up. My friend was busy getting Yankee scores on hisblackberry.

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“Hey, you know you’re right about the blackberry,” I said. “Itis helping create lots of new jobs.”

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That got his attention off the Yankees.

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“Yeah,” I continued, “It’s creating lots of new jobs andopportunities. Just not in the U.S.A. It’s creating new jobs inlower cost employment regions where analysts, tech support, callcenter workers or people who can do just about anything on acomputer make a lot less than we’re used to here in ourcountry.”

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My friend didn’t bat an eye. “That’s true,” he said.

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And if you’re a real estate owner waiting for the jobs pictureto improve materially, you might take a walk in the woods to helpbide yourtime.

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Jonathan D. Miller

A marketing communication strategist who turned to real estate analysis, Jonathan D. Miller is a foremost interpreter of 21st citistate futures – cities and suburbs alike – seen through the lens of lifestyles and market realities. For more than 20 years (1992-2013), Miller authored Emerging Trends in Real Estate, the leading commercial real estate industry outlook report, published annually by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute (ULI). He has lectures frequently on trends in real estate, including the future of America's major 24-hour urban centers and sprawling suburbs. He also has been author of ULI’s annual forecasts on infrastructure and its What’s Next? series of forecasts. On a weekly basis, he writes the Trendczar blog for GlobeStreet.com, the real estate news website. Outside his published forecasting work, Miller is a prominent communications/institutional investor-marketing strategist and partner in Miller Ryan LLC, helping corporate clients develop and execute branding and communications programs. He led the re-branding of GMAC Commercial Mortgage to Capmark Financial Group Inc. and he was part of the management team that helped build Equitable Real Estate Investment Management, Inc. (subsequently Lend Lease Real Estate Investments, Inc.) into the leading real estate advisor to pension funds and other real institutional investors. He joined the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the U.S. in 1981, moving to Equitable Real Estate in 1984 as head of Corporate/Marketing Communications. In the 1980's he managed relations for several of the country's most prominent real estate developments including New York's Trump Tower and the Equitable Center. Earlier in his career, Miller was a reporter for Gannett Newspapers. He is a member of the Citistates Group and a board member of NYC Outward Bound Schools and the Center for Employment Opportunities.