In the Job Market

First jobs were once forever jobs, but now many are part of the gig economy. Workers face decisions about job security, wages, benefits and loyalty — and employees who may or may not care about their well being. Many personal stories of survival rest beyond the paycheck.
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Being in the job market has many paths. Does one chose security and benefits or flexibility and varied workplaces? Federal, private or self-employment? Decisions must be faced: Working for minimum wage to have some income, suing for fairness and hoping for federal work programs to continue.


Employees have the right to expect a safe environment, respect and a living wage. Congress is considering raising the minimum federal wage to $15 per hour by 2020. Several states already voted minimum wages that are higher than the federal. Teachers are striking for a higher base salary and more support staff. Federal workers fear another government shutdown. Other workers are suing or revealing harassment and other threats.


Jobs are not static. Business owners may decide to move to another state or country for greater profit. Companies may provide training so employees can keep up with technology or they may downsize to keep and pay their essential employees. Government policies and practices can determine the stability of employment. People hold onto low-paying jobs or difficult work conditions to survive and to care for their families. Talk to grandparents, parents and members of the community about the jobs that are still held, jobs that have changed, jobs that are new.


These and more areas of being in the job market are covered in the articles and activities suggested in this guide.




The slogan that a business develops says something about its mission and the focus of its employees' work. In February 2017 a slogan was added to The Washington Post’s masthead — “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” How did those four words become the first slogan The Post has had in its 140-year publishing history? Read Paul Farhi’s column “The Washington Post’s new slogan turns out to be an old saying.”


February 2019

U.S. Government and Agencies
Resource Graphic 

Work for Minimum Wage
Business, Career Education, Economics, Journalism
To introduce students to the concepts of minimum wage and living wage, teachers might begin by asking students to share their work experience. What jobs have they held for what pay? Younger students may be asked about receiving an allowance and the expectations that come with it.

Define and discuss minimum wage and living wage. What are the basic expenses that need to be covered for individuals and families? Show students the Minimum Wage Laws in the States interactive map. 


What do students expect from clerks and sales associates when they go to different stores? Do they want help in finding items? To be left alone to browse? Read and discuss the Post OUTLOOK article We’re the workers tasked with saving retail — for $9.50 an hour.” From what are the sales associates saving retail stores? Have students shopped at or walked by White House | Black Market stores? Who is the stores target clientele? Compare with other stores and the expectations of both customers and owner/managers for the shopping experience. For additional questions review “Self-Employed, Full-time Employee, Gig Worker.”


Downsize or Move the Business
Business, Career Education, Economics, Journalism
Check the pages of the newspaper and online news and business publications for information on businesses that are downsizing or moving to another location. What are reasons for companies to make this move? What happens to long-time employees, especially if the business is moving overseas? Is a business’s priority to training and keeping employees, producing or providing the best quality product, or making a profit for owners and investors?


The Post’s Business section and Fact Checker have covered living and minimum wages, business decisions and company closings and bankruptcy. For further reading and updates, do an e-Replica search or Post online search.

Are there similar reasons for these business decisions?


Save a Business, Give to a Community
Business, Economics, Journalism, U.S. History

As Sears appears to be saved from bankruptcy and liquidation, Post readers were given a history lesson. Sears, Roebuck and Co. was once a thriving business that made millionaires of its owners. Julius Rosenwald fulfilled a youthful promise to help others. Read the TUESDAY OPINION piece “The overlooked hero behind Sear’s success” to learn about his philanthropy.


After discussing the impact of his fund, ask students to brainstorm today’s richest people in the U.S. and world. Which appear to be focused on acquisition of more wealth? Which of them is involved in philanthropy? What causes, issues or needs are they addressing?


Not Even Journalists Are Safe
Business, Career Education, Economics, Journalism, Media Arts

Even jobs related to the First Amendment are subject to downsizing for economic reasons. Read about newspapers/news media and the changes staffs have faced. After teachers have talked with students about the reasons we support freedom of the press, ask students to select from one of the following articles, summarize the main points made, and discuss with classmates.

• Perspective: “Another cartoonist loses his job. This does not bode well for the future of newspaper cartooning.”

• Perspective: “Local newspapers have already been gutted. There’s nothing left to cut.”

• Opinion: “These are the American people Trump calls enemies of the American people

• “An end of salad days for digital news?

• “Journalism under fire: Here, there and everywhere

Focus on Work, Workers and Wages
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Join the Gig Economy?
Business, Career Education, Economics, Personal Finance

Before beginning this activity, teachers may ask students to define “gig.” Expand its use beyond the music world to gigabytes to the current gig economy. How many see themselves working for the same company for years? Or owning their own business? Or working temporary jobs, perhaps in different places and countries?


Numbers indicate alternative jobs are here to stay, but not necessarily growing. According to a survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017, the share of workers in “alternative employment arrangements” (gig jobs and other) was 10.1 percent of total employment, almost exactly what it was in 2005 (10.7 percent) and 1995 (9.9 percent),” reported The Post’s Robert J. Samuelson whose column focuses on economics. “Whatever Uber and other digital platforms are doing, they haven’t altered long-term trends.”


Read the THURSDAY OPINION essay, “Hire today, gone tomorrow.” Amber Petrovich, a writer and editor, provides the perspective of a freelance worker. Discussion questions are provided.

Teachers may also ask students to listen to the Kojo Nnamdi radio show of January 29, 2019, “No Benefits, Lower Pay, Fewer Hours: The Reality of Temp Work,” an examination of the current gig economy.


Organize a Panel
Business, Career Education, Personal Finance

In addition to reading about permanent employment, the gig economy and other topics related to the job market, teachers could ask students to organize a panel. Teachers Notes provides the steps to follow with your students to host a panel.


You will need to coordinate with the school’s calendar and in-school field trip/guest speaker policies; your students can take leadership in organizing after the class has brainstormed and decided on the focus and diverse positions to be represented. Parents and staff spouses are often good resources for speakers. Also read the newspaper, listen to broadcast news and business magazines/columns to identify potential speakers.


What Happens to Contract Workers in a Shutdown?
Business, Economics, Government, Journalism

There are approximately 800,000 federal workers in the U.S. They clean facilities, interact with the public, handle paperwork and do the work of implementing legislation. Some are managed by contractors or by groups with a special worker pool.


Before giving the article to read and discuss, teachers might ask students to define “disabled,” “vulnerable,” “government shutdown,” “contractor,” “federal” and “dignity of work.”


Read “Most vulnerable workers still in limbo.” See “Self-Employed, Full-time Employee, Gig Worker,” questions 4 and 5 for questions. Additional discussion questions might include:

• When a federal shutdown occurs, why do contractors have additional difficulty?

• What is a federal contracting set-aside program?

• Name ways that were utilized to keep AbilityOne employees receiving paychecks.

• What attitudes and character traits were displayed by AbilityOne managers?

• In what ways did the quotations and personal stories add to readers’ understanding of these workers and their work situations?


Examine 5 Myths About Fast-Food Work

Business, Economics, Journalism, Personal Finance

Teachers may begin looking at the fast-food workplace, by asking students what they have observed when they go to a fast-food restaurant — workers (age, number, uniform, interaction with customers), signage, cleanliness and amenities. If any students have worked or are working for a fast-food restaurant, what can they tell about expectations of managers and employees?


Give students “5 Myths About Fast-Food Work” and discuss the myths. What new perspectives do they gain? Teachers should note that this 5 Myths article was published in 2015. What developments have taken place since its publication?


Students could perhaps develop at checklist based on the information in this article. Use it to evaluate fast-food establishments in their community, including those not mentioned in the article.


Inform Your Readers
Career Education, English, Journalism, Media Arts, Personal Finance

Think Like a Reporter | Vary the Lede provides examples of variety ledes for articles that cover different aspects of work. Activities ask students to analyze, annotate and write ledes.


Teachers may wish to review the material on variety ledes. Go to “More Than One Way to Lede” found in the Ledes, Focus and Journalistic Values. This resource guide includes “Teachers Notes: To Begin With — Ledes” and student activities. Before students begin #2 of “Think Like a Reporter | Vary the Lede” teachers could put the list of variety ledes that is found in “To Begin With — Ledes” student activity.


Teachers should note there is a space between the lede and the next paragraph. This paragraph is the “nut graf.” It is what Post columnist David von Drehle describes as the “What happened? What’s the point?” paragraph. It is the issue, the complex situation, the “topic” of the article. In a personal essay it may not be so clear, but still have students look for a reflection or a this-is-how-my-story-fits-into-the-whole-picture paragraph.

Read About Work and Workers

Robots Replace Workers?
Business, Career Education, Debate, Economics, Government

Teachers could begin by asking if they have played with, observed or built a robot. What uses can they imagine for robots? Show students the video of the self-driving robots at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.


After viewing the video, discuss with students the benefits and drawbacks of food delivery by robot. Whose job are they assisting? Would college students do this job to help with expenses? Students might also find “Just a few weird tech products we saw at CES 2019.” 

According to a recent Brookings Institution report, robots could replace a quarter of U.S. jobs. Read “When the next recession comes, the robots will be ready.”

Read The New York Times article “The Rise of the Robot Reporter” This last article might be accompanied with a discussion or debate on the ways robots are writing first (and in some cases final) drafts of articles. Include examples from the article and more recent ones to support your ideas. Is there a benefit when mathematics and statistics are involved?


Understand Programs for Immigrant Workers
Business, Economics, Government, Personal Finance, Photography

Teachers might have students consider the reader aids in this long feature before reading it.

• What information does the headline convey? What is the importance of the verb “revived”?

• What additional information does the subhead provide to prepare readers?

• What does the dateline tell readers?

• Note the headers that break up the story into “chapters” or angles on the story.


Photographs taken in America and Haiti tell the story. If students had only the photographs and captions, what would they understand about the Haitian migrant story that is taking place in Mount Olive, N.C.?


After that overview, read “Haitian migrants revive America’s turkey town.” Questions for discussion are found in “Self-Employed, Full-time Employee, Gig Worker.”


Seek Job Fairness
Business, Economics, Government, Personal Finance

Ethiopian immigrants turn job niche into labor activism” by Pamela Constable was published in May 2016. It introduces readers to workers at Reagan National and Dulles International airports who have begun to take action to receive a fair wage and benefits. Read and discuss the use of numbers, anecdotes and the actions of other workers that are woven into the article’s content. How do these work together to tell a fuller story than a straight news story? What do photographs and captions add?


This is also a story that calls for students to do an update. What has happened to improve job conditions for Ethiopian employees and others who work at the airports since May 2016? Where can students look for information? Spokespersons for groups mentioned in the article? Washington Post archives search?


Teachers could ask students to write a news brief that updates the article.


Research Today’s Workplace
Business, Career Education, Economics, Personal Finance, U.S. History

After more than 35 days of partial government shutdown that included no paycheck when due, some wondered if working for the federal government was as secure and desirable as once thought. What types of employment are available in the different departments and agencies? For example, the Treasury Department lists more than 250 types of jobs on its website. These range from accountants, economists and revenue agents to chemists, criminal investigators and marketing specialists.


Students could be asked to select a government department or agency. Review the types of jobs available, pay and benefits. Compare with similar employment in the private sector. Which would they prefer and why?


Another approach would be to look at employment through one of these lenses:

• The shift from industrial to service economy
• The introduction of the gig economy
• The influence of climate change on jobs — New England seafood and fisheries, fires, floods and forests
• The influence of trade wars on U.S. companies
• The impact of government shutdowns on federal employees, their families and community


In 2019 the International Labor Organization celebrates its 100th anniversary. Since its inception, the organization has been “promoting equality and combating discrimination in the workplace.” What are countries doing to meet these goals? Are any countries more successful that others?


Post NIE Guide Editor | Carol Lange
Post NIE Guide Art Editor | Carol Porter

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In The Know 

Alternative employment

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs fall into four groups: 1) on-call workers such as seasonal workers; 2) independent contractors — freelancers, self-employed, consultants; 3) temps — people paid by a temp agency but who physically work at another company; and 4) contract firms that provide services to other firms such as security guards and cafeteria workers.


Benefits Nonwage compensation provided to employees. National Compensation Survey categorizes in five groups: paid leave, supplementary pay, retirement and long-term disability and legally required benefits (inc., Social Security and Medicare).
Civilian worker

Sum of all private industry and State and local government workers. National Compensation Survey excludes Federal Government, military and agricultural workers.



A separation of an employee from an establishment that is initiated by the employer; an involuntary separation (See Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, BLS)

Displaced workers

Persons 20 years and over who lost or left job because their plant or company closed or moved, there was insufficient work for them to do, or their position or shift was abolished

Employed persons 

Persons 16 years and over in civilian noninstitutional population who, during the reference week, (a) did any work at all (at least 1 hour) as paid employees; worked in their own business, profession, or on their own farm, or worked 15 hours or more an unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of the family; and (b) all those who were not working but who ha jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily absent because of vacation, illness, bad weather, childcare problems, maternity or paternity leave, labor-management dispute, job training, or other family or personal reasons, whether or not they were paid for the time off or were seeking other jobs. Each employed person is counted only once, even if he or she holds more than one job.


Employer  A person or business employing one or more persons for wages or salary; the legal entity responsible for payment of quarterly unemployment insurance taxes or for reimbursing the State fund for unemployment insurance benefits costs in lieu of paying the quarterly taxes (Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages)
Gig economy Alternative job such as Uber driver or Airbnb provider, usually without benefits; piecing together two, three or more on-demand work opportunities to make a living. Also called the sharing economy.
Living wage Living costs, before taxes, such as food, child care, housing, transportation and other basic necessities. It does not include meals in restaurants, entertainment or vacations. This will vary by state; see the MIT Living Wage Calculator for an estimate of the cost of living in your community or region.
Minimum wage Lowest wage permitted by law or by a special agreement, such as one with a labor union; set by the federal government, ensures workers are not exploited and are compensated at a livable rate
Self-employed persons 

Those persons who work for profit or fees in their own business, profession, trade or farm. Only the unincorporated self-employed are included in the self-employed category.

Traditional job As defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, permanent employment on a firm’s payroll.             

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Washington Post Business section


District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

The District of Columbia has adopted the Common Core State Standards in reading and mathematics. In addition, DCPS has adopted new learning standards in arts, health and physical education, science, social studies, technology and world languages.



Academic Content Standards may be found at and

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

U.S. History. America Impacts the World (1981-Present)
2. Analyze modern economic, political and social influences on American society from 1981-present (5.6.2).

a. Describe the political and social issues that polarized United States political culture after 1980, such as Iran-Contra, conflicts over judicial appointments, the controversial election of 2000, criticism of federal government subsistence programs and conservative v. liberal debates (PS, PNW, E)

b. Evaluate how the government has addressed changing demographics, including immigration, the changing age structure and increasing minority populations in the United States (PS, PNW, G)

c. Analyze how globalization has increased due to economic and technological innovations, such as outsourcing, computers, cell phones, and the Internet (PNW, G, E)

d. Describe the significance of the growing federal deficit and the impact of the global market, such as supply-side economics, entitlements, and loss of domestic industry (PS, G, E)

e. Explain the influence of special-interest groups, the media and political parties on the changing political landscape and culture (PS, PNW)


Government. The student will demonstrate an understanding of economic principles, institutions and processes required to formulate government policy.

• The student will evaluate the effectiveness of current monetary and fiscal (legislative and executive actions) policy an their effect on economic performance, full employment and price stability. (Goal 4 Economics)

The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum Content Standards can be found online at 

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

Economics and Personal Finance. The student will demonstrate knowledge of how monetary and fiscal policy influence employment, output, and prices by

b)  describing government’s role in stabilizing the economy;

c)  describing sources of government revenue; and

d)  explaining balanced budget, deficit, and national debt. (EPF.7)


Economics and Personal Finance. The student will demonstrate knowledge of personal financial planning by

a)  identifying short-term and long-term personal financial goals;

b)  identifying anticipated and unanticipated income and expenses;

d)  developing a personal budget;

e)  investigating the effects of government actions and economic conditions on personal financial planning; and

f)  explaining how economics influences a personal financial plan. (EPF.17)


Academic Content Standards may be found at

Common Core Standards 

Key Ideas and Details:

Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms. [CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.2]


Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem. [CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.7]


Evaluate the hypotheses, data, analysis, and conclusions in a science or technical text, verifying the data when possible and corroborating or challenging conclusions with other sources of information. [CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.8]



Common Core standards may be found at