Without question, cities are on the frontline of driving regional economic growth and, equally, on the frontline when growth stagnates. Slow growth and high unemployment cost cities greatly both from a monetary as well as human and social capital perspective. While, in the aggregate, unemployment has declined and many regional and national economies are starting to recover (if ever so slowly) from deindustrialization, on the one hand, and the 2008 market crash, on the other, nonetheless, beneath such ostensible improvements there are still growing tensions and anxieties that critically affect the economies and societies in transatlantic cities. For example, wage growth continues to stagnate at the bottom end of the income distribution; unemployment remains exceptionally high in pockets of cities across the US and Europe; and job precarity has not receded but continues to increase. Furthermore, where jobs are available, the necessary pathways and strategic plans are not always in place to harness local ability—to either skill-up or retrain—those individuals from neighborhoods with high unemployment.
To make a contribution to this 21st century challenge, the Urban and Regional Policy Unit at the German Marshall Fund is convening a taskforce of expert policymakers, academics and practitioners from the US and Europe to explore the intersection of jobs, skills and quality pay and what cities can do, if anything, to address all three through inclusive and integrated economic development plans. The intended output is to develop a policy framework that can be customized and applied to cities in the US and Europe seeking to develop plans with an eye to reducing unemployment across the city, train or retrain through investment in vocational training and education and ensure living wages and benefits so that the effects of recovery are felt by all, especially the most vulnerable.