J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said that the U.S. economy has essentially been split into those benefiting from thriving corporations and those who are left behind.
“I don’t want to be a tone deaf CEO; while the company is doing fine, it is absolutely obvious that a big chunk of [people] have been left behind,” Dimon said. “Forty percent of Americans make less than $15 an hour. Forty percent of Americans can’t afford a $400 bill, whether it’s medical or fixing their car. Fifteen percent of Americans make minimum wages, 70,000 die from opioids” annually.
“If you travel around to most neighborhoods where companies live, they’re doing fine,” Dimon said. “So we’ve kind of bifurcated the economy.”
Dimon was speaking at an event at the bank’s New York headquarters to unveil a new $350 million program to boost job prospects for people in under-served communities. The J.P. Morgan chairman and CEO has frequently voiced concern about the declining labor force participation rate and the shortfalls of the educational system in preparing people for emerging roles.
Making progress against these issues involves companies working with local organizations to provide skills outside of the university context, he said.
“Companies have to be involved,” Dimon said. “Businesses can bypass all these parts of society that have been suffering a little bit because they do it themselves. They have their own schools, their own training, their own everything.”
Dimon added that “we made a mistake by ignoring some of these things. If we don’t [act], society is going to get worse, because these problems aren’t aging well.”
The bank’s new five year plan, announced Monday, includes $200 million to develop training programs for in-demand digital and technical roles and $125 million to boost collaboration between employers and the educational system. It also has $25 million to help spread labor market data and analysis to enable companies to focus on ways to lift people out of low-wage positions.
“It’s not about a college degree,” said Dimon, who graduated from Tufts University and Harvard Business School. “Having gone I know just how worthless a college degree is sometimes.”
Dimon called the education system “broken” and said his bank stopped giving philanthropic dollars to colleges years ago. Instead, the company is focusing on community colleges and training programs.
“Harvard and Princeton are not a philanthropy,” Dimon said. “Helping these kids is.”