Economics lesson: supply and demand for firefighters in Miami

A story at the Fox News 7 Web site caught my eye this morning. Almost 1,000 applicants lined up for 35 available firefighter positions that will be available in the City of Miami.

Three of those who were waiting in line were interviewed, the first was a former Marine who was unemployed and the other two had waited days in line for a chance to apply for one of the positions.

Looking for work is not fun, It is – quite honestly – a full time job. For these three guys looking for work in south Florida with unemployment hovering around 7 percent, a Miami firefighter position would be good work.

My question is this. Why is there a line 1,000 people long for 35 firefighter positions? Could it be that the pay and benefits are really good? Too good?

If the supply of available candidates is so high, it’s time for the City of Miami to take a look at their union contracts to see if the pay and benefits are too high. I know, it’s a harsh statement. Of course, being a firefighter is a position that is important to the community, and in a city the size of Miami even more so.

But if you were running a business that needed to stay in the black to keep things going, what would you do if you had three positions open and 100 people lined up at the door overnight – in the rain – looking to apply?

If you’re one that says you would not lower pay or cut benefits, I can assure you competition will open their doors across the street and provide a lower pay and benefit package to employees. This will allow them to lower costs to consumers and offer the same level of quality and service.

Where would you shop?

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Steve McGough

Steve's a part-time conservative blogger. Steve grew up in Connecticut and has lived in Washington, D.C. and the Bahamas. He resides in Connecticut, where he’s comfortable six months of the year.


  1. davis on February 3, 2009 at 8:31 am

    I read what was said above 3 times and my head hurt. I cannot get my mind around the last 2 paragraphs. It's a hypothetical situation with many gratuitous conclusions. One thing I would do is to interview some/all of those people and  find out if anybody is qualified for the 3 positions.

  2. Steve McGough on February 3, 2009 at 9:54 am

    OK. How about the foreign auto manufactures? They saw something pretty similar to this from the big three automakers. Companies who had a bunch of people who wanted to work there since the benefits were so good (among other reasons too).

    They came to the United States, undercut the pay and benefits since there were workers available to work at that lower rate. They offered good prices, good quality and good service. They seem to have happy employees.

    I did not see Honda, Toyota or Nissan at that table asking for a bail out.

    I'm not saying this is the only factor to consider, but if you do not consider it, you're failing your employees and stockholders.

    I understand that we are comparing a public service to private companies, but the economics still hold.

    We need to take a close look at not just the pay for civil servants like teachers, police officers and firefighters, but also the benefits. How do they compare to the private sector?

  3. davis on February 3, 2009 at 11:08 am

    You may have a point on the automakers. On the other hand there could be other factors that you did not mention, such as: Honda, Toyota and Nissan are in places such as AL, MS, TN, KY, TX,  WVA which may have a  cost of living and other costs lower than  MI. (never mind the legacy costs).  As to the economics holding for private companies and public service, I beg to differ. I know Conservatives always wish that government should work like a private company, but that is just wishful thinking. I believe there would be a major uproar if thousands of firefighters, policemen, DOT snowplowers and other public sector employees simply went the way of Starbuck baristas.

    • Wyndeward on February 3, 2009 at 11:59 am

      Of course they set up down there, Davis.  What sane person would want to set up an auto manufacturing concern in, say, Michigan, where they would be over-taxed, over-regulated and rapidly unionized by the sort of lemmings who would rather the company fail than give back a nickel?

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