Tag: Unemployment

Going Through The Motions


51tgilp1VzL._SY300_It doesn’t take much sympathy to feel for the long-term unemployed, especially those who held down jobs for decades before discovering that — due to changes in the market, financial collapse, or injury — neither they nor their skills have useful employment. I’d even say that one needn’t be a raging leftist to at least consider whether the state should have some role in helping them transition into something new and remunerative, rather than let their skills and work habits atrophy to the point where they’re incapable of ever getting a new job.

It should come as little surprise that in Europe — where more than half of the unemployed haven’t had a job in over a year — consideration often turns into implementation. Sometimes, as this New York Times piece describes, that goes to some very, very weird places:

Sabine de Buyzer, working in the accounting department, leaned into her computer and scanned a row of numbers. Candelia [her employer] was doing well. Its revenue that week was outpacing expenses, even counting taxes and salaries. “We have to be profitable,” Ms. de Buyzer said. “Everyone’s working all out to make sure we succeed.”

The April Jobs Report: Is That All There is to This Economic Recovery?



So, a decent snapback in the US labor market. Net new jobs increased by 223,000 in April — matching the consensus forecast –while the unemployment rate fell by 0.1 percentage point to 5.4%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Labor force participation ticked up, making that jobless rate improvement look a bit stronger. The U-6 underemployment rate edged lower. Also, some more progress in the long-term jobless numbers.

Not so decent: The employment rate went nowhere. The March jobs number was revised lower from 126,000 to 85,000. Over the past three months, job gains have averaged 191,000 per month vs. 260,000 monthly in 2014. And, once again, weak wages: The broadest measure of average hourly earnings was up 0.1%, leaving average hourly earnings up 2.2% over the past year. Average hourly earnings for production and non-supervisory workers were up 0.1% and 1.9% year over year. (Double that rate would be nice.) What’s more, the US may still have a 3-6 million “jobs gap.”

The End of the Obama (Teeny,Tiny) Boom(let): Is That All There Is?


040315jobs3The streak is over. After twelve consecutive months of 200,000-plus jobs gains — the longest run since 1994 — the US economy added just 126,000 jobs in March, according to the Labor Department. That’s about half what Wall Street was looking for. Even worse, jobs gains for January and February were revised lower by a combined 69,000. So far this year, monthly jobs gains have averaged just 197,000 vs. 324,000 for the final three months of last year and 260,000 for all of 2014. “March US employment lays an egg” is how Barclays bank put it.

Sure, the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.5%, while the broader U-6 unemployment/underemployment measure fell to 10.9%, from 11.0%. Then again, you can thank a 95,000 drop in the labor force for that. Also, no progress on the employment rate, which stayed steady, or the labor force participation rate, which dipped a bit. And same-old, same-old on wages. Although average hourly earnings of private-sector workers rose 0.3% in March from February, to $24.86, growth over the past year is still just a meager 2.1%. Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory workers were up 0.2% and 1.8% over the past year. Meanwhile, look for first-quarter GDP growth beginning with a “1” or a “0.”

If you are a believer in secular stagnation, 2015 has been a year of affirmation so far. Over at Politico, ace reporter Ben White explores whether an economic downshift could “seriously complicate matters for Obama’s would-be successor, Hillary Clinton, who could wind up squaring off against a GOP opponent promising — fairly or not —an end to the desultory growth rates of the Obama years.” And Democrats surely don’t like headlines like this one from Yahoo News: “Except for rich, Americans’ incomes fell last year.” As I see it, 2016 will revolve around voters answering “Will you be better off eight years from now?” rather than “Are you better off than eight years ago?”

Robopocalypse, Not Yet?


shutterstock_187027727You can believe there’s a Lieutenant Commander Data in our future without also believing he’ll be visiting soon. Economist Robin Hanson agrees with the former speculation, not so much the latter. Hanson thinks “super-robots are likely to arrive eventually” and will  “eventually get good enough to take pretty much all jobs.”

Eventually, eventually. But what about right now or pretty soon? What about IBM’s Jeopardy champ WatsonBaxter the flexibly programmable robot, and the Google driverless car? And what about that scary Oxford paper that predicts 47% of US jobs are just a decade or two from being automated away?

Well, there is evidence that automation is already having a big impact on workers, particularly those in middle-skill jobs composed of “routine, codifiable tasks,” according to economist David Autor. And this may be contributing to the “jobless” recoveries of the past three recessions. What’s more, you can thank automation for this simple chart looking at manufacturing employment and output:

The Misery Index is at a 56-Year Low. It Needs to be Replaced.


030215miseryIf you judge the US economy according to the 1970s-created Misery Index, times are pretty good. Inflation is low (thanks in part to low gas prices), unemployment is down (the Not-So-Great Recovery continues), therefore the Misery Index suggests an economy brimming with joy and contentment. And some other measures confirm that take. As the WSJ’s Josh Zumbrun notes in his piece on the index: “Economists may have caveats about the Misery Index; but consumers have fewer hang-ups. The Conference Board’s measure of Consumer Confidence and the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment index in January reached the highest since 2007 and 2004, respectively.”

A few points here:

First, among those caveats that Zumbrun mentions is that the official jobless rate may be giving a misleading picture of labor market health. While the 5.7% U-3 rate is just 1.3 percentage points above its pre-recession low, the broader U-6 unemployment-underemployment rate is 3.4 points above its pre-recession nadir. What’s more, the employment rate — the share of non-jailed, non-military adults with any job —  is still way closer to its recession low than its pre-recession high. And while job creation is up, wage growth has been pretty stagnant.

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I recently watched The Lego Movie with my kids (yes, I’m playing catch up). I admire Lego. A mere decade ago, almost bankrupt and on the precipice of ruin, Lego came back to rule the global toy market, all while promoting kids independence and imagination. The movies’ message of ‘thinking for yourself’ is right in line with […]

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Obama Hearts Unemployment


shutterstock_226044718Two items, the first from last June, from Roll Call:

President Barack Obama attacked Republicans Friday for failing to pass an unemployment extension — or anything else on his agenda — while voting for a tax cut for the wealthy… “They’ve said no to extending unemployment insurance for more than three million Americans who are out there looking every single day for a new job, despite the fact that we know it would be good not just for those families who are working hard to try to get back on their feet, but for the economy as a whole,” Obama said during a campaign-style speech on the economy in Minneapolis. “Rather than invest in working families getting ahead, they actually voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.”

And this from USAToday, from last March:

The Jobs Con Job


It was September 2012. Unemployment had been over 8% since Obama had taken office. “I don’t know much,” my neighbor said to me, “But I know this: The unemployment rate next month will be 7.9%.”

In the event, the reported rate was a much-heralded 7.8%, undermining Romney’s message that the country needed a better steward of the economy, and giving Obama a boost going into the November election. Outside of the MSM echo-chamber, however, skeptics noted anomalies in the data. The anomalies suggested inaccuracy at best, malfeasance at worst. Even Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, tweeted, “Unbelievable jobs numbers…these Chicago guys will do anything…can’t debate so change numbers.” The skeptics were vindicated a year later when John Crudele of the New York Post uncovered that the Census Bureau had, in fact, faked the data.

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Today’s report of 5.9% unemployment is being greeted as an historic achievement. Is it really? Like many things in life, it depends how you got there. In this case, how we got there is NOT entirely encouraging. The unemployment rate is calculated from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Household Survey. The BLS Household Survey released […]

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I posted last week about automation, and how it won’t take everyone’s job away At least not quickly. But people still lose jobs to robots. More and more low-skill jobs are disappearing because they’re just cheaper to do with a robot. So what do you do if your job is getting replaced by a robot? […]

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Retirement and Responsibility


It is generally believed that every able man should work in his youth. The responsibility to work is most obvious when a person fails to support himself financially, but it is commonly asserted that financial debts are not the limit of this responsibility. Even the son of a billionaire would be looked down upon if he was not somehow productive. To “mooch” is shameful behavior even one’s patrons are unaffected.

It is similarly common to believe that an old, less able man needn’t work any longer. We say that he has “earned” his rest and leisure. The point is easy to grant if the man in question has sufficiently saved to ensure his own financial security for decades forth. Many retirees find ways to be active, socially or in isolation; but we do not demand such activity. For the retiree’s relatives and neighbors, retirement is a time of thanksgiving and recompense.

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Maybe it’s just that in my area unemployment is actually quite low, but I’m having a dickens of a time filling 2 production positions.  I’ve had a run of applications from janitors, bartenders, warehouse pickers, and criminal justice majors, none of whom actually seem to read the job description. I need someone who can build […]

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Nest Full of Freeloaders


shutterstock_133642829If you’ve got a son or daughter who just graduated from college, this may not be news to you. From CNBC:

Half of recent graduates ages 23 to 26 rely on financial support from their families to meet their current needs, according to new data from the Arizona Pathways to Life Success study.

Okay, so here’s the question: is this generation genuinely plagued by a different kind of economy, or are they just lazy and entitled?  It would be nice to think, in a way, that it’s the latter. A little dose of reality can jump-start a lazybones. But the study suggests that it’s systemic:

‘We Built This!’ Seattle Passes Small Business Relocation Incentive Plan


shutterstock_115433032…and it was passed unanimously to universal acclaim, establishing a national formula for bold action against the war on income inequality:

“No city or state has gone this far. We go into uncharted territory,” said Seattle City Council member Sally Clark before the council agreed to give workers a 61 percent wage increase over what is already the country’s highest state minimum wage.

“We did this. Workers did this. Today’s first victory for 15 will inspire people all over the nation,” said Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

The March Jobs Report: Is the Great Recession Finally Over?


Is the US job market back, finally? One interesting data point in the March employment report: the US economy added 192,000 private-sector jobs last month, pushing private payrolls to 116.09 million. That level surpasses the former high of 115.98 million reached in January 2008.

Hardly an insignificant milestone, and one that shows how far the labor market recovery has come. Although the American economy has been growing since summer 2009, a return to prerecession private-job totals is also an important marker. Perhaps, one could say, we’ve even returned to normal.

Employment Paralysis in the Obama Economy — Doug Kimball


As many of you know, I’m in the midst of a job search. It became clear early on that I needed to temper my expectations; which is to say consider taking a few giant steps backwards in order to get a paycheck.

The first headhunter I met with tried to sell me on a “retained search.” That’s a euphemism for paying them a fee up front to represent me. I politely told them, no, but I wanted to ask them if they saw “SUCKER” tattooed on my forehead. This is where the job market is. Poor unemployed dinosaurs like me are rubes to be deprived of their IRA savings.