A Great Headline

From Forbes.com:

How To Handle Post-Recession Job Stress

Post-Recession?  I think most people are still dealing with Recession Job Stress.  It gets worse:

The worst of the waves of layoffs may be over, but countless American workers who still have their jobs are unhappy at them, overloaded with increased responsibilities, short of colleagues to share the burden, and unsure where they can turn to look for something better. Few people got raises last year–many took pay cuts–and it’s not looking like pay hikes will come anytime soon.

Again, this viewpoint strikes me as seriously off target.  I equate this type of unhappiness to people who complain that their ice cream is too cold.  There are countless people attempting to find employment so stories involving the stress of not receiving a raise seems out of touch.

Job Progress

I’m beginning to think we are becoming immune to employment reporting.  A sentence from the beginning and end of a CNNMoney.com article (emphasis mine):

The good news: Overall employers announced fewer planned job cuts.

Economists are expecting the report to show there were 120,000 jobs lost in August, an improvement over July’s 131,000 job loss.

In a prolonged recession, I guess these pieces of information are uplifting.

The Stalled Economic Engine

You know this entire GDP reporting process is an absolute joke.  This AP article indicates that the Q2 GDP is going to be revised down…a LOT:

The government is about to confirm what many people have felt for some time: The economy barely has a pulse.

The Commerce Department on Friday will revise its estimate for economic growth in the April-to-June period and Wall Street economists forecast it will be cut almost in half, to a 1.4 percent annual rate from 2.4 percent

Honestly, if a publicly-traded company were to do this, executives would be incarcerated.  How the government gets away with this propaganda is beyond me.

But if you want to get to the crux of the problem, you need read a bit further into the article (emphasis mine):

Consumers can’t be sure their jobs are safe, with unemployment so high. Business executives don’t know if sales and profits will grow enough to justify adding jobs. And potential changes to tax laws at the end of this year and other policy reforms also make it hard to plan ahead, economists say.

People have been overwhelmed by uncertainty,” said Ethan Harris, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Uncertainty stalls business growth.

Double Dip

The title of this post is one that brings pause to many people.  Are we headed towards a double dip recession?  I don’t think we can say one way or another quite yet.  However, today’s numbers are not good:

The number of Americans filing for initial unemployment insurance surged to just below the 500,000 level last week, and have climbed more than 12% over the past two weeks, the government said Thursday.

The 4-week moving average of initial claims was 473,750, up 6,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 467,750.

I have talked to many companies who are in a holding mode for hiring.  Thankfully, I have not encountered as many who are looking at any further layoffs.  I take that to be a good, but not great, sign.

Don’t Trust The Dow

I have heard many cheerleader reports attempting to claim the recession is over and the recovery has begun.  I’m not so certain especially when these people note the stock market as the leading indicator.  This article from CNNMoney.com explains why this cheerleader approach is flawed (my bold):

Several experts point out than many of the relatively strong earnings reports helping to lift the markets in recent days are being driven by cost cuts, rather than strong revenue growth that would be a better indicator of consumers and businesses being willing to spend again. If businesses keep cutting costs to make the numbers that Wall Street wants to see, that can only put more downward pressure on jobs and wages, and result in weaker economic growth or another downturn.

“The companies are cutting fat, and in many cases cutting bone and muscle. There’s no organic economic growth there,” said Yamarone.

And then there is this crucial fact of which I was unaware:

Another reason that comparisons to Dow levels of a year ago are risky is that two of the more troubled components — General Motors and Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) — were dropped and replaced by stronger companies such as Cisco Systems (CSCO, Fortune 500) and Travelers Cos. (TRV, Fortune 500) in June.

The recover, when it starts, will take far longer to bring us back to our past levels.  My question is this, how many Baby Boomers are going to simply leave the workforce after this extended recession?  The rehiring that is sure to occur may accelerate due to the certain lack of candidates.  I am hopeful that we see a sling shot of hiring once the corporate world is certain the recover has legs.

Terms Of The Recession

Here is one from the weekly Herman Trend Alert of which I was not familiar:

“corporate cocooning” – staying put out of fear

A rather appropriate construction for today’s economy, wouldn’t you say?  Here is the paragraph from which it is used:

Due to “corporate cocooning” (staying put out of fear), the “unprecedented churning” of the labor market we have forecast in the past has not yet happened. Now, we again see a high level of expectation of job hopping. Wise employers will heed this warning and take steps now to engage their valued employees and avoid this unwanted turnover.

Where The Jobs Will Come From

Call me an optimist, but it is always of interest to see where “experts” believe the recovery will begin.  This information comes from the Herman Trend Alert and seems to make simple sense to me:

When considering where the new jobs will come from, remember that there are two kinds of small businesses: those without employees (or non-employer businesses), and those with paid employees (or employer businesses). The US Small Business Office of Advocacy estimates that in 2008 there were 23.1 million non-employer and 6.1 million employer businesses.

When the economy struggles, the number of non-employers tends to increase at higher rates, while the number of employer businesses stagnates or declines. Going into business for themselves (becoming non-employers) has been a lifesaver for an additional 1.7 million individuals and their families.

However since most of these non-employers work only part time, we are most interested in employer firms. In the aftermath of the 1991 downturn, firms with 20-499 employees led employment expansion, while the smaller- and larger-size businesses struggled. During the 2001 downturn, larger firms (500 or more employees) experienced the greatest net employment losses, followed by firms with 20-499 employees. The smallest firms, with fewer than 20 employees, weathered that storm better than the others.

Expect small- and medium-size businesses and the services that support them to lead the economic recovery worldwide.

Optimism Defined

The epitome of optimism – a headline from abcnews.com:

Has the Recession Finally Ended?

I guess you could characterize this as “talking up” the economy.  Here is one paragraph from the article that made me laugh (emphasis mine):

Today also brought some positive news from the much-battered retail sector. For the first time in three months, retail sales in May rose, by 0.5 percent, according to the Commerce Department. The sales were pushed higher by increased demand for new cars and sales at gas stations. It was the largest increase since sales rose 1.7 percent in January following six straight monthly declines. While this is good news, part of the jump can be attributed to a recent spike in gas prices which isn’t helping average consumers.

“Sales at gas stations” is clearly the spike in prices as the last sentence states.  That would actually be working against consumers and the economy.  A .5% increase could clearly be nothing more than a spike in gas prices, couldn’t it?

My discussions with candidates has been fairly consistent – the economy is brutal and another spike in gas prices like last year would be a tremendous blow.  Telecommuting jobs will be in even higher demand if a significant gas price increase occurs.

Why Is Economic News Always Surprising?

Isn’t this an old marketing trick – include “surprising,” “stunned,” or “unexpected” in a headline?  It seems to me that every time an economic report comes out, we are presented with one of these words to describe the data.

The latest example comes from cnnmoney.com today:

U.S. construction spending unexpectedly posted its biggest increase in eight months in April, advancing for a second straight month as the private sector put money into both residential and nonresidential projects, according to a government report on Monday.

Oh to be able to surprise a sales manager with an unexpectedly lower sales forecast!  If the experts are consistently surprised, what credentials do they have for being experts?

Anyway, I am hopeful that the economy is turning, but I have to question if this is too early of a read.  The GM bankruptcy is going to have seismic repercussions on unemployment which is a lagging indicator to start.

Job Metrics

From a CareerBuilder.com email regarding the pork stimulus plan:

By the fourth quarter of 2010, over 3,994,000 jobs are estimated to be created and/or saved due to the American Reinvestment and Recovery act according to Moody’s Economy.com.

I’m all for efforts to create jobs in this economy, but I have heard this question asked before and it bears repeating:

What tool measures “saved” jobs?

There isn’t one, it is simply marketing propaganda.  Granted, the qualifying word in the sentence is “estimated,” but the real issue is job creation.  I think it was Peter Drucker who said if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.  The focus this year and next should be on job creation instead of an indefinable saved jobs estimate.