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And the Occasional Truth Gets Spoken

6:12 am in Economy, Financial Crisis, Jobs, Unemployment by dakine01

Every now and then, I seem to run across news articles and/or headlines that seem to be just a bit of an understatement even as they are quite factual. Usually it seems, we get things like this one from NBC News yesterday:

New jobless claims take surprise jump

New claims for unemployment benefits took an unexpected jump in the latest week, raising more concerns about the struggling job market and providing further incentive for the Federal Reserve to jump in and help the economy.

As I have written before, it surely does seem as if the economist are ALWAYS surprised. Which still makes me wonder how they manage to keep their jobs as in most career fields, if you are always surprised by what happens, pretty soon you’re looking for a new career.

A couple of days ago, I saw this piece from Alison Linn at the Today show with the headline:

Many in middle class say they are doing worse financially

The Great Recession and weak recovery have left slightly fewer Americans feeling like they are part of the middle class, and many who do still identify themselves as such say they are now worse off.

A new and comprehensive survey on how the middle class feels, released Wednesday by Pew Research Center, finds 42 percent of people who identify themselves as middle class say they are in worse shape financially than before the recession began. About 32 percent are in better shape, and the rest either don’t know or see no difference.

I am part of that 42% though in fact, I have been forced to accept that by income, I am no longer remotely close to “middle class.” I am poor.

NBC News had this piece last night that is very much a companion to the Linn piece:

Stronger economy delivers smaller paystubs for most of us
With recoveries like this one, who needs recessions?

The average household income has fallen steadily for nearly everyone since the start of the economic expansion in June 2009, with average income dropping 4.8 percent in the three years since the upturn began, according to a report released Thursday.

High unemployment, outsourcing of jobs and generally slow economic growth have restrained income for households during one of the weakest and most prolonged recoveries on record, according to the report from Sentier Research.

Last summer, I wrote this post about the interconnectedness of the global economy. Today, the NY Times has this article on how China is now having to deal with surplus inventory:

GUANGZHOU, China — After three decades of torrid growth, China is encountering an unfamiliar problem with its newly struggling economy: a huge buildup of unsold goods that is cluttering shop floors, clogging car dealerships and filling factory warehouses.

The glut of everything from steel and household appliances to cars and apartments is hampering China’s efforts to emerge from a sharp economic slowdown. It has also produced a series of price wars and has led manufacturers to redouble efforts to export what they cannot sell at home.

This actually does make me wonder how long this headline from CNN will be true:

Romney: ‘Big businesses are doing fine’

It is a global economy and eventually what happens to one piece of that global economy WILL trickle down to the rest of the globe. Meanwhile we get to see pics of Prince Harry acting like a single, 27 year-old man visiting Las Vegas.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor

Economists Who Are Always ‘Surprised’ Should Re-Think Their Models and Assumptions

10:30 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

"RETHINK" by depone on flickr

"RETHINK" by depone on flickr

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Today’s report of Initial Unemployment Claims from last week is out and once again, the economists are “surprised” at the figures reported (via Reuters):

The number of Americans filing new claims for state unemployment aid rose unexpectedly to 428,000 in the week ended September 10 from a revised 417,000 in the prior week, the Labor Department said.

It was the second straight weekly increase and took initial claims to their highest level since the week ended June 25. Wall Street analysts expected a modest dip in new claims.

Once again, that is an upwards revision from the previously reported figure. I’m feeling a tad too lazy to go back through all my blog posts to find the last week when there wasn’t an upwards revision from the previous week’s report but I know that it has been months since there has been anything but upward revisions. At best there might have been a week when the numbers reported were not revised at all a couple of months ago but that’s it.

Realistically, I have to admit that the continual ‘surprise’ by the economists is just a continuation of the overall cluelessness shown by the financial elites as evidenced by this yesterday from the World Bank head (also via Reuters): Read the rest of this entry →

Grasping at Straws on the Economy

11:21 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

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So, I guess it has been a rather eventful week in the world economy and the lives of the Beltway Village Idiots Politicians, Pundits, and Courtiers. I’ll let Paul Krugman and Jane Hamsher do the honors of eviscerating the Standard & Poor downgrade of the US credit rating but do want to add my 2¢ in agreement that supposed neutral arbiters who sold their souls and “independent analysis” for the banksters crappy mortgage based securities should be well advised to STFU rather than interject themselves politically.

To the non-surprise of most folks living in the reality based world, the passage of the debt ceiling increase did absolutely nothing towards improving the overall economy and the budget slashing accompanying the increase is likely to push the economy back into recession (at least that’s my prediction here, here, and here). Reuters had this on the “small blessings” of the debt deal:

The plan for $2.4 trillion in spending cuts over a decade, if backed by lawmakers, would help lift some of the uncertainty that has weighed on investors, businesses and consumers unsettled by talk about a possible new and deep U.S. financial meltdown.

Of course, this was published prior to the stock market drop on Thursday. So much for the “certainty,” right? The LA Times seems to have a little better handle on things than Reuters with this:

Instead of increasing confidence in the future, the agreement seems to have underscored the near paralysis in Washington — and the fact that no substantial new efforts are likely for dealing with unemployment, lagging consumer spending or a host of other problems that have been dragging the economy down.


The stock market provided an early indicator Monday that investors and business leaders saw little to cheer about. Stocks initially rallied on the debt-ceiling pact, then tumbled after a report showed that U.S. manufacturing activity slowed sharply in July, reinforcing other weak economic data.

As we know today (Saturday, August 6), the stock markets worldwide greeted the Debt Ceiling deal by having their worst week since the middle of the Great Recession.

As always though, my foremost interest is in the Jobs Reports. Or maybe better phrased as lack of jobs reports. The ADP report on private sector jobs came out Wednesday and had it as 114K jobs (via Reuters), although this was offset by Challenger-Gray reporting that planned layoffs had jumped once again to the highest number in 16 months. CNN had a nice little article on the top ten latest “job killing” companies.

Thursday brought the weekly report of Initial Unemployment Claims for last week. Reuters reports it:

Initial claims for state jobless benefits edged down 1,000 to 400,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Economists had expected claims to rise to 405,000 and the dip last week indicated an easing in layoffs, which have weighed on employment in the past two months.

Of course, they failed to mention that the previous week’s report had been revised upwards once again from the original reports of 398K.

The official BLS numbers on jobs created for July came in at 117K. The most interesting part of the reporting on the BLS number is how many media sites put on the rose colored glasses to report. CNN’s headline (linked above) was “Hiring Picks Up” while the Washington Post presented it as”Cautious relief amid modest job growth.” The NY Times headline read “US Posts Stronger Job Growth in July” and Bloomberg said “Payrolls Rise, Jobless Rate Falls, Concerns Ease.” I think the LA Times may have provided one of the more realistic looks at the Friday report with this headline “Jobs report doesn’t offset U.S. recession fears.” The fact is, 117K new jobs, in an economy that needs to create 1 million jobs a year (roughly 90k per month) just to stay even with folks entering the work force, is no where near enough to attack the long term un and underemployment problems we face.

For a bit of comic relief, I’ll leave you with this article from Bloomberg this past Monday headlined “‘Embarrassed’ CEOs Silent on U.S. Debt Debate Driven by Republican Demands” combined with this one from Reuters from last week on hedge fund managers refusing to comment on the economy. So much for the best and brightest on Wall St I guess.

And because I can (H/T Old Folks Boogie on Facebook):

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy

Beltway Economic Conventional Wisdom Assuring Economy Will Not Improve

11:09 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

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In the year plus that I have been writing about the economy and life as one of the long term un and underemployed, I’ve mentioned a few times how difficult it is to catalog all of the stupidity, cupidity, and overall cluelessness of the Beltway Village Idiots Politicians, Pundits, and Courtiers (here, here, here, and here for example). A few weeks ago, I predicted that we will have a “double-dip” recession, even though reality for many millions is we have been in a depression and there has been no recovery that would be necessary for there to be a “double-dip” in the first place. Nevertheless, over the weekend, there were a few articles premised on how the deficit/debt is the worst thing going on right now in the economy. This one from CNN yesterday (July 4) starts things off:

CNNMoney surveyed 27 economists and asked them to choose from a list of possible threats facing the economy. What scares them most? A sovereign debt default by a European country such as Greece. More than half of those surveyed ranked it as one of their top two concerns, with 10 choosing it as their number one worry.


Relatively few of the economists surveyed were worried about the other risks they had to choose from — a slowdown among emerging economies such as China, or budget cutting by federal, state and local governments.

“Austerity is a short-term risk, but will help long-term,” said David Wyss, former chief economist at Standard & Poor’s, now visiting fellow at Brown University. “The odds of too big a budget cut seems small.”

My bold and there we have it. What’s a little austerity to those who have no fear of the consequences of that austerity. Given the propensity of economists polled by news organizations to be wildly and incredibly wrong in their predictions while then expressing their continual “surprise” at being wrong, I think we can safely say that the budget cuts that are coming will be both too big and soon followed by economists chanting “Hoocoudanode?” when the negative impact becomes obvious even to the most obtuse of the Beltway Villagers.

Today, CNN had this on the proposed “debt deal”:

“It sounds as if the package is going to be all spending cuts with a few symbolic revenue increases,” said Isabel Sawhill, an economist who studies fiscal issues at the Brookings Institution and worked in the Clinton administration.


Sawhill said the cuts are likely to be focused on non-security discretionary spending, a small section of the budget that includes funding for food inspectors, the FBI and education grants, among many other programs and services people associate with government.

Meanwhile,, last Thursday (June 30), the NY Times Economix had this from labor reporter Stephen Greenhouse:

Economists at Northeastern University have found that the current economic recovery in the United States has been unusually skewed in favor of corporate profits and against increased wages for workers.


The study, “The ‘Jobless and Wageless Recovery’ From the Great Recession of 2007-2009,” (pdf) said it was “unprecedented” for American workers to receive such a tiny share of national income growth during a recovery.

According to the study, between the second quarter of 2009, when the recovery began, and the fourth quarter of 2010, national income rose by $528 billion, with $464 billion of that growth going to pretax corporate profits, while just $7 billion went to aggregate wages and salaries, after accounting for inflation.

The share of income growth going to employee compensation was far lower than in the four other economic recoveries that have occurred over the last three decades, the study found.

Nice to have some empirical evidence to back up the anecdotal evidence so many of us have experienced first hand.

As a companion of a sorts, the Washington Post and Bloomberg each have this Bloomberg article up from Sunday, although with differing headlines. While Bloomberg’s headline is, “Payrolls in U.S. Probably Rose at Pace That Failed to Reduce Jobless Rate” the Washington Post headline is just a tad bit misleading to say the least (as the cheerleader paper of record I guess it is to be expected though), “Employment Probably Increased in June: U.S. Economy Preview.” From the article itself:

Employers in the U.S. probably expanded payrolls at a pace that failed to reduce the unemployment rate in June as companies sought to contain costs amid slower growth, economists said a report may show this week.

Payrolls climbed by 100,000 workers after a 54,000 increase in May that was the smallest in eight months, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News ahead of Labor Department data due July 8. The jobless rate held at 9.1 percent. Another report may show growth in services cooled.


The Labor Department employment report will also show private payrolls, which exclude government agencies, increased by 125,000 after rising 83,000 in May, according to the survey median.

Now this article is phrased as definitive but it actually is speculative as the BLS Jobs Report for June for the entire economy will be issued Friday (July 8) while the ADP report on private sector jobs will be released tomorrow (July 6). My guess is that the private sector jobs (the ADP number) will be in the 50K range while the overall economy will be 20K to 25K max. The layoffs in the states with their new budgets will be starting to come in and the weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Report is still running well over 425K per week. I hope I am wrong in my predictions. I don’t think I will be off very much. Unlike the economists who keep getting polled against all evidence of their errors.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy

Prediction: June Economic and Jobs Numbers Won’t Be Appreciably Better Than May

11:07 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

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I’m not an economist so this is a fairly easy prediction for me to make. I’m basing this prediction on how the weekly Initial Unemployment Claims have gone up this month (see here, here, and here plus tomorrow’s post when I write it). Or at least, the numbers have not dropped as much as anticipated. Either way, things are not improving.

Amazingly enough (economists claim to be surprised all the time, I get to claim actual surprise when something surprising really happens), there have been a few news articles from different outlets, pointing out some unpleasant economic truths. First up is this article from Monday’s (June 27) USA Today:

Whether the economic recovery in the U.S. can continue could depend on a single factor: consumer confidence. Confidence is important because consumers who are upbeat about prospects tend to spend more, driving corporate profits and job growth. Companies hire more employees, boosting spending, growth and confidence.


According to a monthly survey released last week by Consumer Reports, households that earn less than $50,000 have been extremely downbeat on the economy every month since the survey’s April 2008 launch. Such households make up half of the U.S. population. Meantime, affluent households — those that pull down $100,000 or more a year — have been feeling on average positive about the economy since February 2010.

The primary factor behind the disparity: jobs. Affluent households have seen little impact on job prospects overall. Meanwhile, low-income households have seen a net decline in jobs for 23 out of the past 24 months, according to the survey.

Please do click through and read the whole article as it offers a number of reasons besides those I’ve extracted to show how the affluent have benefited in this “recovery” while the rest of us have struggled.
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Could the Cable Industry Have a Clue?

1:13 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

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The weekly report on Initial Unemployment Claims came out earlier today and while the numbers did fall a bit, they are still over the 400K threshold that seems to be the cut off for declaring that things are going to get better. From Reuters:

The Labor Department said on Thursday new jobless claims fell to 414,000 in the week ended June 11 from an upwardly revised 430,000 in the prior week.

Economists polled by Reuters had been looking for a smaller decline, to 420,000. Claims have been above 400,000 for two months, reflecting a rough patch in the recovery that has led to renewed weakness in an already anemic job market.

Just as they did last week, the reporter just brushes right on by how the figures for the week before had been revised upwards. Last week it was reported as 427K now revised up to 430K – the week before it had originally been reported as 422K but then revised up to 426K. I would not be surprised if next week’s report revised this week’s numbers upwards again, closer to the original figure from the economists of 420K.

There were a couple of articles in the past couple of days that suggested to me that there are a few folks in corporate boardrooms who might have finally gotten a small clue. Surprisingly enough to me, it is the cable television industry! It’s not as if the cable industry has not been noted for trying to squeeze people at each and every turn with annual rate increases while they take channels away from the “basic cable” and move to more expensive groupings on “digital tiers.” Got to rent those digital cable boxes doncha know. I think that is one lesson from the old Ma Bell that was adopted early on – rent equipment for as long and as high a rate as possible.

Reuters presents the cable industry concerns as:

For all the talk about competitive threats from the likes of Netflix Inc or Apple Inc, it is rising poverty among households that TV executives say is their biggest source of concern.
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It Is Impossible to Keep Up With All the Economic Cluelessness

12:36 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

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I noticed yesterday that Reuters had an announcement of a Larry Summers editorial on “The Jobs Crisis.” Turns out, Summers had mostly the same editorial published at the Washington Post this morning as well. Scarecrow over at Firedoglake deconstructs the piece quite nicely, especially Summers own complicity with how we have reached this point of a probable “lost decade.”

Yet for every good article on the economy such as this one from Reuters that points out the disconnect of economists wanting people to cut down on debt yet increase spending or this opinion piece, also from Reuters, we have something like this opinion piece from the Washington Post yesterday where the author calls for “signing bonuses for people instead of Unemployment Compensation.

From the first Reuters piece:

Talk about getting it from all sides. Economists want Americans to cut down on debt and boost spending all at once, even as home values tumble and gasoline prices soar.

It may all be a bit too much for the average U.S. household, particularly with an already sluggish labor market stuttering again.

From the second Reuters piece:

The big mystery in the United States today is why the job crisis is not at the center of the political and economic debate. After all, the numbers — and the human tragedies they reflect — could not be bleaker.
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Officially, It Will Be a Double-Dip

9:21 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

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When I was a kid, I used to love double-dips. I’d go to the doctor and afterwards, we’d stop by the drug store soda fountain for my free ice cream. Summers, there would be all the ice cream suppers at the churches with fresh home made ice cream and cake. Double-dips of chocolate ice cream and cake!

Unfortunately however, today’s double-dip will be a recession. Yes, there it is; I’m predicting that we will officially fall back into a recession in the very near future even though for the 25M to 30M long term un and underemployed, we’ve never, ever left the recession that began officially back in December ’07 and ended officially in June ’09. I do so very much hope that I am wrong on this but will even go so far as to act like an economist and claim to be surprised if I am wrong.

What makes me think this will happen? Well, to start with, too many folks like The Benbernank in his speech last Tuesday in Atlanta and the presidents of the Philadelphia and New York Federal Reserve Banks all saying the economy will improve in the second half of 2011. In addition, Bloomberg has a survey of economists claiming this as well:

After growing at a 2.3 percent annual pace this quarter, the world’s largest economy will expand at a 3.2 percent rate from July through December, according to the median forecast of 67 economists polled from June 1 to June 8.

Rising exports, stable fuel prices, record levels of cash in company coffers and easier lending rules will be enough to overcome the damage done by one-time events like poor weather and the disaster in Japan, economists said. Nonetheless, the current slackening means Federal Reserve policy makers will wait even longer to raise interest rates next year, the survey shows.

The reality is, the corporations have been holding those record levels of cash for over a year now (via WSJ). They have used the money to buy back stocks or to invest in equipment (NY Times). Another reality is there are always “one-time events.” This year it is earthquakes/tsunamis/nuclear melt-downs in Japan and tornadoes in Alabama and Missouri combined with floods along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and wildfires in Texas and Arizona. This past winter, it was record blizzards. Later this summer it will be hurricanes in some areas and droughts in others. All “one-time events.”

BlackRock Investment Management CEO Laurence Fink is predicting that the US economy will lag the global economy for the next five to ten years. CNN says it will be because of household debt. My guess is that it won’t be helped by the Japanese economy contracting 3.5% in the first quarter, Australia adding fewer jobs than predicted (economists surprised!), Spain making unilateral moves (via NY Times) that go against the wishes of businesses and labor that no one thinks will work.

Nouriel Roubini is predicting that the Chinese economy will have a “hard landing” in 2013. (Side note: I had to laugh at Roubini’s wiki page):

In 2008, Fortune magazine wrote, “In 2005 Roubini said home prices were riding a speculative wave that would soon sink the economy. Back then the professor was called a Cassandra. Now he’s a sage”.[1]

I find it interesting that if you check the link at the footnote on the Roubini wiki page and scroll through the “8 who saw the financial crisis coming and the 8 who didn’t,” the “8 who didn’t…” are the ones still being quoted all the time. So much for Roubini becoming a “sage” instead of a Cassandra.

As always, we are not helped when we see Dana Milbank proclaiming that Austan Goolsbee leaving means President Obama is losing a “voice of reason.” That is the same Goolsbee who just last week was bragging about 1M private sector jobs having been created while ignoring the hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs lost.

Nor are we helped when the President goes on his weekly radio address and announces (via AFP):

“Now, government is not — and should not be — the main engine of job-creation in this country. That’s the role of the private sector, ” the president said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

“But one thing government can do is partner with the private sector to make sure that every worker has the necessary skills for the jobs they?re applying for,” Obama added.

As I noted in this post from Thursday, Dean Baker has already written the rebuttal to the “necessary skills” argument.

Reuters noted in their article on the weekly address that:

President Barack Obama, seeking to ease voters’ concerns about his handling of the U.S. economy, said on Saturday a meeting with his jobs council next week would focus on possible further steps to boost hiring in the short term.

That would be the “Jobs Council” of Outsourcers and Masters of the Universe.

Just think, now Reuters has a headline that starting tomorrow (Monday June 13), they will offer a column from Larry Summers on the “jobs crisis.”

I keep wondering how The Onion manages to write their stuff with all the competition from reality.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy

Showing Once Again That Denial Ain’t Just a River

8:59 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

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Nile River

Nile River by David Berkowitz


The Initial Unemployment Claims report for last week is out and guess what? The Economists are surprised. And water is wet and the sky is blue. From Reuters:

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, according to a report on Thursday that could reinforce fears the labor market recovery has stalled. 

Initial claims for state jobless benefits increased 1,000 to 427,000, the Labor Department said. However, economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims dropping to 415,000 from a previously reported count of 422,000.

Note how the reporter managed to skim right over how the report from last week got revised upwards from 422K to 426K.

Point of fact however, this report is not even close to being the best example of Beltway Village IdiotsPundits and Courtiers the last couple of days. It may not even be in the top ten at this point.

Our first contender for the Cluelessness Award of the week goes to Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser (via Bloomberg):

Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Plosser warned of inflation pressures from record stimulus, while saying unemployment will probably fall to between 7 percent and 7.5 percent by the end of next year. 


The economy will probably grow at a 3 percent to 3.5 percent rate for the rest of this year and next, and unemployment is likely to fall from a “disappointing” 9.1 percent level as of May to about 8.5 percent by December, Plosser said.

There appears to be no evidence of any of this, mind you. I am also wondering just where that “record stimulus” wound up as it sure as hell didn’t result in jobs that might have made that “disappointing” 9.1 percent unemployment rate a little less disappointing. If this speech by Plosser was meant to reinforce The Benbernank’s speech Tuesday in Atlanta, all it does is reinforce just how out-of-touch the Federal Reserve is with the reality faced by millions of Americans. USA Today has this article today pointing out that in order for inflation to be the big problem Plosser seems to see, you need rising wages. Nope, it seems only CEO wages are allowed to rise.
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Behind Every Statistic There Is a Human Face

11:51 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

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Back in January of 2009, I wrote a diary titled I Am Unemployed but Not a Statistic. I was thinking about that diary this morning. With all the discussion of statistics, unemployment rates, jobs created or unemployment claims filed, there is a human being somewhere who is affected. I started Just A Small Town Country Boy as an attempt to put a human face on just one of those people (myself) who sits behind the statistic. But as we all know, I am just one voice among the millions.

I am not alone as a human face though. Every time the politicians decide to vilify a teacher, there is a human being back there, on both sides of the issue. Yes, even the politicians have to be considered human. Every state and public sector employee who is laid off or demonized is a human being. We hear about the occasional worker who commits suicide; sometimes we see the stories about individuals since we do all love the human face of the stories and the human interest story has long been a staple of TradMed. Just last month there was the story of the “laid off federal worker confronts Obama at a town hall meeting.” One human face confronting the President about losing her job because of federal budget cuts. How many millions of other federal, state, and local workers have lost or are losing their jobs due to budget cuts and austerity measures?

When McDonald’s had their McJobs fair day back in April, they were planning on hiring 50K workers in one day. They wound up hiring 62K (out of over a million applicants). Each of those 62K who were hired and the over 900K who were not hired are human beings with a story to tell of how they arrived at this point. Students trying to find summer jobs or mid career people who were caught in a “rightsizing” (one of the more Orwellian terms going around these days), all are humans trying to survive.
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