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This is the “new normal”

12:19 pm in Economy, Jobs, Unemployment by dakine01

Roadside 'Jobs' sign stuck in an old couch

Photo: Doug Geisler / Flickr

The ADP Report on private sector jobs came out today and showed an increase of 158K jobs. David Dayen at the FDL News Desk discusses this report and the Bureau of Labor Statistics report that will be issued tomorrow morning (Friday, November 2):

Plug this all in and what have you got? The consensus forecast calls for an increase in 125,000 jobs. That would be an increase from last month’s increase of 114,000, but below the increases in July and August (August and September will get revised in the report). This generally matches what we’re seeing in the ancillary reports, and shouldn’t be a number that would arouse joy or sadness in either Presidential campaign. However, with the volatility of last month’s topline unemployment rate, derived from the household survey, I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw it increase from the current level of 7.8%.

Either way, it’s a preliminary report, and we probably shouldn’t put as much weight on it as we will, especially with the political implications headed into the election.

While the weekly report of initial unemployment claims was lower than expected (economists surprised!), even this moderately good news is not all that great.

The reality for many millions of us among the long term un and underemployed is the good jobs just are not there. At the end of August, Catherine Rampell of the NY Times had an article headlined “Majority of New Jobs Pay Low Wages, Study Finds.” As I noted in this post, it was very similar to an earlier post from April ’11 I had written that was based on a Washington Post article. Both the Times article and the Post article were based on reports from the National Employment Law Project.

Sunday in the NY Times, Steven Greenhouse had this article on how employers in retail and hospitality industries use (and abuse) part time workers:

But in two leading industries — retailing and hospitality — the number of part-timers who would prefer to work full-time has jumped to 3.1 million, or two-and-a-half times the 2006 level, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In retailing alone, nearly 30 percent of part-timers want full-time jobs, up from 10.6 percent in 2006. The agency found that in the retail and wholesale sector, which includes hundreds of thousands of small stores that rely heavily on full-time workers, about 3 in 10 employees work part-time….snip…

A 2011 survey of 436 employees at retailers in New York City, as diverse as luxury establishments on Fifth Avenue and dollar stores in the Bronx, found that half of the city’s retail workers were part-time and only one in 10 part-time workers had a set schedule week to week. One-fifth said they always or often had to be available for call-in shifts, according to the survey, which was overseen by researchers at City University of New York.

…snip…

Mr. Flickinger, the retail consultant, said companies benefited from using many part-timers. “It’s almost like sharecropping — if you have a lot of farmers with small plots of land, they work very hard to produce in that limited amount of land,” he said. “Many part-time workers feel a real competition to work hard during their limited hours because they want to impress managers to give them more hours.”

What? Could someone have actually spoken a truth here? The modern day wage slave, complete with sharecropping as the ideal.

While CNN has an article this morning attempting to paint the rosy glasses scenario on how the jobs are not all part time minimum wage, even they have to acknowledge the reality of the lower wage since 24% of the “new” jobs are in hospitality and retail:

Read the rest of this entry →

Final Pre-election Jobs Reports

3:23 pm in Economy, Jobs, Unemployment by dakine01

Employment Population Ratio, Participation and Unemployment Rates (calculatedriskblog.com)

This week has seen the final jobs reports that will be available to make a possibly measurable impact prior to November 6. Wednesday’s report from ADP had 162K new private sector jobs. Yesterday’s (Thursday, October 4) Jobless claims report had a slight increase to 367K new jobless claims and 4 week rolling average of 375K new claims. Finally, today’s (Friday, October 5) Bureau of Labor Statistics report has an increase of 114,000 jobs for September and the jobless rate falling to 7.8%.

It seems the fall in the overall unemployment rate has some folks on the right, led by Neutron Jack Welch, claiming the numbers have been cooked. David Dayen at FDL News puts it this way:

Because data is just fungible to the political leanings of whoever confronts it, we predictably saw a number of conservatives question today’s jobs report, suggesting that the Bureau of Labor Statistics fudged the data to help the President’s re-election campaign. Leading this charge was former GE CEO Jack Welch on Twitter. I think the government should make a deal with Welch – they’ll admit to massaging the data if he cleans up all the PCBs in the Hudson River personally.

On a more serious note, this is really pretty outrageous, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, whose department includes the BLS, is right to be insulted. The BLS is a civil service agency that until recently was still run by a Bush appointee. It now has a career bureaucrat in charge. The political team plays no role whatsoever in the derivation of or announcement of the jobs data. And if, despite all this, BLS cooked the books, they’re terrible at it, because they shifted the data in the household survey without corresponding in the establishment survey.

My WAG on this is that the adjustment of the number of jobs for July and August probably had as much affect on the September jobless rate as the actual numbers for September. As far as I can see, this opinion piece from Jay Schalin at Fox News pretty much covers the basic point of the “unemployment” figures:

One thing the current economic slump has made painfully clear is that the unemployment rate is an imperfect tool for gauging the health of the economy. Washington should replace it with a more meaningful and useful benchmark: the labor-force participation rate.

The widely publicized unemployment rate, eagerly awaited each month by pundits and policy wonks, has become little more than a shell game in which officials keep the public guessing about the real state of the economy.

Please do go and read the entire piece, he makes some excellent points.

One item that I find still glaringly obvious is that for the most part, most of the people in charge or talking about jobs and the economy have no more clue about what is happening than they do about what the surface of the moon feels like. Just the past few days, I have seen these headlines as I have surfed the toobz (links embedded in headlines):

I think the bottom line point here is any attempt to tie jobs reports, favorable or unfavorable, to the stock market is attempting so much witch craft. There IS no connection or the stock market would not be trading. As Reuters reported back in August, the market is up for the Obama administration by 74% since he took office January 2009:

At 1,400, the S&P 500 on Friday was closing in on a four-year high and was up 74 percent since January 20, 2009, the day Obama took office. Not since Dwight Eisenhower’s first term has a president had such a strong run for their first term.

As most folks reading this know, I am and have been among the long term un/underemployed. The reality for me and many millions of others is, we want to work in decent paying jobs, preferably in our chosen career fields. The dithering in DeeCee from both sides of the aisle, the constant calls for cuts to the budget, “Grand Bargains” to “save” Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (especially the non-existent “Bowles-Simpson” plan since there was no formal report and plan adopted by their namesake committee) personally drives me nuckin’ futz. As Mr Pierce often says, “Fck the deficit. People got no jobs. People got no money.”

It really is a simple concept. People want to work. We want to work at decent paying jobs with halfway decent benefits and contribute to the overall commonweal of the nation. Working two or three part time barely above minimum wage jobs does NOT fit this definition.

And because I can:

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

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

I really do want to believe in the economy…

2:56 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

I want to believe (photo: xyotiogyo, flickr)

I want to believe (photo: xyotiogyo, flickr)

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In the coming up on two years that I have been writing about the economy, jobs, un and underemployment at this little corner of the Intertoobz, I’ve tried to admit when my predictions have been a bit off. Like here and here where last summer I predicted we would be in a double-dip recession by the end of 2011. While we didn’t fall back into recession on the time frame I envisioned, I still see it as quite possible.

I do hope I get to admit being wrong on that. I so very much want to believe the economy is really improving and the jobs picture will brighten but I just can’t shake the feeling that it is all smoke and mirrors.

Today, (Thursday, January 19), the report of Initial Jobless Claims for last week came out and once again, the economists are surprised. Via Bloomberg:

Claims plunged by 50,000 to 352,000 in the week ended Jan. 14, the lowest level since April 2008, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 41 economists in a Bloomberg News survey projected 384,000. A Labor Department spokesman said the decrease reflected volatility seen during this time of year. The four-week average, which smoothes out fluctuations, decreased to 379,000 last week from 382,500.

…snip…

Jobless claims were projected to decrease from 399,000 initially reported for the prior week, according to the Bloomberg survey. Estimates ranged from 363,000 to 405,000. The Labor Department revised the previous week’s figure up to 402,000.

I am not at all surprised that last week’s figures were revised upwards as that is the pattern over the last few months at least. I did not make an official prediction but will admit that I thought this week’s number would be back well above 400K. Once again, I do prefer to be wrong on these.

But then I see articles across the Toobz like this from Tuesday from US News (via Yahoo) with the headline “Are We Entering a Jobless Recovery?” and I just want to weep at the incredible combination of stoopid and duplicity to that gives us such a headline. Read the rest of this entry →

Limited Good Economic News Won’t Last

10:11 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

"Perishable!" by Young Master Sunshine on flickr

"Perishable!" by Young Master Sunshine on flickr

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You might have seen some headlines from yesterday on the weekly report of Initial Unemployment claims about those claims “falling sharply” (Reuters headline phrase):

Applications for unemployment benefits fell by 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 391,000 in the week ending September 24 from an upwardly revised 428,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said on Thursday. 

My first prediction today is that the 391K figure first announced will be revised upwards when next week’s report comes out. My second prediction is whatever good news that can be wrung from this report will have a limited overall effect.

CNN’s report was a bit more circumspect with this:

The recent drop to 391,000 maked the lowest level since the week of April 2, when 385,000 new claims came in. 

Still, economists cautioned against getting too excited about the better number. It’s just one week of data, and according to a government spokesman, seasonal adjustments could have impacted the calculation.

…snip… Read the rest of this entry →

Wait! I thought the South was where all the jobs are!

12:30 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

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Jobs.

Although the official time frame for “The Great Recession” was December 2007 through June 2009, for the millions of long term un and underemployed, the daily reality is that not only has the recession never ended, it is more applicable to The Great Depression than it is to any of the various acknowledged recessions since the end of WWII. One of the articles of faith from the always surprised Economists is that job creation lags other indicators, yet here we are, over two years since the “end” of the last recession and the official unemployment rate is still at 9.1% with the underemployed figure at 16.2% for August 2011.

Each week on Thursday, there’s a report of the Initial Jobless Claims for the week before. Like many of the earlier weeks, last week’s report forced the headline writers to find the lone tidbit of almost good news to concentrate on in their ledes. From Reuters:

(Reuters) – Americans filed fewer new claims for jobless benefits last week but the decline was not enough to dispel worries the economy was dangerously close to falling into a new recession.

Applications for unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 to 423,000 in the week ended September17, the Labor Department said on Thursday. That was roughly in line with expectations.l

Of course, once again, the earlier report had been revised upwards (from 428K reported on September 15). It is not going too far out on a limb to predict that the 423K reported for September 22 will be revised upwards on September 29.

I did not go too far out on a limb back in June when I first predicted a “double-dip” and it still was a short limb when I reiterated the prediction in July. Nouriel Roubini has made the same prediction last Thursday documented from his tweets (via Business Insider). A few days earlier (September 19), Roubini had written this op-ed on how to keep the coming Recession from being a Depression.

Economist Magazine offered this analysis of Growth and jobs across the country on September 15. Their close:

Two things seem clear, however. Across the country, a greater level of demand growth is necessary to boost employment. And at the same time, there are places within the country experiencing strong growth which aren’t producing the jobs we’d expect them to. If America could find ways to make San Jose just a little more like Dallas, that might make a meaningful dent in America’s employment problems.

MSNBC offered this article with a touch of good news involved, i.e., that there is some hiring going on, although not to a level necessary to reduce the official un and underemployment rates. One point to note from that MSNBC link – all the reasons offered for the slow hiring have to do with demand levels and not the skills of the workers.

Today’s (Tuesday, September 27) NY Times had this article analyzing some BLS figures on how the economic map is being redrawn due to the lingering economic ill-effects:

When the unemployment rate rose in most states last month, it underscored the extent to which the deep recession, the anemic recovery and the lingering crisis of joblessness are beginning to reshape the nation’s economic map.

The once-booming South, which entered the recession with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, is now struggling with some of the highest rates, recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show.

Several Southern states — including South Carolina, whose 11.1 percent unemployment rate is the fourth highest in the nation — have higher unemployment rates than they did a year ago. Unemployment in the South is now higher than it is in the Northeast and the Midwest, which include Rust Belt states that were struggling even before the recession.

…snip…

The long cycle of “lose jobs, gain jobs, lose jobs” that kept Georgia’s unemployment rate at 10.2 percent in August — the same as it was a year earlier — is illustrated by Union City, a small city on the outskirts of Atlanta.

It suffered a blow when the last store in its darkened mall, Sears, announced that it would soon close. But the city had other irons in the fire: a few big companies were hiring, and earlier this year Dendreon, a biotech company that makes a cancer drug, opened a plant there, lured in part by state and local subsidies.

Then, this month, Dendreon said it would lay off more than 100 workers at the new plant as part of a national “restructuring.”

…snip…

In a sign of how severe the downturn has been, the Brookings analysis found that only 16 of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas have regained more than half of the jobs they lost during the recession.

So here we are. After all the years of hearing about the Rust Belt failing everyone and how the South was the leader in everything, well, maybe not so much. Businesses will accept all the subsidies and tax breaks in the world, but they will cut and run at the slightest sign of problems. Of course, I’m from a small town in Kentucky that bragged over the years about bringing in jobs from the Rust Belt (make sure you use plenty of Post-It Notes to keep the folks in my hometown working). I would almost suggest the governors of Georgia and South Carolina might want to contact their rust belt counterparts for some advice except that most of the governors involved seem to be intent on learning the wrong lessons.

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 →

Keep the Expectations Low – While Expecting to Be Disappointed

12:08 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

"Low Expectations" by Emm Enn on flickr

"Low Expectations" by Emm Enn on flickr

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So, here we are, waiting for President Obama to give his long awaited “Jobs” speech tonight. However, from the news reports and “analyses” in the TradMed speculating on the content and potential proposals I will not be holding my breath on there being much if anything worthwhile coming out of the speech. The cliche of “too little, too late” most comes to mind. While CNN had this report today on the stimulus from February 2009 having created jobs, it was nowhere near large enough. This article from Center for Economic and Policy Research from October ’10, points out that there was a need for a stimulus nearly three times the size of the $787B from February ’09.

We are and have been in an employment/jobs crisis for years now. Even while the official unemployment figure stays above 9%, even optimistic projections have unemployment to stay high through 2012, some projections have the high unemployment continuing as far out as 2020. Unfortunately, the current White House seems to be more willing to pretend to do something for show rather than actually doing something that will be effective.

As always, there are just some things that I do not understand. A large part of President’s Obama’s plan is further tax cuts (or rather, extending existing tax cuts such as the payroll tax cut). We have fairly strong evidence starting with the initial Bush tax cuts in 2001, that tax cuts have created few if any jobs over the past ten years yet we continue to be presented with tax cuts as a job creating panacea. Read the rest of this entry →

If Beltway Pols Were 1st Responders, No Foundations Would Be Saved

10:59 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

foundation - frame

foundation - frame. Photo by ClintJCL

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So here we are, coming to the end of another month with limited economic growth. Friday (August 26), the Commerce Department downgraded the second quarter US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from 1.3% as initially reported to 1%. Via Reuters:

The rate of growth between April and June was cut from the government’s first reading of 1.3 percent and followed a lethargic 0.4 percent pace in the first three months of 2011. 

This means the economy grew only 0.7 percent in the first half of the year. Nonetheless, and despite a sharp fall in consumer confidence this month, economists do not believe the economy will fall back into recession.

Note for those with short memories – the first quarter GDP was initially reported at 1.8%, upped to 1.9% with some fanfare before being downgraded to .4%. That seems to be a bit of a trend these past few weeks and months where the various economic indicators get revised in a negative direction (negative that is in relation to what would be good news). For example, when the Initial Unemployment Claims for last week came out on Thursday, the previous week’s claims were revised upwards (via CNN):

The number of first-time filers for unemployment benefits rose to 417,000 in the week ending Aug. 20, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s up 5,000 from a revised 412,000 the prior week. 

The original report for the previous week was at 408K so the upwards revision was 4K. Since the business reporters like to latch onto a factoid or two to try to explain things, they’ve all seemingly latched onto the point that some striking Verizon workers had filed claims. But the number provided was 8.5K which means even without the Verizon worker claims (which will most likely be denied as strikers are rarely allowed to collect unemployment), it would still have the initial claims at 408.5K. From the previously linked CNN article:

In most states, workers on strike are not eligible for unemployment benefits. And the weekly initial claims number merely reflects applications for the benefits — not all of which will be approved and paid out. 

Today (Sunday, August 28), Bloomberg has an article on their survey of economists for the August jobs and economic numbers. Read the rest of this entry →

So where exactly is that good economic news?

11:22 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

"Good News and Bad News"

"Good News and Bad News" by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com on flickr

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Well, here we go again. As usual, the past couple of weeks there have been a few articles on how the economy really isn’t THAT bad. In fact, that was a large part of the title of this article from McClatchy while USA Today offered up this from a Maria Bartiromo interview with the head of AIG, Robert Benosche (with a McCainesque “There’s a core of strength to the economy”). However once again, the reality on the ground rears up to refute the cheerleaders. Today’s (Thursday, August 18) Initial Unemployment Claims report for last week is out and the numbers are back over the dreaded 400k line once again (via Reuters):

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 408,000, the Labor Department said.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 400,000. The prior week’s figure was revised up to 399,000 from the previously reported 395,000.

Given that the trend the last few weeks has been for an upwards revision of the previous week’s numbers, I am not at all surprised at the upward revision from 395K initially reported to the 399K (although since I did not write a post on last week’s report, I can’t claim to have officially predicted the revision.)

Last Thursday, CNN had this article showing the lost jobs holes each state has to crawl out of to regain their pre-recession jobs numbers, especially when the new job seekers and residents for each state are factored in. Meanwhile, we got to ‘enjoy’ President Obama’s photo op Midwest bus tour this week (not to be confused with Cincinnati’s own Midwestern Hayride). Even though the lack of jobs has been an economic crisis for months years now, the elected officials, when they see fit to do something seem most intent on doing the wrong things. Marcy Wheeler has taken a few whacks at the stupidity of “free trade,” deficit reduction clueslessness, and the White House propensity for rhetoric over accomplishment, but I have to chime in with a big WTF over this NY Times article from this past Sunday: Read the rest of this entry →