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So, what’s going on with the jobs report?

I’m going to keep this post shorter than an average one; I’m actually looking for jobs right now, and basically having no luck, so I feel like I’m probably going to write something even more stupid than what I normally write because of the context behind this post. Here’s the basic breakdown: 204K jobs were added, and the unemployment rate is about 7.3 percent.There is a belief that the 7.3 figure comes from furloughed workers counted as unemployed, but you can also make an argument that 7.3 really represents a number closer to 13 percent — and if that’s the case, more than 1 in 10 Americans is looking for work. This creates a serious problem when you consider how people are going about finding work, and what’s happening in that whole process. The 1-in-10 figure would work with this stat, too: about 25 million Americans cannot get a full-time job. The keyword-loaded job description could be part of the problem, as also detailed by Peter Cappelli of Wharton here. In some of Cappelli’s research, 25K people applied for a routine engineering job and the applicant-tracking systems that the company used spit back this data: no one is a match. Unfortunately, HR middle managers believe that, and head in another direction; this can be frustrating to many, and led Cappelli to write a book about it. 

Here’s a good read on why the labor force is still shrinking — it’s at 62.8 percent of Americans having a job or actively seeking work, which is the lowest since 1978 — but many people are still calling the jobs report “surprisingly positive.” (Other, perhaps more notable, pundits admit the economy needs some work.) Also, er, consumer spending is currently ‘tepid,’ which could be bad for the holiday season (the shortest in 30 years due to a late Thanksgiving). Moldova is dealing with unemployment by ‘playing games;’ maybe we should be headed down that road as well. Because, er/ahem, remember this too:

I have absolutely no idea how to fix the economy and create more jobs; look around the Internet and you’ll find 455 different ideas. Talk to your friends at weddings and bar nights and you’ll hear another 35. There’s probably no special sauce here. There are claims all over the place, such as the notion that Obama has destroyed the full-time economy and replaced it with a part-time one:

(That’s not true, as disputed in the video. I do think that corporate pursuit of the bottom line may cause employers to slide people down to 29 hours a week to avoid health care costs at some point, but I doubt that’s an immediate situation or anything — or that it could even happen.)

We may also be in an era of ‘sweatshop capitalism.’ The evidence on the CEO compensation side is kinda depressing.

Finally, this might be the most helpful video you can rip through — provided you have 1 hour and 17 minutes of time. It’s a panel from The New School that features Maryland Governor (and possible 2016’er) Martin O’Malley (along with an economics writer for Slate) on the topic of creating jobs and trying to end gridlock. Some of this references the state level, and some parts are broader to Washington. The point is: we need to do better. The opportunities need to be clearer, the systems need to be better for evaluation, and we need to fight complacency.

Ted Bauer

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