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It is better
to not be on
the web than
to be on and
not know why

John Sumser

is more
it seems.
John Gall


The Electronic Recruiting News is a Free Daily Newsletter For Recruiters, HR Managers, Advertising Agencies and Clasified Advertising Operations

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The Jobs Problem

(March 08, 2004) - In August, the New York Federal Reserve produced a much overlooked report, "Has Structural Change Contributed to a Jobless Recovery?" The economy lost jobs during both 2002 and 2003. More than a jobless recovery, we experienced net job loss.

The following chart compares the total payroll in the current recovery with the first 'jobless' recovery (early 1990s) and the economy's job production after recessions from 1950 through 1990.

Nonfarm Payrolls (% change from recession end)

From Chart of the Day (Feb. 10, 2004)

Until the 1990 recession, the end of a downturn was signaled by an increase in net job creation. During the 1991 experience, it took nearly a year for job creation to improve after the recession ended. Today, we're at nearly 30 months and job creation is still negative.

Things have changed in some profound ways.

In a typical 20th Century recovery, the economy would have produced 8 Million new jobs by this point. In the transitional 1990 recovery, the number would be roughly 2 million jobs. This time, however, we've lost a net of over 1 Million. In the time since the recovery began, an additional net of one million jobs have been destroyed.

One school suggests that the bubble was a case of massive overinvestment that will take a decade to absorb.

Another camp points to the globalization of manufacturing. Ohio, for example, has continued to lose manufacturing jobs at an astonishing rate in the 'upturn'.

From WSJ, Feb 26, 2004

We believe that both overinvestment and globalization are minor contributing factors. The real issue, however, is a profound change in the very way that jobs are created. We are witnessing the first recovery in what has become a full information economy.

For most of the 20th Century, a recession was a temporary decline in demand. Because people were temporarily laid off, while inventory backlogs were reduced, the economy could snap back quickly. As product demand increased, workers returned to preexisting positions in factories and the ventures that supported them. Recession was simple. It was the result of inventory investments that needed to be worked off.

In our, now global, inventory on demand, economy, we are insulated from recessions caused by the buildup of excess products. One way of looking at the 'bubble' is to think that we skipped a recession cycle as the direct result of just-in-time inventory management. Investment in hard goods and durable equipment is no longer a pendulum swinging from recession to recovery and back again.

In an information economy, jobs are created and destroyed on a more permanent basis. Rather than furloughs, many people who were laid off in this most recent recession (as well as the 1991 downturn), had their ties with their employers severed permanently. This is the root cause of declining tenure with employers. In the 'old days', layoffs were temporary. "Job creation" meant filling preexisting jobs.

Tomorrow: 21st Century Job Creation

John Sumser

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Materials written by John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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