Week in Review: No Quick or Durable Employment Solutions
I have consistently written about jobs creation since my earliest articles on Seeking Alpha. I believe job availability is the cornerstone of social order. I continue to return to this subject as I am frustrated by low employment numbers, and the inability to find a cure.
There are no good options to creating jobs in the short term unless we hire people to spit at the moon (hat tip Mish).
Econintersect studies have concluded that employment pressures take 6 to 12 months to manifest from a trigger event. As I write this the USA employment is definitely in a cyclical "less good" downtrend based on month-over-month employment trends. There are no employment drivers coming from either government or private sectors. Demand per capita is weak.
It is demand which creates jobs in an economy.
The USA is faced with a very large segment of the economy - the Boomers - not demanding "things" as they did 20 years ago. Worse, the recent asset deflation cycle has wiped the net worth of many Boomers - and likely will cause a historically high number of aging Americans to work past the usual retirement age of 65.
This is the "dead man's shoes" syndrome - you don't get shoes until the person wearing those shoes dies This does not bode well going forward for employment for the young entering the labor market.
Employment dynamics have changed - and comparisons to past situations, or past remedies are all suspect. It has been obvious from the data since 2000 that there has been a problem with creating jobs. This has been hidden by the silly way unemployment is calculated and defined.
Some want more infrastructure spending - but only 20% to 30% of infrastructure spending creates employment. Infrastructure is NOT an efficient mechanism to create jobs, and unfortunately serious infrastructure takes many months years of planning before construction jobs are created. Infrastructure spending and maintenance are very important - but not for creation of jobs.
In an optimum scenario, $200 billion of infrastructure spending per year creates 1 million direct jobs. With so much economic slack, the normal multipliers for indirect jobs creation are inoperative - and most likely only 1 million additional jobs would be created. It is real hard to spend $200 billion per year in infrastructure - and is equivalent to completing 20 nuclear plants every year, or completing 2,500 miles per year of new 4 lane highway.
Serious infrastructure planning / spending requires a long ramp up (see second article under author's photo) - and the effects would only be seen well after the 2012 elections.
So the question remains what to do? How is demand created? All solutions tabled so far target the symptom (low jobs growth) - and ignore demand creation. Demand is constrained by the majority of Americans by demographics, loss of wealth, and low employment levels (Catch 22).
- The lower demand caused by an aging population can only be mitigated - not solved. By 2050, the Boomers will mostly be gone, and a new boom cycle underway with fresh blood.
- For most Americans, the loss of wealth was caused by the housing crisis. Approximately 25% of families have no or negative net worth. Half of American families have a net worth under $50,000. Demand is limited to available cash. Demand can only rise if more disposable income is available.
The cheapest unproven solution for demand / jobs creation is to go back over every law and regulation. Maybe, the best experiment is to allow the individual States to void Federal laws. There would be 50 different experiments. If it was a revenue producing law, it needs to be replaced by the States with a different scheme.
It boils down to this - there is no certainty what will work. Employment dynamics contains a myriad of forces, and attacking only one force likely will have unknown effects on others. If the solution to employment was simple, it would have been solved long ago.
People tend to fall in love with their square box perceptions of the world, and the way they want the world to be. Personally I do not care whether a solution is liberal or conservative or progressive or libertarian or provided by the Borg - the solution must work.
It is time to stop arguing dogmatic feces, using 10 second sound bites - and start getting around to finding real solutions. It is over 10 years since the poor employment dynamic was evident even to the dumbest analyst. Only an economist (or politician) could believe a quick and permanent solution could be found quickly.
Economic News this Week:
The Econintersect economic forecast for September 2011 (see first article under author's photo) predicted the economy will contract - but there is an indication that the economy may begin slight growth in the coming months. The the majority of the weighted elements were negative, but some key elements were showing positive growth.
This week the Weekly Leading Index (WLI) from ECRI slipped further into negative territory - from a downwardly revised -4.4% to -6.2. A negative number implies the economy six months from today will be worse. This index has been eroding and has been in a four month overall downtrend. Please note this downward trend occurred one year ago and did not result in a recession.
Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of Economic Cycle Research Institute was quoted on CNN Money this week:
Initial unemployment claims rose 2,000 (from 412,000 which was revised up from a preliminary 409,000 last week) to 414,000. Historically (see third article under the author's photo), claims exceeding 400,000 per week usually occurs when employment gains are less than the workforce growth, resulting in an increasing unemployment rate. The real gauge – the 4 week moving average – rose 3,750 to 414,750 because of the backward revision. Because of the noise (week-to-week movements), the 4-week average remains the reliable gauge.
The data released this week confirms the economic soft spot is continuing. However, the real concern this week is the contraction of rail traffic.
Bankruptcy this Week: NewPage