Thursday, May 6, 2010

Jobless Reports from 5/6/2010

So I was doing my daily surfing for news stories of interest to myself and some friends when I started seeing the current week Jobless Reports. CNN reported it with this headline:

Jobless claims down for 3rd straight week

But then the lede is:
NEW YORK ( -- The number of Americans filing initial claims for unemployment insurance fell for the third straight week, according to weekly government data released Thursday.

There were 444,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended May 1, down 7,000 from a revised 451,000 the previous week, according to the Labor Department's weekly report.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't see a whole lot to be cheering about with this, although it appears, the TradMed is reporting it as a sign the economy is getting better. I guess in some fashion, fewer folks being laid off is a positive but we're still talking over 440K people losing their jobs last week.

The numbers for continuing unemployment claims also seems to be nothing to brag about:
The four-week moving average for continuing claims totaled 4,649,000, up 8,000 from the preceding week's revised average of 4,641,000.

As always, the details buried in the bottom of the news report do paint a bit different picture:
Three separate reports on Wednesday pointed to strong signs of jobs growth when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its official read of the unemployment situation on Friday. Economists surveyed by forecast that the U.S. added 187,000 jobs in April, compared to a gain of 162,000 in the prior month.

Still, total hiring would need to be 200,000 or more a month to push the rate down significantly, he said. Given recent economic data, he thinks the "big one" could come as early as May.

And there it is in a nutshell; the US added 187K jobs in April while losing 440K jobs in the last week.

Then I went over to MSNBC and saw the following headline:
Need a job? Contract work could be new normal

Welcome to the future.
Stephen Luebkert was laid off in March 2009 from a Boston-based semiconductor company. He lived for four months on his severance while he looked for another full-time job and eventually ended up working again for the same firm.

The difference is that now he is a contract employee. He no longer gets any of the perks of being a permanent worker, including paid vacations or sick days, health insurance or tuition assistance. And he estimates that he makes about 20 percent less — for the same job he was doing before.

The new cycles are lay offs, collect unemployment/live off severance then maybe get hired back as a contractor with no benefits for the previous job at a lower hourly rate than you were paid previously. When your contract expires, you're back out looking again, this time with no severance or unemployment eligibility as you're now considered "self-employed." And since you're now responsible for all your benefits as an "independent contractor," your expenses have gone up that much more (assuming you can actually get the health plan at an affordable rate).

I've not been a contract worker before, so when I'm asked what my rates are for a possible position, I'm never real sure what I should say. I know what my personal living costs are, and I do live frugally. I eat reasonably well, (thank you Dub and Peggy for making sure I could cook!). But any possible retirement funds have to come out of the amount as do the "holiday, vacation and sick days" (reality is for most contractors, those are non-existent as the individual doesn't get paid if not working).

And we'll end today's travels through the economic news with this report from the NY Times on shoppers once again slowing their purchasing after increasing spending in March for Easter.

Of course, when everything earned has to be spent on living day to day, it makes it difficult to be a "consumer" of anything more than the basics of life. There are a lot of folks back to dealing with the first two blocks on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. But of course, that's no where near as important as assuring that the banksters and Hedge Fund operators who destroyed the economy continue to receive their multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses, right?

Two Notes:
1) Any errors of fact or interpretation are purely the idiocy of the writer.
2) As a former Sociology major, I have become more and more convinced that I can make better predictions on the future of the economy than those presented by the supposed economics professionals who all seem to work off the same sheet of assumptions that there is such a beast as a perfect world and economy that can be predicted if only, gosh darn it, the folks in power would do these things like privatize profits and socialize losses. (/rant)

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