Thursday, May 13, 2010

Trying to Make Sense of it All

Where to begin? Wednesdays seem to have a dearth of stories on Jobs, Unemployment, Underemployment and all the various ramifications of these.

But Thursday seem to bring an overabundance of articles on these topics.

First off was this little gem of a story from the AP via MSNBC on an Indian IT firm outsourcing Call Center operations to a prison. I'm just not real sure how to deal with these issues (outsourcing in general and outsourcing to prisons in particular) without sounding like a racist or xenophobe. So, we'll set this aside for a while and return to it on a later day.

Then there's the Weekly Job Report. This from Reuters probably offers what I consider the best presentation (Best being most true to reality, that is):

The number of U.S. workers filing for jobless benefits fell only slightly last week, highlighting the challenges facing the labor market, while import prices pointed to tame inflation, according to government data released on Thursday.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 444,000, the Labor Department said, though the number was still slightly above the 440,000 expected by analysts in a Reuters poll. The prior week's figure was revised up to 448,000.

Analysts said the slow decline in jobless claims against the backdrop of a pickup in the pace of job growth was puzzling, saying it pointed to a high unemployment rate.

"There are more jobs being created, but the general trend is that businesses are still reluctant to hire. The data show that the issue is more a lack of hiring and not people getting laid off," said Gary Shilling, president at A. Gary Shilling & Co in Springfield, New Jersey.

The figures reported are not all that different from those reported last week, so my diary from last week is still relevant. Though I must say, the 'analysis' that says we must be having a high unemployment rate does rate a big "Well, Duh!"

Which brings me to this wonder from today's New York Times. David Dayen has already hit this at FDL News but never let it be said I let an opportunity to pile on get past me. Especially when the target is presented in such an obtuse fashion. My initial response was that the article started from a premise and built a conclusion to support the premise. As David stated in his post:
I don’t deny that companies looking to cut corners will look to automate what human beings once performed, at a lower cost to the bottom line. What I reject is the conclusion of this article, that not only are these jobs gone forever, but that jobs for these people are similarly a memory.

But it's not just companies automating jobs here. There are many of us, who have been learning and dealing with technology as we go along over the years so to make the claim (as the author of this article does) that those of us in long term un/ender-employment are in jobs that no longer exist:
Pruning relatively less-efficient employees like clerks and travel agents, whose work can be done more cheaply by computers or workers abroad, makes American businesses more efficient. Year over year, productivity growth was at its highest level in over 50 years last quarter, pushing corporate profits to record highs and helping the economy grow.

This is just wrong on so many levels. Blaming those of us who lost our jobs for "not keeping up with the changes in technology" just does not fly as many of us learned our skills in precisely those technology oriented positions. Of course, I wonder how the author would feel if her job was outsourced to India. After all, it would just be another person who didn't have the correct Technological skills, right?

I'm just going to leave it at this for now and not even go into the lack of effort on joblessness from both the POTUS and the Congress. After all, I gotta have something to write about tomorrow.

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