What I see when I get a moment to pause and make a little sense of the world
1. Jobs are not coming back. People are hurting!!!! “Some people” (me!) cheered the return of the DJ average to 10,000 last week. Yup, we’re pulling out of the recession! Try telling that to the 15 million out of work in the U.S. And those still working are scoring but 33 hours per week—the least in 60 years. In a horrifying (careful word choice) article by gazillionaire Mort Zuckerman in yesterday’s Financial Times (“The Free Market Is Not Up to the Job of Creating Work”), Mr. Z adds a raft of other appalling facts about the astonishing mismatch between areas where job growth might take place and the skillsets of the recently booted. Message: The recession is a long way from “waning” for a bloody lot of people! Keep your cheering to yourself! (You may have to keep it to yourself for, say, the next 10 years.)
2. So the reporter at the desk next to yours lost his job. An article in Time focused on the implications of the revolutionary transition to the “new economy.” For God’s sake, I’ve been yelling about that for 15 years. And what a bunch of bull! Yup, there is a new economy—and newspapers are getting clobbered. But the large majority of us still work in pharmacies and insurance offices and, yes, car dealerships. Why oh why do we always willfully focus on folks in big companies in sexy industries?
3. Gen X (etc.) is bringing a new look to the work force. Yeah, unemployed. Much as we focus on the 52-year-old UAW worker tossed out the door, the fact is that the older folks are doing relatively well in the “contraction”—and the younger folks are taking it in the chops. (See BusinessWeek’s “horrifying” October 8 cover story, “The Lost Generation.”)
4. Don’t lose those superstars! Is there any credible evidence that Wall Street’s superstars (about to receive mega-bonuses) are actually superstars? If so, it’s not clear to me. (I admit to being a slavish devotee of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Fooled By Randomness—which sets off alarms on this topic.)