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Op-Ed: Reading the tea leaves on US employment – Non-sequiturs galore

Economies don’t run on non-sequiturs.

Traders are awaiting the release of key US jobs data later Friday
Traders are awaiting the release of key US jobs data later Friday - Copyright AFP Hector RETAMAL
Traders are awaiting the release of key US jobs data later Friday - Copyright AFP Hector RETAMAL

If you’ve ever worked in the employment sector, you’ll know that employment figures and spin are always fun. You’re not so much being given a picture as being shyly told that there probably is a picture somewhere.

This piece from The New York Times for current US employment figures is a case in point. It’s perfectly normal, as a report. This is how people are trained to view employment stats. It’s not NYT’s fault that the tea leaves can’t be and aren’t read any other way. This is the way you’re supposed to read them.

As any sort of interpretation of anything, however, there are some issues.  

Wages rose 4.1%. Never mind double digit cost of living increases for years.

Healthcare is the “backbone” of the rises in employment. Never mind the huge turnover in healthcare due to hideous working conditions and that the demand is caused by so many sick people

The rise in jobs is powered by legal immigration and work visas. The exact opposite of the political mantras.

People are working more part time jobs rather than full time.  Thank you, news from 10 years ago at least.  

Now a bit of perspective:

That same 10 years ago at least I was working with BLS figures for a job site. Predicting career growth options was a thing back then. The BLS figures were pretty downbeat, not hyping anything much. I think the expression is “pleasantly realistic”, unlike the career hype at the time. My job was to make a career as an engineer or whatever sound like a good move, and back it up with stats and reasons.

It definitely was interesting work. This was also the time when the great economic vision of the future was that everyone was going to be in service industries, basically highly qualified waiters. It was pretty obvious that the service sector was getting some shrinkage, even then.

You couldn’t do that sort of job now, predicting career paths. The current employment market is so chaotic and out of step with old style careerism.

The “growth” mentality is slowly realizing it’s out of a job, too. One of the things that supercharged careerism was endless, ridiculous, unsustainable growth. Of course, you’re going to make billions working in admin. The world needs more delusional go-getters chasing delusions on spreadsheets.

It all came down in an unsightly mess. That was nothing to do with COVID, insane US politics, or even FOX News babble-porn. The basic economics of 10 years ago were long gone.

The coverage of employment went as gaga as the reality. It was one of the few times I’ve seen reality and employment singing from the same utterly useless spreadsheet hymn books.

This is where the non-sequiturs come marching in.

Mass layoffs aren’t helping. This is the background to any current set of employment numbers.

Cost of living isn’t exactly setting off the starry eyes in real economics.

The rent crisis and housing dwarf anything to do with wages. People can’t actually afford to be alive.  

It’s like the Great Depression decided to do an encore, and nobody could be bothered to mention it. This situation is horrendous, and none of the most critical fundamentals are even being acknowledged.

It’s a recipe for a failed society:

Take 8 billion people.

Add 5 tons of pure overpriced ignorance and economic illiteracy.

Stir well with obsolescent wooden idiots and other media.

Serve and pretend things are fine to people who can’t even pretend to have time to think about it.

If those figures for the US mean anything, they mean that people are scrambling for better options. That’s hardly surprising.

It’s better to have 272,000 more jobs than not have those jobs, sure. It’s not better to dodge every other issue on that basis. The private sector is ducking costs as usual. The El Cheapo outcome is the default outcome.

Now- Would somebody like to translate the current state of the job market into a meaningful interpretation of the economy?


You don’t say.

…And you don’t, do you?

Economies don’t run on non-sequiturs.

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Written By

Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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