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    « Basketball, media, and robots coming for our jobs | Main | PODCAST - HR Market Watch 2 - What Great HR Technology Looks Like »
    Thursday
    Nov102016

    CHART OF THE DAY: Election edition

    Wow, what a crazy few days. 

    I was thinking about most of the CHART OF THE DAY posts I have run over the last couple of years and I realized that they have been, as far as I can remember, all really positive reflections of an improving US economy. 

    Charts about record levels of job openings, charts about declining unemployment rates, and like today's chart that I will share in a moment, near-historic high rates of voluntary job separations, aka, 'Quits'. But no matter the chart, it has been for the most part, 'good' news.

    You know what, let's just get on with the chart, courtesy of your pals at the BLS, and then some semi-related comments and observations after the data. And probably some more charts too.

    1. The 'Quits' rate, i.e. the percentage of the workforce that voluntarily left their jobs sat at 2.1% in September, just a tick below the data series all time high level of 2.3% back in September 2005. Quits have been at or above 2.0%, many observers threshold for what defines a confident labor market, for a little over a year now. Said differently, the labor market seems attractive enough for more people to voluntarily quit their jobs with the expectation that a new, probably better, job can be more easily found.

    2. The 'Quits' rate usually tracks pretty closely, at least directionally, with overall wage growth. And wages have been going up. Heck, here is another chart showing the year-over-year change in average hourly wages going back to 2009.

    Wage increases in general help to encourage folks to move on, more confident in their ability to not only find a new job, but one with better pay and benefits as well. Like I said above, generally good economic news and data that has been trending positive for several years now.

    3. Want more data to chew on while still thinking about Tuesday's results? Ok, let's toss in the standard unemployment rate chart, while not a perfect indicator of the health of the labor market, at least the one that is most well-known and followed:

    Post-recession unemployment hit it's high of 10% in October 2009 and in the seven years since has meandered downward by half to its current level of 4.9%. There are some arguments over what unemployment rate constitutes so-called 'full' employment, but most economists would peg it in the range between 4% and 6%. Said differently, there is less slack in the labor market today than any time in the last 10 years.

    My anecdotal evidence backing up the strength and tightness of the labor market is seen at my local dry cleaner, who has had a 'Help Wanted' sign up in the window pretty much every day in the last 2 years.

    Sure, there are elements of the labor market that don't paint as encouraging a picture (labor force participation rate being one big one, increasing time-to-fill time is another, as it suggests skills mismatches in the labor force), but overall, it is hard to look at the data and not conclude that since the depths of the recession in 2008, that the labor market and the overall economy are light years better than in those bad times.

    4. Want some other data that is not directly related to the labor market but still provides a window view to the strength and health of the economy? How about the S&P 500 , the broad barometer of the performance/value of large company stocks and a pretty decent overall proxy for 'the market'. Here is the last 5 years or so of the S&P 500 Index to take a look at:

    That is a pretty nice 5 year run if you had some money sitting in an S&P 500 index fund for the last few years. It is even better of you push the window back to start at the bottom of the recession in 2008 or so, but the charting tool I found was not that flexible, and I think you get the point anyway. If you were fortunate enough to still have investable funds at the end of the recession, you probably feel pretty decent about how those investments performed.

     

    So getting back to the surprising results from Tuesday, and buying in to (which I do), that political maxim of 'It's the economy, stupid', then what accounts for the startling repudiation of the status quo, and the rejection of the continuation, more or less, of the policies of the last eight years of recovery and growth?

    I suppose the core can be found in another maxim, this one about progress, technology, and the future.

    The science fiction author William Gibson once said "The future has already arrived. It's just not evenly distributed yet."

    Let's look at one last chart that kind of channels the Gibson quote and also suggests possible reasons why in spite of all this good economic news, (as I write this the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 just closed a stone's throw from their all time record highs, reversing an anticipated market plunge in the hours just after the election results were clear):

    Going back a ways, and certainly before the last decade, the 'spoils' of a growing economy have increasingly gone to a smaller percentage of folks in the US. There are probably hundreds of reasons why this has been the case, but in terms of making a decision about a candidate, a party, a platform, and an expected (or hoped for) future, none of the underlying reasons really matter. What matters is that for many, many people, the recovery of the better part of the last decade, the stock market comeback, and improving overall economic security and prosperity have passed them by.

    And it is easy for the folks like me and maybe some of you, and certainly the powers that be in both major parties, and the media, and the corporate big shots, and the hedge fund guys, and the Silicon Valley tech bros, and all the people who think they run things to have forgotten about that, or just to have ignored it completely. After all, most of the people we know are doing ok. Most of our friends seem really secure.  No one we talked to said they voted for the other guy.

    I think that what we did learn on Tuesday night, or at least one of the things we learned, is that for millions and millions of people most of the economic recovery has simply not happened. Their jobs, if they are employed, are worse than the ones they used to have. They have less job security than ever before. They are increasingly unprepared to do many of the 'new' kinds of jobs that might improve their situation. And every day some 23 year-old Stanford grad invents some new technology that has the potential to automate, disaggregate, and 'productize' with an app or a algorithm the kinds of work they used to rely upon to take care of themselves and their families. Self driving cars are going to be awesome, right? Unless you are a bus, taxi, or commericial truck driver. If you have one of those jobs, well, good luck.

    I am stupid and I do think it's the economy. And I think until we all figure out ways to have this incredible, amazing, technologically wonderful future more evenly distribted we will remain a country very divided. 

    But even as we struggle with figuring it all out if nothing else the results Tuesday should ensure that we no longer continue to ignore or wish away these problems.

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    Reader Comments (2)

    wow nice chart guys :D

    November 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBunga

    Hello, I am so delighted I located your blog, I really located you by mistake, while I was watching on google for something else, Anyways I am here now and could just like to say thank for a tremendous post and an all round entertaining website. find my connection Payroll software India

    August 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNice article

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