The November jobs report was much better than expected. The unemployment rate fell to 10% and net payroll jobs declined by only 11,000. These types of numbers were not expected to happen until Q2, 2010. This is good news.
The unemployment rate still could increase in the next few months as discouraged workers begin looking for jobs again. But remember, this is caused by more jobs becoming available and people feeling better about finding work. Improved economic conditions can cause the unemployment rate to increase in the short-term.
Some conservative commentators downplayed the report and tried to diminish the data for political purposes. Yes, the economy is still not good. Yes, the government is not doing the correct actions to help (see last week’s post) and we still have a long way to go. But there is no way to view the November report as anything but good news. You can debate about how good the news is, but that seems rather pointless and childish and it can actually be detrimental to the economic recovery (more on this later). For a very positive (perhaps too optimistic) outlook on the data, see these articles. Article 1 Article 2
But are things really getting better? Back in October I commented on my friends Jeff and Kurt (pseudonyms of Jerry and Kirk), two highly-skilled professionals that had been unemployed for a year. Here is an update on their situations.
Long-term unemployment puts stress on a family and on Thanksgiving Day Jeff’s wife (only in her 40’s) suffered a minor heart attack. She works full-time and is the main source of the family’s income. This is one of the sad personal stories of the recession, similar to what is happening to numerous people throughout the country.
But don’t reach for the tissue box just yet. Because eight days later, after being unemployed for just more than a year, Jeff received a job offer for a great position. Jeff’s wife is going to be alright. Ring some Christmas bells; it’s going to be a great holiday at Jeff’s house.
What about Kurt? Incredibly, Kurt received his first job offer on the very same day as Jeff. That’s right, I’m telling you that the two people I wrote about in October, that had been unemployed for over a year, received their first job offers on the very same day. In December no less, which is the weakest month for hiring. (If you don’t believe me, send an e-mail and I will pass it on to Kurt and Jeff for confirmation).
And it gets even better. Jeff received a second job offer a few days after the first one and Kurt ended up deciding between three offers. This has all the makings of a holiday movie. I’m thinking of writing a script and calling it “Miracle on Monster.com”.
Good news such as this gives us hope and hope is important for everyone to have right now. There is a psychological/spiritual element to macroeconomics. Recessions usually intensify when people become pessimistic about future economic conditions (In our present case it was more like panic). Recessions end and recovery begins when optimism returns. Economists use the term “animal spirits” to describe the economic changes caused by changes in people’s attitude. The term is often used when economists have no rational explanation why things are getting better or getting worse. This means that trying to discredit good news can actually hinder the economic recovery by keeping people pessimistic.
The economy has gone through much turmoil in the last two years. Many people are going through serious hardships, struggling to make it in what seems to be a cold, dark, world. Some people have given up hope.
But we remember a story of a people also facing hardships in a cold, dark, world. They had received a promise, but that promise remained unfulfilled. Almost everyone had given up hope. It was into this situation that hope was born. It happened suddenly and it came quietly. It would have gone totally unnoticed except for angelic beings proclaiming good news. Good news, indeed.
You Can Provide Hope
My friend Duane (a big fan of this blog) is director of the Refuge of Hope mission in downtown Canton, Ohio, a city hit harder than most by the recession. Please consider donating the last $21 of your gift budget to provide Christmas dinner for a table of ten hungry people. You can make a donation on-line (either Pay Pal or credit card) by following this link. Refuge of Hope