An economic anecdote

Following on a piece yesterday from Thomas Lifson ("Obamanomics explained in one chart"), showing the dissection of the U-3 Unemployment Rate and the Labor Participation Rate, I have decided to provide some "on the street" context to the employment picture.

It sucks.

I entered college the year Ronald Reagan ran for and was elected president of the United States.  In spite of turmoil around the world and Carter's economic "malaise," Reagan preached hope and optimism.  I instantly bought in.  From that moment on, I always felt that no matter what circumstances occurred in my professional life, I lived in the greatest nation in the world, and if I dreamed it, I could achieve it.

I no longer believe this – not for myself and, sadly, not for my children and grandchildren.

I have been fortunate, I suppose, as I rode the early tech wave in the eighties and nineties, to be able to say that I am relatively stable middle-class, own my home (with a 50% loan to value), own a truck and a motorcycle, and am in good health.  Ten years ago, I began planning for retirement.  I'd envisioned my home's equity continuing to skyrocket (who didn't, right?), had a small stock portfolio, and thought I would work 'til I was 60 or so, cash in, and live a more modest existence into old age.

Today, I am 54, and I work as an assistant general manager in a 50-store big-box specialty retailer based in Southern California.  About one year ago, our chain instituted some cost-saving labor initiatives – eliminating full-time positions and transitioning employees to part-time. (See: Obamacare.)  Many of our employees left or got second jobs to make ends meet.

They then began to reduce budgeted hours for labor – from about 1,200 per month to 1,000, then 900, and this past Christmas week, 800 hours.  For the wonks out there, our SPH (sales per hour) for the Christmas – er, I mean holiday week ran about $400/labor hour.  This means that for every scheduled labor hour, our associates generated about $400 in sales.

What does this mean in real terms? It means that management is riding us like donkeys.

In a conversation with another manager, I asked how management could ride our people so hard and not risk having good people leave for greener pastures.  He stated, "Management knows that there is nowhere else for us to go."

Nowhere to go.  Ain't that the truth?  I have sought employment elsewhere, and I have in the past year submitted at least 100 applications for employment.  I have a 22-year-old daughter, who just graduated from a prestigious institute of higher learning with a bachelor's degree in health sciences.  She too has struggled to find work commensurate with her education.  I see many of her friends in the same position – working part-time waitress or retail jobs, still living at home.

We've had seven-plus years of flat economic growth, a massive expansion of government debt; a debasing of our currency; an influx of low-wage/high-cost third-world workers; job-suppressing legislative, judicial, and bureaucratic jack-boots; and media-driven hokum telling us how wonderful everything is...and by the way, Barack Obama's poop don't stink.

There are a myriad of charts that will paint a picture of the state of things.  Anecdotally, the economy sucks.

Following on a piece yesterday from Thomas Lifson ("Obamanomics explained in one chart"), showing the dissection of the U-3 Unemployment Rate and the Labor Participation Rate, I have decided to provide some "on the street" context to the employment picture.

It sucks.

I entered college the year Ronald Reagan ran for and was elected president of the United States.  In spite of turmoil around the world and Carter's economic "malaise," Reagan preached hope and optimism.  I instantly bought in.  From that moment on, I always felt that no matter what circumstances occurred in my professional life, I lived in the greatest nation in the world, and if I dreamed it, I could achieve it.

I no longer believe this – not for myself and, sadly, not for my children and grandchildren.

I have been fortunate, I suppose, as I rode the early tech wave in the eighties and nineties, to be able to say that I am relatively stable middle-class, own my home (with a 50% loan to value), own a truck and a motorcycle, and am in good health.  Ten years ago, I began planning for retirement.  I'd envisioned my home's equity continuing to skyrocket (who didn't, right?), had a small stock portfolio, and thought I would work 'til I was 60 or so, cash in, and live a more modest existence into old age.

Today, I am 54, and I work as an assistant general manager in a 50-store big-box specialty retailer based in Southern California.  About one year ago, our chain instituted some cost-saving labor initiatives – eliminating full-time positions and transitioning employees to part-time. (See: Obamacare.)  Many of our employees left or got second jobs to make ends meet.

They then began to reduce budgeted hours for labor – from about 1,200 per month to 1,000, then 900, and this past Christmas week, 800 hours.  For the wonks out there, our SPH (sales per hour) for the Christmas – er, I mean holiday week ran about $400/labor hour.  This means that for every scheduled labor hour, our associates generated about $400 in sales.

What does this mean in real terms? It means that management is riding us like donkeys.

In a conversation with another manager, I asked how management could ride our people so hard and not risk having good people leave for greener pastures.  He stated, "Management knows that there is nowhere else for us to go."

Nowhere to go.  Ain't that the truth?  I have sought employment elsewhere, and I have in the past year submitted at least 100 applications for employment.  I have a 22-year-old daughter, who just graduated from a prestigious institute of higher learning with a bachelor's degree in health sciences.  She too has struggled to find work commensurate with her education.  I see many of her friends in the same position – working part-time waitress or retail jobs, still living at home.

We've had seven-plus years of flat economic growth, a massive expansion of government debt; a debasing of our currency; an influx of low-wage/high-cost third-world workers; job-suppressing legislative, judicial, and bureaucratic jack-boots; and media-driven hokum telling us how wonderful everything is...and by the way, Barack Obama's poop don't stink.

There are a myriad of charts that will paint a picture of the state of things.  Anecdotally, the economy sucks.