Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

It’s crunch time. Just a little reminder from Ross

Just a little reminder for everyone.  It’s not just his “giant sucking sound” comment.  It’s the time frame he noted, and the advantages to a business going to a foreign nation.  Well, tomorrow is the Fast Track vote and there are some dem’s who are not taking the threat of loosing their job seriously enough.

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The Disease of the 21st Century…

Via AlterNet, Lynn Parramore describes:

Job Insecurity: It’s the Disease of the 21st Century — And It’s Killing Us

A massive, Xanax-fueled public health crisis driven by chronic employment worry is headed our way.
Remember Dilbert, the mid-level, white-collar Cubicle Guy of the ’90s who could never seem to get ahead? In the 21st century, his position looks almost enviable.
He has been replaced by Waiting-For-the-Other-Shoe-to-Drop Man.


Photo Credit: shutterstock
Editor’s Note: This is the first in an ongoing series on job insecurity.

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Reid’s Plan for Job Creation

by Linda Beale

Reid’s Plan for Job Creation

Harry Reid announced on Wednesday (Oct. 5) that the Senate would take up Jobs Act legislation (S. 1549) soon, but that the offsets in the president’s proposals would be replaced by a 5% surtax on those making more than a million that would raise about $445 million.  See Bolen & Lorenzo, Senate to Debate Jobs Bill Paid For with 5% Millionaire Surtax, BNA Daily Tax Report 194 DTR G-7 (Oct 5, 2011).

Note that this means that, once again, Congress will punt on the question of taxing fund managers fairly on their compensation, since the carried interest provision would be one of the offsets replaced by this provision.  The carried interest provision should be passed no matter what other offsets are used.  It is an unfair provision that treats fund managers as a specially protected category of worker with preferential rates on their compensation income.  Time to end it, once and for all.

Not surprisingly, GOP senator Hatch complained that this small surcharge on millionaires would be a “massive” tax increase on “small businesses”.  Id. How many times do we have to remind Congress that most small businesses don’t make millions in profits, that those who have millions can pay a 5% tax without undue distress (compared to those with a ten dollar bill being able to support their family with food and shelter), and that 5% of $1 million is not a “massive” tax increase.  50% of $1 million might be, but 5% is simply not.

Also posted at ataxingmatter

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The Job Market, Finding Qualified Applicants, and HR

by Mike Kimel

I had a few posts noting that not long ago, I took a severance package from my most recent employer. Put another way, I’m now unemployed. Since then I’ve been looking for a new job.

However, in recent weeks I’ve started taking consulting work, and I’m starting to lean more toward consulting. I was a consultant for seven and a half years before taking my most recent job, and I function as easily as a consultant as I do in the corporate world. Put another way – I am not uncomfortable with the feast or famine environment in consulting though, truth to tell, my wife would strongly prefer that I had a “real” job. But I digress.

A big part of the reason I’m starting to lean toward consulting is that while I haven’t cracked the job market, some consulting work has come my way without my having sought it out. Unrequited love v. unsolicited love, or if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with, right? And when I say I haven’t cracked the job market, I have to say, something about the job market seems very wrong to me. I keep hearing that companies are having a hard time finding qualified candidates. A random search of the news spits out several such stories.

I would like to relate my experience in the matter. This morning I went to indeed.com, which has rapidly become my favorite job search site. I entered some appropriate job search parameters, and found a job that I’ve applied to twice in the past three months. It looks a lot like the requirement bullet points come straight from my resume: advanced degree, a fair amount of experience developing analytic tools (e.g., data mining), experience building and leading cross-functional teams, and experience with strategic planning. I can’t find anything on the job req that I don’t have on my resume, except that in each case I have more experience at a higher level than the req specifies. And as I said, I’ve applied for that position. Twice. And it seems it has appeared on the company’s website again. That means the ad wasn’t written as ex post justification for hiring a specific person – the company at least believes it is genuinely looking to fill the spot without an internal candidate already penciled in.

Now, I’m not saying that the company should hire me. Perhaps there is something about the position that isn’t in the req that makes it clear I don’t fit in. And perhaps there are many others that are far more qualified than I am (though I like to think I am very, very good at building statistical tools, and even better at management and strategy). But either way, I would imagine that my resume would have tripped up some sort of a “call this guy and feel him out for five minutes” routine in their “applicant tracking software.” There are other similar positions that I’ve seen crop up several times since I’ve applied, but two of them really bother me as they also include a phrase like “knowledge of Spanish, Portuguese preferred.” Now, I grew up in Brazil and have family in Argentina so I have spent considerable time in South America. I speak Spanish and Portuguese. That’s on my resume, as is the fact that I have international work experience. The companies advertising those positions didn’t call me back either.

On the other hand, I’ve had calls and e-mails from employers looking for someone to a) sell insurance, b) provide financial education to union members and/or Hispanics and/or other groups, c) for entry level positions, and d) for an executive chef. What in my resume screams “executive chef” I have no idea. None whatsoever. Good for a laugh, but not really. It’s a waste of my time, and there are people out there who are qualified to be an executive chef and are searching for that job and aren’t getting a call. My guess is that someone seeking out an executive chef position may be getting calls about upper level management positions in Analytics at a Fortune 500 company.

Which leads to a hypothesis. It may be that there is not so much a mismatch between the skills that the unemployed have vis à vis the needs of companies as there is an inability of companies, and in particular, the Human Resources department of companies, to recognize the needed skills when they see them. I’ve met many HR people over the years, and while many are competent, a frightening number of them are not. I remember, as a hiring manager, learning that I had to bypass my company’s HR department altogether if I wanted to get resumes that had any bearing to my group’s needs. But I could only do that because my boss was very sympathetic. He had found me without using HR too.

I note this recent post on Health Insurance also says something about some of HR’s other functionalities.

PS – Need a consultant with expertise in analytics and forecasting, and who can explain what it means to your business in simple (and actionable) English (or Portuguese or Spanish)? Someone with a Ph.D. in economics and 15 years experience in pricing, risk, demand analysis, and corporate strategy? Perhaps with strong knowledge of some of the big South American markets? Someone with experience in litigation support? Drop me a line at “mike” period “kimel” (one m only!!) at gmail.com. Alternatively, “mike” at analyticecon.com will get to me too.

Also, my wife started cleaning up my old consulting practice website: www.analyticeconomics.com (or www.analyticecon.com). Any suggestions about the website, or about generating new business, are welcome.

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Clinton Global Initiative 2011

As with last year and the year before, I will be (as much as possible) at the Clinton Global Initiative, now with even more Social Media and Networking Goodness.

If you’re here, say hello. If you’re not, look for posts and peruse the offerings for the conference. If there’s something you’re especially interested in, email me or mention it in comments.

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Jobs as the Measure of Economic Success, and Rick Perry’s Texas

by Linda Beale

Jobs as the Measure of Economic Success, and Rick Perry’s Texas

We have had a warped sense of how to measure economic success in this country at least since George W. Bush started talking about the “ownership” society.  Of course, we should have guessed that moniker was problematic from the start, since it was ‘invented’ by a guy who bragged about representing the ‘have-mores’ while the economy was rapidly becoming a bi-polar, class-based society of have-mores and have-nots.

Most of the media looks at the gyrations of the Dow Jones Industrial, the S&P 500 and similar indexes of stock pricess and then says our economy is good (if they’re up) or bad (if they’re down).

Folks, that’s only true for those who own most of the financial assets–the rich folks at the top of the scale.  It’s not true for the companies. As Ali Velshi noted in the Daily Show clip on the earlier blog post, companies intrinsic values don’t change by dropping 5% overnight, gaining 3% overnight and then dropping 4% overnight.  The companies are still plodding along doing what they’re doing.  What changes is the attitudes of those secondary investors–more and more of them just quick traders out to arbitrage a temporary price difference who don’t give a damn about the company’s fundamentals.

Now, if you happen to own a few shares of a company that tanks, you clearly care about that stock price plunge.  And if your retirement account is large and heavily invested in stocks, then you care as well.  But fact is, the way we really should measure the economy is by how much and what kind of work it offers to ordinary Americans.  What’s the jobs count?  And what do those jobs pay?

And those numbers are important only relative to other numbers.  You don’t know whether you have a mice or an elephant in terms of job creation unless you know how much your population has grown alongside the growth of those jobs.  This is why the same record on job creation can be made to look good to the naive hearer  (“more than 5 million jobs in 8 years”) or terrible (“only 3 jobs per 1000 new citizens in 8 years”), depending on whether the hearer gets information on the number of new job seekers as well as the number of new jobs available for those seekers.

So Rick Perry brags about his Texas record.  I’ve already posted on the many problems in Texas, some of which Perry is responsible for and most of which he is responsible for not addressing.

What about jobs?  Yes, there is still an oil and gas ‘one-note’ economy that creates directly and indirectly new jobs as the oil and gas industry grows (for now).  Many of those jobs are minimum wage and lots of them are not very secure.   But our question is what about the new jobs to new job seekers ratio–are jobs growing, so that unemployment is going down?  or are jobs growing but not at the same rate that the population is growing?    The fact that the unemployment rate has increased to just below the national average at 8.2% suggests that jobs aren’t growing as fast as the population and maybe that jobs are even shrinking.

Here’s someone else’s take on this question.  The staff at ThinkProgress and the Center for American Progress Action Fund produced a report that delved a little deeper into the Texas jobs numbers and concluded: Texas Ranks Dead Last in Total Job Creation, [when] Accounting for Labor Force Growth, Aug. 17, 2011.

Here are a few facts from the report:

1) Between 2008 and 2010, jobs actually grew at a faster pace in Massachusetts than in Texas.

2) “Texas has done worse than the rest of the country since the peak of national unemployment in October 2009.”

3) The unemployment rate in Texas has been steadily increasing throughout the recession.

4) While over 126,000 net jobs were created in Texas over the last two and a half years, the labor force expanded by over 437,000, meaning that overall Texas has added unemployed workers at a rate much faster than it has created jobs.

5) if there is a real “miracle” here, it is North Dakota, which has seen over 27,000 new jobs and a labor force expansion of only 3,700, resulting in about 24,000 new jobs for workers who previously had none.

The resulting picture comparing Texas to other states in terms of job creation considering labor force increase or decline is the following (note that Michigan’s ‘top’ rating is due to some job creation but primarily to loss of labor force as people without jobs leave the state;  neither Michigan nor Texas has the ‘right stuff’)

Texas_labor2

Also posted at Ataxingmatter

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Topical thread…What is a good job?

I suggest these questions, but this is not a question about ideal jobs in imagination but real jobs that are attainable.

I think all of us have some notion of what elements constitute a ‘good’ job in the broad perspective (policy and macro), and given human nature varies according to personal goals, age, and circumstance. It has also varied widely in historical context. The term is used a lot in policy debates on employment and unemployment as well.

It is much easier to reach a consensus on the definition of a bad job than to agree on what constitutes a good job.

Is a good job one in a particular industry or sector?

The question of the length of employment contracts matters?

Is a good job one that comes with employer-provided benefits?

What is the relationship between wages and the definition of a good job?

A final question about the definition of a good job involves the relationship of the worker to the employer.

Personal satisfaction of some kind? Social status? Conscience?

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On the Job Market

by Mike Kimel

On the Job Market

Recently, my employer went through a merger. As part of the process, my position disappeared. I turned down a different position that was offered, the result being that at the end of the month I will no longer be with my current employer. Yes, I am aware of how bad the job market is, and yes, I learned a lot at and enjoyed my job, but without getting into a lot of inside baseball, it was time to go. In fact, it has been time to go for a while. Sometimes it takes something like this to tell you something you already know. So, yes, I have butterflies in my stomach (I’ve never been on the job market with this many mouths to feed), but I’m also looking forward to what comes next.

So… time to assess the situation. Here’s what I got.

Step 1. Financial assessment. Job loss means a financial hit, but we can hang in there provided unemployment doesn’t last too long.

Step 2. Education / Work history. I am a trained economist (Ph.D. in economics from UCLA, two master’s degrees, and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics / economics). I have fifteen years of experience since leaving graduate school, having worked for a Big 4 (at the time, Big 6) accounting firm, two Fortune 500 companies, and for my own consulting practice. While a consultant, I also taught economics and advanced statistics in the MBA program at Pepperdine University for five years. Some of the work experience is international. Industries I’ve done work for include telecom, utilities, investment banks, brokerages, consumer goods, software, hardware, aerospace and military.

Step 3. Work categories / skills. Most of my work falls into a few different categories:

a) Statistical / econometric analysis, including designing some fairly sophisticated algorithms. I’ve built models for macroeconomic analysis, demand forecasting, costing, capital allocation, equity valuation, commodity valuation, marketing research, and hedging. Over the years I’ve used the most common statistical and pseudo-statistical packages, like SAS, SPSS, EViews and VBA.

b) Regulatory work in utilities, both as an employee and as a consultant. Some of that work was for foreign companies, and some of that was performed abroad.

c) Strategy work. I think the most fun I ever had was developing and leading implementation of strategies for dealing with new competitors while a manager at a Fortune 500 company. I’ve also had the opportunity to do some strategy work in other capacities, including as a consultant, and some of that has been abroad as well. Strategy is always a lot of fun.

d) Management. My work experience includes a few years as a corporate manager, running groups like economic policy & analysis, strategic marketing, and competitive strategies. I’m good at motivating people, and I enjoy mentoring junior staff… which explains what I enjoyed teaching as well.

e) Language skills. Though born in the US, I grew up in South America, and am fluent in Portuguese and Spanish. I’m a bit rusty from lack of recent use, but nothing that two weeks in Rio, Buenos Aires or Montevideo wouldn’t fix.

f) Writing. I do write frequently on economic and business issues, and co-authored a book. I like to think I have learned to explain reasonably complex concepts, including the results of statistical analyses, to lay audiences.

Step 4. Deciding what type of job to target. I’ve been very lucky in life, and I can safely say I have enjoyed almost every day in my last fourteen years of work. (And yes, I have fifteen years of work experience.)

Looking back, I’ve tended to really like oddball problems and a fair amount of autonomy. Give me the project that is already two months late, that nobody knows how to do, and from which everyone is backing away. The fun problems are the ones that make you sweat. Consulting jobs often provide a lot of interesting problems, a lot of autonomy, and a minimum of formality.

On the other hand, I have had a few jobs in the corporate world where I had the freedom to poke my nose into a lot of different tents, and in such cases it can be very easy to get involved in cool projects. All you need is a willingness to follow your nose in the direction of bad news. In the corporate world, nobody wants to be involved with bad news. But fixing the issues that created the bad news is often the most interesting work in the company.

I’ve never worked in a “Wall Street” type job, but I’ve done a fair amount of work that is probably interchangeable: hedging models, forecasting prices and demand for equities and commodities, and of course, designing statistical algorithms.

Step 5. Preparing a resume, and lining up references. Available upon request.

Step 6. Tap your network. That’s the purpose of this post. Anyone looking for someone with my skills and background? Know of anyone who is? Know of someone I should contact? Know someplace I should look? I’d be grateful for any pointers or assistance.

Minor correction. For legibility, contact info shown below rather than within the post.

Should you want to reach me, my e-mail address is my first name (mike), my last name (kimel – with one m only), and I’m at gmail.com.”

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