Today’s the first Friday of the month, and that means that it’s also the day that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its “Employment Situation Summary” for the preceding month (October, in this case). As expected, the official unemployment rate now tops the ten percent mark, at 10.2%. Surprisingly, job losses were heavy in retail (with the Christmas shopping season more or less underway), as well as in manufacturing and construction (but no suprises there). According to NPR, this is the first time joblessness has hit this mark since 1983, and they also report that “it’s the 22nd straight month the U.S. economy has shed jobs, the longest on records dating back 70 years.”
The same NPR story also contains this chilling quote: “Counting those who have settled for part-time jobs or stopped looking for work, the unemployment rate would be 17.5 percent, the highest on records dating from 1994.” The story quite accurately notes that recovery isn’t yet fast enough to get hiring on the move, and invokes “the specter of a jobless recovery” — that is, a period of sufficiently slow economic growth that employers don’t feel confident enough to reverse the current trend to reduce overall headcount, and start hiring new employees instead.
Despite this gloomy employment outlook (which was widely anticipated around the globe) stock markets worldwide staged a rally yesterday, and the US markets are up this morning as I write this blog. Yesterday, the Dow closed above 10,000 again (10,005.96), NASDAQ nearly hit 2,000 (2,195.32), and the S&P 500 was up nearly 2% (1066.63). As you might expect, various stock pickers are predicting that this is a momentary market peak, with another big stretch downward into bull market territory ahead (for example, see Bob Prechter’s interview on Yahoo! Finance yesterday).
If that’s true — and only time will tell — I have to speculate that his makes a gloomy employment market even gloomier. IT professionals would be well-advised to re-read & heed the mantras from my Monday blog, which went as follows:
For those currently employed in IT that goes something like this: “Be cool. Stay put. Hone your skills. Wait for things to improve.” For those who want to work in IT, either on a first job or to get themselves back to work, it sounds like “Be cool. Look harder. Hone your skills (and consider some training or back to school). Wait for things to improve.”
What with the normal seasonal downturn in non-retail hiring between Halloween and New Year’s already underway, and the current downward trend in employment, hunkering down remains the watchword for the foreseeable future.