Well, I’ve certainly heard our current economic and employment situation described as a “jobless recovery” — namely a set of economic circumstances where profits and output or productivity are growing, but where such growth has not buoyed confidence to the point where employers loosen their restraints on headcount, and finally start hiring. In fact, it seems like the US and to some extent the whole world (some places like China and India less than others, however) have been holding their breath waiting for some possibly dramatic, or at least obvious, sign of sufficient improvement to finally warrant turning the HR people loose with a hiring mandate.
That’s not a terribly happy state of affairs, so I chuckled when I read the phrase “joyless recovery” in the latest edition of The Economist (August 7-13, pp. 82-83) magazine. The title of the story is “Profits, but no jobs” Here’s my favorite snippet from this piece:
By some calculations, the rate of recovery of profits from their trough is the strongest since the end of the Great Depression. [paragraph break] Yet nobody seems pleased. Not investors, who have failed to push up share prices… Certainly not politicians, who complain that firms are “hoarding cash” and creating hardly any new jobs.
Then comes a quote from Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton “Bottom line: corporate profits no longer lead to higher employment. We’re witnessing a great decoupling of company profits from jobs.”
Holy mackerel! No wonder this recovery is joyless: joy is a human emotion, experienced by people, and the people are out of work. It seems like we’re trapped in a vicious circle, where corporations are waiting for a boost in consumer confidence (the engine of the economy as we’re told), and the consumers are waiting for jobs and money so they can have something to spend and turn that engine over. Who blinks first? Heck if I know…