Wishful Thinking Department (Economics Division)
October 22, 2001 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Wishful Thinking Department (Economics Division) Newsweek's Wall Street editor says nation is in the midst of a "quiet economic recovery." As someone who's been out of work since June, I don't see it. What's your barometric pressure reading on the nation's economy?
posted by darren (29 comments total)
I think 1 is a highly significant sample size.
posted by marknau at 11:53 AM on October 22, 2001

I'm looking for a job on Wall Street. Most of the places I've been looking into are laying off people or, according to gossip sites, are about to lay off people. It's not very reassuring. At the same time, they're probably still looking to replace higher seniority, higher paid employees with new, cheap blood, ie, me.

I think you're screwed if you're still designing webpages for $200/hour, though. There aren't that many companies that are willing to pay that rate anymore.
posted by Witold at 11:58 AM on October 22, 2001

Well, I think that you won't see another dot com boom again, but as far as economic stability and moving towards an upswing? i'd say we'll have a good idea based on this year's Christmas numbers.

I personally don't think the economy will take an upswing until 6 months to a year from now. I'm blessed in one sense that the firm I work for has a lot of government contracts. Keeps the cash flowing...
posted by eljuanbobo at 12:01 PM on October 22, 2001

I've had 4 jobs in under a year, all in different fields, and all a result of leaving and then going somewhere else (well, technically I did get fired from Teen Magazine, but that was only because I didn't quit first, I swear ). I was always able to find a job quite quickly, which I think is due to my incredible wit and irresistible charm.

Then again, 3 of those jobs were crap that no-one else wanted. There will never be a shortage of work for people that don't mind doing remedial tasks for $7.50 an hour. Being that I have no self-respect, this is perfect for my career outlook.
posted by remlapm at 12:10 PM on October 22, 2001

the "co-lag" ratio is a good one to watch.
posted by kliuless at 12:12 PM on October 22, 2001

Out of work since June? How have you avoided starving? No, really -- savings? Welfare? Odd jobs? I'm curious.

(marknau: "one" is the only sample size that matters, in the end)
posted by aramaic at 12:21 PM on October 22, 2001

Wrong as can be. I like jazz and classic rock. I can't figure out why Billboard keeps lying about what the most popular music is. I'm doing fine financially, so obviously the economy is humming along great. Need I go on?

Relying on an individual account when an accumulation of data is available is silly.
posted by marknau at 12:31 PM on October 22, 2001

marknau, I think darren meant the post to be more in the spirit of "how has your work environment been affected, if at all." No one's looking for Labor dept's unemployment data or related leading indicators.
posted by Witold at 12:41 PM on October 22, 2001

I applied for a teacher position this year.
2000 applicants and only 400 jobs available.
I am certified to teach secondary biology, chemistry, geology, physics.

If I wanted to spend 3-4 hrs in the car everyday, I probably could have found something. I live outside of Dallas/Ft Worth area.
posted by redhead at 12:42 PM on October 22, 2001

well, there's always a market for wage slaves (ie, me.)

so i haven't had that much trouble.
posted by sugarfish at 12:59 PM on October 22, 2001

Marknau: I think I failed to make my point -- if I am doing fine I don't care how the rest of the economy is doing (and vice versa). The objective reality of the economy is wholly secondary to my own experience of it.

A great economy is meaningless if I'm starving to death. A lousy economy is equally meaningless if I'm rocking out.
posted by aramaic at 1:11 PM on October 22, 2001

redhead - How can you be a teacher in Texas and not have a job? Last I heard, we were woefully lacking in qualified teachers (esp. in math and science). Granted, Texas is still lagging in teacher compensation (despite a few recent pay and benefit increases), but I'd think people would be banging down your door.
posted by conquistador at 1:48 PM on October 22, 2001

As Harry S. Truman put it: "It's a recession when your neighbour loses his job, it's a depression when you lose yours."
posted by holgate at 1:53 PM on October 22, 2001

(Oh, and from personal experience: work dried up in the summer; two of the magazines for which I write went tits-up, one in the US, one in the UK; another one failed to pay me. The autumn seems a little more promising, but freelance writing is possibly the worst bellwether of the general economy. Which, I think, is rather fucked.)
posted by holgate at 1:57 PM on October 22, 2001

According to the Kiplinger Letter (sorry no direct link, I read hard copy) it shouldn't surprise anyone if unemployment peaks at over 5%. But, unemployment is only one standard of economic health (al beit a pretty personal one). I tend to think that we will see economic recovery in about 6 months if only due to the "war" effort. The government is hiring geeks at a mad rate, and even ex-hackers can become actors. I still believe that opportunity is where you find it, and basing economic health on one's own attitude only drags that person further on down.
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:01 PM on October 22, 2001

No way. Teachers in Texas are raking it in hand over fist. Trust me, I know. I can see the dust left behind by all the teachers that leave Oklahoma.

Oklahoma is currently what, 49th in teacher pay?

And I had a hard time finding a job, but that's not the economy. I just suck at finding a job. I think interviewers can sense my complete indifference.
posted by Jart at 2:21 PM on October 22, 2001

Squabbling about sampling error aside, can anyone find any actual data in the article that supports it's thesis? Some guy who runs a marketing firm is guessing that auto sales may post their best October in history. Is that what passes for economics reporting? Is there something else in there that I missed?
posted by electro at 4:04 PM on October 22, 2001

aramaic: most US states offer 26 weeks of unemployment compensation. I have about 4 of those left since I went on, though technically I was out of full-time work before that point. For myself, it's been supplemented by a few thousand I had sitting around in the bank and freelance jobs. And it's surprisingly how possible it is to live on very little money even if you'd been a high-life consultant. (I've had feast or famine cycles before in my career, so I was kinda prepared.) Example: Cut out fast food, and eat a lot of Ramen noodles, and before you know it your meal expenses are a tiny fraction of before.
posted by dhartung at 5:02 PM on October 22, 2001

I personally don't think the economy will take an upswing until 6 months to a year from now.

Change that to "significant upswing," and I'll agree with ya. And closer to a year than 6 mos.
posted by rushmc at 5:20 PM on October 22, 2001

A lousy economy is equally meaningless if I'm rocking out.

I think you're overstating it a bit. You can have all the money in the world, but if all the good restaurants go kaput, you will rage and shake your fist at the lack of filet mignon. And so on.
posted by rushmc at 5:22 PM on October 22, 2001

The other day my roommates went to job fair at Madison Square Garden only to find they couldn't get in. There were 5,000 people in line, and 6,000 people inside.

That's my indicator.

Finding work here is about as likely as finding money on the pavement.
posted by swift at 6:04 PM on October 22, 2001

You can have all the money in the world, but if all the good restaurants go kaput...

No, not really. And here's why: wealth is relative, not absolute. As long as I'm richer than 99.9995% of humanity, it doesn't matter how poor everyone is -- I can still have everything I want. The only thing that changes is what I want; I'm still fantastically lucky.

A freezing man counts himself lucky to have a blanket, if his comrades don't. That same man, a day before, might have considered himself unfortunate to have a blanket with a hole in it, or to have only one.

...and someone with no blanket at all will sell their own mother to get one.
posted by aramaic at 6:26 PM on October 22, 2001

wealth is relative, not absolute

Terribly, terribly, wrong. Wealth is not zero-sum, not by a long shot. I'd *far* rather be 50th percentile of wealth in modern America than 90th percentile in modern China or medieval Germany.

Bill Gates' wealth does not impoverish me, and the Sudan's poverty does not enrich me. Quite the opposite, in fact.
posted by marknau at 6:35 PM on October 22, 2001

it doesn't matter how poor everyone is -- I can still have everything I want. The only thing that changes is what I want

So you can have the very best part of the rancid rat. Lucky you.
posted by rushmc at 6:50 PM on October 22, 2001

The first year teacher salary in the suburbs is about 34,500.
Dallas proper pays more, plus sign on bonuses of 1-2K for math and science.
On my job application, I stated that I would prefer to teach at one of the At-Risk schools. It is possible I was not considered for that very reason.

We have many agricultural migrant workers, construction crews, hotel workers, restaurateurs etc.. A large amount of those workers are minorities, immigrants, and a few illegals. Because of tighter U.S. security measures, issuance of work visas could slow down. My prediction is that there will be an increased need for skilled workers, & persons with a trade.
posted by redhead at 7:24 PM on October 22, 2001

marknau: (shudder) you just brought back some horrific memories of Stats 101 with those two simple words.
posted by davidmsc at 7:26 PM on October 22, 2001

...the Sudan's poverty does not enrich me.

Really? Tell that to the teenage girl in rural China that's slowly going blind from sewing silk rugs. Or maybe you'd like to explain to the slave labor in the Congo that the gems they're mining are not, in fact, enriching you & people like you at the expense of the people enslaved?

Or, closer to the US, tell that to the people living beside what used to be the Rio Grande -- sucked dry for American irrigation. Tell it to the people living beneath washed-out collapsing hillsides in SE Asia, stripped of teak for those nice faux-oriental tables for sale in the boutique in SoHo.

You only think econ isn't a zero-sum game because you're living on the plus side. The Earth is effectively a closed system (when was the last time an asteroid brought a useful quantity of tantalum?). Friction exists, entropy wins, and in a closed system it's a zero-sum game. Barring sudden advancements in spaceflight or solar power & nanomachinery (both possible, I admit), it's a zero-sum game.

(note: I use the term "you" loosely, as a rhetorical device & not directed at any particular person.)
posted by aramaic at 9:21 PM on October 22, 2001

in a closed system it's a zero-sum game

Every technological advance, every efficiency gain, every discovery enriches all of us. Every time someone decides to do productive work rather than not, we gain wealth. That's why we're all better off now than we were 2,000 years ago. We create.

The major factors of wealth creation are NOT the physical resources, and are not slave labor. Ask yourself why Russia, China, and the Sub-Saharan African nations are poor while Hong Kong and Japan are rich. Hint: It's not resources.

Slave labor is deplorable, and if I could magically stop it I would. It would wind up making us all better off, too. Because free people create wealth better than slaves. Ask yourself this: if so much wealth is coming from the slave labor, why are not the nations that control this labor rich? Seems like they could demand a good price for it, no? No. Because it's simply not that valuable.

One has to tie oneself up in a ridiculous tangle of Marxist blindness to explain the facts away. I recommend "The Road to Serfdom" as the first step toward understanding real economics.
posted by marknau at 9:39 PM on October 22, 2001

Wealth is not zero-sum, not by a long shot.

But the disparity between the wealthiest and the poorest -- if you like, the standard deviation of the wealth curve -- defines the character and living standards of a society, especially in the developing world. Nepal is a poorer country than India, but for its relative paucity of mansions, Kathmandu has fewer acres of dung-and-straw slum than Delhi. And it's arguable that this concentration of weath in India -- or Brazil, or many other developing nations -- creates the conditions for the growth of the slum: a state of affairs that actually diminishes the potential for individual advancement. Given that your profile locates you in LA, one might wonder why you haven't noticed this.

And really, your sniffiness about "real economics" is undone by your recommendation of the poster child of the Thatcherite right. Looking back at the miserable 1980s suggests that Hayek's presumption that the free market bestows individual freedom was at least naive, if not deceptive: deregulation simply imposes a different kind of coercion on the individual, all the more insidious because it carries the name of "freedom".
posted by holgate at 2:37 AM on October 23, 2001

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