No News is Good News? This Week in Employment
It’s probably not been the worst week on the employment front when you cast your mind back over the previous seven days and two of the most significant “work”-related stories you can come up with involve scandals rather than layoffs or predictions of further doom for the economy. Not that either the stories of the alleged harassment of NFL reporter Ines Sainz or the allegations of institutionalized sexism at Goldman Sachs are issues to be taken lightly. But the very fact that they brought the usually under-reported issues of diversity and equality into the spotlight this week suggests that concern over the wider narrative of the past few weeks—the likelihood of a double-dip recession—has once again receded. That impression is borne out even further over the total lack of interest in this week’s initial claims for unemployment number—something that had been subject to serious scrutiny in recent weeks. The reason for this week’s neglect? It hardly changed at all, dropping by 3,000 claims to 450,000—and where’s the fun in writing about a number if you can’t sensationalize the “unexpected” nature of it from week to week?
In further contrast to all of the “he said, she said” titillation, the most significant story of the week—at least as far as job creation goes—almost slipped under the radar altogether. I’m talking, of course, about the small business lending bill, which passed in the Senate on Thursday. Again, it likely suffered because it’s not the stuff great headlines are made of: basically it involved both political parties finally figuring out a compromise that involves creating an institution that will lend money to banks on the condition that they then lend it to small businesses. Not glamorous, nor a quick fix, but potentially a huge benefit to job creation efforts—provided it makes it through the House next week.
Also in government-run hiring initiatives, this week saw one of the most significant layoff notices in…well…maybe ever. The Cuban government announced that it would be laying off 500,000 workers—as in half a million people in a country with a population of just under 11.5 million. While the government plans to transition many to private sector work—relaxing rules in order to increase the private sector in the process—it seems like the country is in for an extended period of upheaval ahead.
Back on U.S. soil, the most significant layoff announcement of the week looks kind of paltry by contrast: that dubious honor goes to FedEx, which is laying of 1,700 workers as it seeks to consolidate its operations. It will also be closing some 100 facilities throughout the country. Even that, however, doesn’t appear to be a sign of a negative outlook on the economy—at least not according to BNet’s Carol Tice, who wrote the following on the development:
“the layoffs are happening because FedEx has finally figured out what to do with a 2006 acquisition, Watkins Motor Lines […] FedEx had taken some time to size up that business, and figure out how to use it with fewer people. That’s what companies are supposed to do after they make acquisitions. While people are moaning about the layoffs happening now, the real question to ask is why they didn’t happen a year or two back.”
So now you know.
There was even some hiring news this week—albeit the kind of hiring news that has the potential to flat-out depress just about everyone, especially with robo-call mania not even having peaked yet in the run-up to the November mid-terms. What kind of news could that be, you ask? It would appear that the first presidential campaign hire for 2012 has been made. Or the first hire in Iowa, at any rate. Either way: it looks like it’s going to be a long road to the next election. Oh well: at least hiring in the political echo chamber should remain robust.
–Phil Stott, Vault.com