Political show shoves economic news aside as job market tightens
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Paul Zukowski provides a monthly economic report that gets past the boring stuff with a little humor and a lot of insight. His goal is to equip you with the economic analysis tools you need to help keep competitors from eating your lunch.
With all the harsh words and finger-pointing being exchanged by the Democrat and Republican presidential candidates this month, it can be hard to get a grasp of what's really going on in the U.S. economy.
Is it true, for instance, that America never wins anymore? Do we have to be made great again, or are things pretty great in the first place?
- The number of job openings in the U.S. jumped to a record 5.871 million in July
- The labor force participation rate rose again to 62.9 percent
- All this activity has also increased hourly earnings, which are up 2.6 percent from a year ago
We also certainly won't be going hungry. The cost of groceries is down an average of about 2 percent over the past year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That includes a nearly 9 percent drop for ground beef and 4.3 percent for ground coffee.
Eggs have been on an amazing trip the past couple of years due to an outbreak of avian flu that reduced the number of hens drastically, driving the average price of a dozen eggs to an all-time high. High agricultural prices encourage farmers and ranchers to plant more and raise more, which can then flood the market and bring prices down again. Like in our present situation. I have seen a grocery chain price a dozen eggs at 49 cents or even lower to attract customers — and encourage us to grab a bottle of maple syrup, since we're saving so much on eggs.
As a whole, the labor market shares certain characteristics with other parts of the economic picture. Demand drives supply, for instance. A vibrant economy shows through when just about every store and shop window has a "Now Hiring" or "Help Wanted" sign.
Teresa Conroy of the University of Wisconsin Extension estimated that over the past 12 months, an average of 204,000 jobs per month were created — particularly in financial services, healthcare, technical services, social assistance and food/beverage service. For perspective, during the most severe months of the Great Recession from October 2008 to March 2009, an average of 712,000 were lost each month, she said.
But one thing that's unique to the labor market is that it can "hide" or "shelter" the job seeker. Tucked into off-the-main-drag communities are potential workers who, as yet, have not been motivated to look for work, or tried and failed until they just gave up. They are considered "idle" by definition, but may rejoin the labor market at any time.
This is a labor market that calls on small business owners to get creative in finding and retaining workers. Whether though additional training, hiring bonuses, split shifts or getting one of the kids away from the video games and into the shop, new employees can be found as well as made.
Say, what if you could pay them in eggs?
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