As has become my custom, on my way out the door to start my commute to work, I grabbed my jacket. The weather forecast had warned it would be warm, but I paid no heed and followed my usual routine. After all, meteorologists make mistakes all the time, and anyway, you never know when you’ll come across an overly AC-ed subway car. When I got on the train, I realized no one else had on a jacket. No one even had on a light sweater. Even though there had been evidence of it everywhere, the season had definitively changed and I had neither paid attention nor changed my actions accordingly.
Just as we’ve transitioned seamlessly from winter to spring, the season of pervasive joblessness has shifted as well. Slowly, but surely, people are finding work. Good work at that, not just intermediary, filler jobs. Those who have been long term un- or under-employed can finally get their second wind, and should feel more hopeful about finding a job. All signs point to the job market getting better.
It’s understandable why someone would be skeptical of my optimism—so, here it is. My indisputable proof that the proverbial ground hog has spotted his shadow:
Unemployment benefit claims are low. Not long ago, I wrote an article about how jobless claims were at a recession low and how economists considered it an accurate indication that the economy was finally turning for the better. Consider this update confirmation of that claim. CNN reported on Thursday that initial unemployment benefit claims were at a 4-year low the week ending March 17. Only about 348,000 people filed, a number that is comparable to what unemployment rates were back in 2005 and 2006 (when the going was good).
Employees are starting to complain. Last week, we all (or at least, I did) read with gossiping glee as the New York Times published the former Goldman Sachs-er Greg Smith’s tell-all op-ed tale about why he’d quit the company. At the same time, reports surfaced that engineers from Google, notably James Whittaker and Michael Church (independently), have been complaining about middle management new hires and the negative effect they have had on company policy, culture, and morale. For the longest while, employees have grinned and bared their less-than-ideal job situations, content to at least have a job. But it’s no longer the case. Maybe they are starting to recognize that they’ve got other job options. Maybe they’ve reached a threshold and are just fed up with conditions. Maybe it’s something else—circumstantial. Either way, I’m calling it a sign; the job market tides are indeed turning.
Politicians have stopped talking about it. Remember when the pervasive complaint of GOP presidential candidates was that the Obama administration wasn’t doing enough to improve the plummeted job situation? When was the last time you heard those complaints from them? October 2011? November? The truth of the matter is, they have redirected their focus to other issues (like family planning services, deficit reduction, taxes, and military prowess) because all signs point to an improving economy. An improving economy means more jobs. More jobs means a happier electorate. A happier electorate probably means an incumbent reelection—if I were them, I’d stay away from the topic too.
By Abena, Wall Street Services Reporter