When Facts Are Encouraging Things – Or Not
The U.S. jobs report for April and the state of the economy provide a good test of whether you’re a “glass half empty” or “glass half full” person.
If you’re in the “half empty” group, then you’re bummed – or at least mildly perturbed – that job growth has been on a downward trend since February, when the economy added 259,000 jobs. The April figure was 115,000, a two-month drop of nearly 52 percent.
If you’re in the “half full” group, then you may be saying, “OK, so we’re still adding jobs, and the unemployment rate (8.1 percent) is better than it was a year ago (9 percent).” Nearly 2 million more people are working, compared with April 2011. So, whether you’re unemployed, or employed and looking for something better, there’s plenty of reason to soldier on in your job search.
Of course, this is also a presidential election year, and we’re being bombarded with rhetoric about the state of the economy, especially the job market. Here’s how you can sort some of it out:
Fact: Unemployment is at 8.1 percent.
Trend: Unemployment reached close to 10 percent in late 2009 as we were starting to recover from the Great Recession, which President Obama inherited when he took office. Unemployment has been on a steady decline since then.
Fact: The economy is growing at about a 2 percent annual rate, short of the 3 percent that is indicative of healthy growth.
Trend: The economy has been growing each quarter since the middle of 2009, although it tailed off somewhat early last year after the Japanese tsunami. But that was still far better than the second half of 2008, when it seemed as if the bottom was falling out of the economy with four straight quarters of negative growth.
Fact: U.S. manufacturers added only 15,000 jobs in April.
Trend: Yes, that was 25,000 less than what they added in March, but the industry tacked on 87,000 over the previous three months, and is making a resurgence as manufacturing wages in lower-cost countries such as China rise, leveling the global playing field a bit. If you’re looking for a role in the manufacturing industry, whether in production, research and development, sales or other roles, such as distribution and marketing, it’s still a good time.
Many people look at facts as one-time “snapshots” to help inform their opinions. As John Adams once said, facts are indeed stubborn things, but trends help make things clearer. The lesson here is: Don’t just look at where we are now, but where we have been and where we might be going. It may take a bit of research, but if you want to gauge economic futures as part of your job search strategy, trends are better indicators than facts.