Getting a bit of a late start here this morning. But, hey, if you’re shocked by this morning’s “unexpected” jump in jobless claims, raise your hands. Anybody? Anybody?
No? You shouldn’t be. Forget for a second whether or not the dip below 400,000 two weeks ago in the initial claims was some kind of methodological aberration (wow, that sounds so high-brow, doesn’t it?) It’s depressing enough that the claims have gotten back to the 450,000 level that’s been like a magnet for them for a year now. If you’ve been following this thing week in and week out, it’s a real bummer, man.
But the real issue isn’t the statistical noise. The real issue is that companies are still seeing weak demand for their wages, are still constrained by costs, and are still — almost three years after the recession began — trimming, pruning and otherwise right-sizing their staff to meet the weak state of things.
The cycle of expanding businesses, rising demand, rising wages, increased hiring, increased demand, more expansion, more hiring, higher wages, etc., etc., just isn’t working right now. Businesses aren’t expanding, at least not here, not enough. Jobs aren’t being created, at least not enough of them. Wages aren’t rising, not by enough. We’re just spinning wheels.
Steelcase, which makes office furniture (AHEM!) said this week it’s closing three plants and laying off 750 workers. Office furniture. Get it? How’s that expansion going, boys?
Evergreen Solar is closing a pant in Devon, Mass., that will “affect” 800 employees.
Supervalu, which runs supermarkets, is closing a bunch of stores and laying off 350 people. In its earnings release this week, the company noted that all of its major vendors are raising prices, anywhere from 3-14%. Have you noticed that at the supermarket? Well, maybe your supermarket got shut down.
Okay, solar’s still a niche thing, at least here in the states. But office furniture and supermarkets? That ringing some kind of bell for you?
Is anybody in America hiring? Of course they are. There are some jobs being filled. But they’re here and there, nowhere near reaching the kind of critical mass necessary to make any kind of real dent in the unemployment rate. Also, the kinds of jobs being filled matter, along with the wages being paid. People taking pay cuts to work jobs that are worse than the ones they used to have isn’t exactly the kind of thing to bring about a new morning in America.
The jobs market still stinks. You may not return to your regularly scheduled program.