May

16

Pretty much not what they used to mean, for sure. Let's see though…the market still moves on the announcement news of labor stats. And, mostly, people have digested the faux reality of the numbers (e.g., that those who want jobs but have given up looking aren't included in the unemployed number), and still react as if there is real meaning here. Politicians, economists, and the markets seem to key on these statistics to some degree, but in the same old ways.

What isn't communicated by the numbers in proportion to their importance is how greatly and quickly the economy's employment base seems to be changing in terms of two variables: 1. the replacement of labor by technology; and 2. the work attitude/ethic of the potential workforce.

Each variable is visible in daily news. Each story of a rise in the minimum wage in a given city can be matched to McDonald's bringing in technology to replace burger-flippers or the use of medical tests to replace visits to a human physician or health tech, or to another variation of the same theme.

These same technology stories do show effects on the availability of jobs ––both in number and type—-for those graduating from high school, college, or professional programs.

Other stories indirectly identify and estimate effects of societal vectors determining labor trends. For example, the stories of the rising fentanyl opioid epidemic show deeper effects of the lack of jobs due to technology displacement. Hope, ambition, confidence, a sense of self worth are essential to careers. Perhaps the susceptibility of the addicts could be correlated to despondency in white, lesser-educated, working-class males whose once-valued role in society has been significantly eroded by political-correctness, feminist doctrine and affirmative action in recent decades leaving this population group bereft of the attitudinal pre-requisites for successful working careers, as well as fewer target areas for employment.

Are these factors usefully or accurately monetized in trading or investing? Currently, they do not seem to be in shorter-term actions and for predictions. Yet, employment and employability speak to the ability of the society to create demand…without jobs, there is no money to consume. Traditional use of these stats may be because they really don't matter in the short-run, or because we don't know how to interpret the data well. Or is this because neither cause-effect nor correlative relationship information is conveyed by what we call employment news?

We seem to key easily and deeply on earnings reports, M&A proceedings, commodity production / shipments — is this a result of a reality that these stats are more meaningful, or is it that the presentation of these numbers obscures our ability to see the essential shallowness of our understanding of the meaning they hold for imputing "value?"


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