Good economic news dominated the press last week. The November 8 New York Times headline: "3 Months of Job Growth Best in 3 Years."
The unemployment rate dropped to 6%. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao announced that during the third quarter, 287,000 new jobs were created.
President Bush, quick to make hay, claimed that job increases proved that his controversial tax cuts worked. During a North Carolina fund raising trip, Bush said: "The economy's growing. New jobs are being created. There's an opportunity. And I hope you seize it."
But if you dissect the employment numbers, do you get as rosy a picture? Two reports compiled by the international outplacement specialist firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, Inc. reach different—and decidedly less optimistic—conclusions.
The recent statistics do not stand up well under scrutiny. The Challenger, Gray and Christmas November 7th report titled "Low Paying Jobs Dominate U.S. Report" indicate that the rebound is not as strong as the numbers suggest.
John A. Challenger, chief executive officer, said that
"We will need to see the unemployment rate drop for several consecutive months to be able to say that job conditions are improving. Many analysts forecast the same 6.0 percent unemployment rate continuing into 2004."
Furthermore, added Challenger,
"It will take 100,000 to 150,000 jobs created each month just to keep pace with population growth. An additional 125,000 to 150,000 new jobs each month is what will be necessary to pull us out of the current severe hiring slump."
The report detailed that:
In an earlier November 3 report titled "One Million Cuts for Third Consecutive Year," Challenger, Gray and Christmas wrote that in October 2003:
According to Challenger,
"While perhaps shocking to some, the October spike follows a trend of heavy year-end downsizing that has occurred since we began tracking job cuts in 1993. In 2001 and 2002, October was the largest job-cut month in the fourth quarter."
"With factors like technology, outsourcing and consolidation working against job creation, any job market rebound we see in the near future will be relatively small. It is not helping job seekers that productivity continues to climb, which makes it easier for companies to further delay hiring plans, which we anticipate will happen."
[Joenote #3: Challenger fails to mention the effect of H-1B and L-1 visas; more bad news for American workers.]
The November report further stated that in a new poll of human resources executives conducted by Challenger, 78 percent did not expect any significant hiring upturn until the second quarter of 2004. Notably, 11 percent of those polled said that there would be no hiring rebound at all in 2004.
"In this market, job seekers are going to have to create opportunities for themselves. It may mean changing industries or looking for positions out of town," Challenger concluded.
Your choice is who to believe—John Challenger or the Bush administration—already in full re-election mode?
Traditionally, candidates for political office are not very good sources of information—especially when the news is bad.
To find out what's really going on, we need to look at impartial analysts to clue us in.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.