Picking a Fight with Economists

I’m not an economist.  They are generally really smart people who do lots of math.  They are also the people who make predictions about economic recovery.  In this, they have a track record that is roughly the equivalent of mine with winning lottery numbers.

I say this to set up a story that appeared in Forbes this week about America’s Best and Worst Job Markets .  Forbes methodology “relied equally on the latest metro unemployment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and on Juju.com‘s monthly Job Search Difficulty Index for Major Cities.”  Moody’s Economy.com provided additional analysis for the trends in each labor market on the lists.

Not surprisingly, many of the best job markets were in places where government was one of the strongest industry sectors.  (Washington DC was number one.) Many state capitals were right behind in the ranking, including Oklahoma City, Austin and Boston.  Salt Lake City, New York, NY and Milwaukee, Wisconsin all made the “best” list, and the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area should be “fully” recovered by mid-2011, far ahead of the rest of the nation.

The worst markets list starts out with Florida.  Orlando leads the list at number 10, and our own Jacksonville comes in at number nine (Miami weighs in at number three.)  Here’s where I part ways with our economist friends at Forbes.  The Jacksonville analysis reads:

Unemployment rate: 11.6%; Job-seekers per opening: 4.34

A slowdown in manufacturing and packaging has contributed to the Jacksonville area’s high unemployment rate, which could remain above 11% through this year, projects Moody’s Economy.com. Says a recent analysis by the firm:  “The risk of a second recession is uncomfortably high” in Jacksonville.”

It’s possible, even probable, that we’ll stay in double digit unemployment for the year, but here on the ground, we see hiring picking up dramatically this year.  Online job postings both in our Employ Florida system and in other online resources are up 25% year over year.  It’s true that manufacturing and residential construction jobs may not ever come back to pre-recession levels; our inventory of vacant homes is very high, just like San Diego, Detroit and Las Vegas, which are all on the list.  

The analysis overlooks some of our strong industry sectors, which are showing early signs of life in 2011.  Health care, financial services and logistics and transportation are all adding jobs.  The business people I speak to are reporting that activity and orders are on the rise.

They call economics “the dismal science” for good reason.  I’m more optimistic about Jacksonville’s immediate future.  What about you?

Read the full report here:


4 thoughts on “Picking a Fight with Economists

  1. Wyman Stewart

    Although I’m sure by the time Economists apply their minds to the most recent data available, they give as accurate an account as possible, they’re talking about the past, not the present or future. Things have already changed by the time Economists comment.

    I agree with you in this sense: I found hiring began to pick up in November and December. However, my economy has not improved one iota; it’s worse. I don’t have a job, despite more interviews and am working on my third year of being unemployed. I suspect there will be modest hiring in January, February, and March, with college graduation in May being the driving force behind most of the hiring. Still, not a great time to be a college or high school graduate.

    I receive your Employ Florida / Hot Jobs e-mailings. What I note is jobs requiring Bachelors degrees, trades skills, and computer skills requiring special training cover most openings, with the usual commission sales positions too. Anyone not fitting specific criteria in these areas need-not-apply. Guess where I fit? Many of these jobs are looking for people who fit a demographic many of us do not fit into. My guress, even for those who do, the wages / salary offerings will be low for the skills. Companies will hire these people as temporary, part time, or will be quick to let them go at the first negative economic sign.

    Therefore, I do see many of us being left out of a minor 2011 recovery and agree, Jacksonville may indeed see another dip in the local economy. The national mess over potential state bankruptcies is a long shadow over Jacksonville, as well as, the massive foreclosures yet to take place in Jacksonville.

    Even before I lost my job in late 2008, I projected a probable minimum of 5 years before jobs would begin to come back, which I can’t afford, of course. If you take 2007 as the starting point, then jobs will not truly begin to recover before some time in 2012. If, as I fear, this may turn into at least a 10 year long downturn, then 2018 may be the first good year following this Recession / near Depression. I hope, for my sake and the sake of others, there will be a major form of intervention by cities, states, Federal Government, and business to put people back to work.

    We should change the way we handle jobs in this country once this takes place. With all due respect, both the State Unemployment and State Employment offices of Florida need total revamping. Yet, I sincerely believe Florida has one of the better state governments in this country. I hope I do not sound too harsh, for that is not my intent. Hope I survive 2011. 🙂 Still smiling as much as possible.


  2. Wyman Stewart

    ” Online job postings both in our Employ Florida system and in other online resources are up 25% year over year.”

    Some questions over your comment listed above: How many of those jobs in that 25% were filled, at what wages, and what kind of jobs were they? Were the wages lower than before the downturn, the same, or above?

    There are many questions one could ask about your statement, but I am as human as you. I would have made the same statement for brevity and to make the point you made, but it is akin to statements made in the Forbes article too.

    I look forward to future posts. I am reading them and biting my tongue not to comment at times.


    1. Hi Wyman – please don’t bite your tongue – I’m glad you reached out with a comment. It’s hard to know for sure how the aggregate of job postings looks compare to the aggregate before the recession hit. By definition, there are more jobs at entry level than at a high level. Entry level jobs, at the base of an employment pyramid, are lower paid because the workers are lower in productivity – it takes more of them to perform work. (For instance, there are 150 retail associates for every store general manager.) So by that measure, there will always be more jobs at the lower end of the pay scale than at the top. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; the entry level jobs are a lifeline for teens and young adults, who have been shut out of the job market completely for the past two years.

      Having said that, we are seeing a good mix of jobs at entry, mid and senior levels – we do pay attention to that. I hope you’ll find your opportunity soon.


  3. present value of an annuity due…

    […]Picking a Fight with Economists « @work: a career blog[…]…


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