Pundits and experts alike have been vociferous in their acknowledgement that the economic growth leading up to the 2008 Recession was largely unsustainable, going so far as to condemn the governmental and financial leaders of that time for not seeing the writing on the wall. One organization who has been keeping their eyes on the writing has been The Conference Board, which released it’s July 2012 Help Wanted OnLine (HWOL)report today. So, what does the writing say, exactly? That depends on your interpretation of the data, and I would urge you to follow that link and interpret for yourself.
At first glance, you can’t miss the headline- “Online Labor Demand down 153,600 in July”, and you’ll quickly see that while Consumer Confidence is up very slightly, the Measure of CEO Confidence is down sharply along with the other economic trends they capture. As you dig deeper, you’ll find that nearly all significant occupation groups showed a decline in job postings, sparing on Sales opportunities; and that 13 of the 20 Major Metropolitan areas showed a drop in online career opportunities. Again, the first impression here is obvious- companies are posting fewer jobs, and that’s a bad sign for short term economic growth.
The Silver Lining
Further on in this report, and upon deeper examination, there are both positive and curious indicators as well. One positive sign is that nearly all of the largest metropolitan areas have posted substantial growth in online job ads since the end of the recession in June 2009, with more than half showing growth exceeding 100%. Sometimes a longer term lens is required to see sustained growth.
The other positive sign is something I mentioned earlier in this post- the increase in sales-related job postings. Certainly, this should be viewed as a sign that companies believe that there is money to be made in this economy- though whether that growth is driven by business-to-business or direct-to-consumer sales is unclear. That being said, if there is a belief that corporations and/or consumers have the money to spend, then sales will be the engine that drives demand and ultimately growth in production and operations employment.
A Penny for Your Thoughts
In my review of the report this morning, I was struck by the second chart, which I’ve included at the beginning of this article. When examining this chart, I could not help but notice that total employment has grown by just shy of 4,000,000 people during the 28 months since the lowest point in March of 2010, including a current trend of 21 straight months of unbroken growth.
Coincidentally, if you look at the 28 months preceding the peak of total employment in February or March of 2008, you’l find that total employment grew a little over 3,500,000 people. Here’s where I need some help- if growth prior to the recession over two-plus years was dictated by unsustainable market conditions, what does that say about the even faster employment growth that we are currently experiencing?