Friday, February 8, 2013

Can't Win For Losing

"Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the government take care of him had better take a closer look at the American Indian."
Henry Ford
     Reporter Vic Kolenc wrote a very interesting article in the Business Section of the Sunday El Paso Times (1-20-13) concerning unemployment in our fair city. At least I think it was interesting. It was so long, I didn't bother to read it.
     Instead I read his very interesting article from the day before. In it, he wrote how El Paso's unemployment numbers have gone up to 8.9%. The gist of the article, as I understood it, was that things had to get worse before they could get better. Interestingly enough, that's what my grandmother told my grandfather just before his chest cold turned into pneumonia, and he died.
     The article explained how last year (December 2011) it was at 9.9%, went down to 8.9% (November 2012), and then went back up to 8.9% the very next month (December 2012). Whew! Those unemployment numbers bounce up and down more often than the numbers on my ex-wife's bathroom scale. The source of all this snooze-worthy information was the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
     Dallas. You know... the town where Kennedy was shot.
     The article also explained that even with all the extra Christmas hiring that went on, the number of people who had jobs still went down. Hmm, let me put that into a mathematical equation, so that I can understand it better.
More Jobs = Higher Unemployment = WTF?
     Nope, that still doesn't make any sense to me. How can hiring more people lead to higher unemployment? According to the Texas Workforce Commission there are 27,500 El Pasoans out of work.
     Oh... that's how.
     "It's not good news, but I would not over-react to one month of bad market news," said Tom Fullerton, an economics professor at UTEP, "I wouldn't over-react, mainly because I have a job." He paused to light a cigar with a hundred dollar bill. "One month does not establish a trend," he said.
     "Excuse me, I have to answer that," he said, picking up his phone. "Hello? Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I am sitting down. WHAT DO YOU MEAN I'M FIRED? Hello? Hello?"
     The ex-professor Fullerton looked at me sadly.
     "I guess it is a trend," he corrected.
     Still, he shouldn't worry. El Paso's unemployment numbers are only higher than state numbers. And national numbers, too. Hmm, maybe he should worry, after all. I've got the numbers in front of me, and while state rates have decreased to 6.1%, national rates have stayed the same at 7.8%
     All this math. Man, if I wanted to work with percentages, I would have stayed in school.
     Lorenzo Reyes, Chief Executive Officer of Workforce Solutions Upper Rio Grande (If there's one thing I've learned, the longer a person's title is, the less they'll be able to do for you.) had expected the rate to go down, but, instead, it went up. (See what I mean?)
     "But I wouldn't over-react," he assured me. "Mainly because I have a job."
     He poured himself a nice shot of 100 year-old brandy.
     "It's a concern when it goes up," he said, savoring the amber liquid.
     Yeah, no shitski, as the Russians say. Especially for the families of the guys who've lost their jobs. But don't worry, El Paso is adding jobs. We're adding a lot of jobs.
     "We just need to find the talent for those jobs," Reyes said.
     "Hello? Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I am sitting down." Pause. "WHAT?"
     He put down the phone.
     "Um," he said, turning his newly sad eyes back to me, "you wouldn't happen to know anybody's who's hiring, would you?"
     According to the information in the article, the retail sector added approximately 500 jobs this past December, just as it always does every Christmas season, but what it doesn't usually do is lose jobs, which is what several sectors actually did. In fact, they lost enough jobs to raise the unemployment rate. I bet everybody's glad they voted for Obama now.
     The Texas Workforce Commission said El Paso added 3,500 jobs from December of 2011 to December of 2012, which is a 1.2% annual increase. When that number is adjusted for the season, the growth rate becomes 1.3%. I guess seasonal adjustments are like the wind chill factor I keep hearing Dopler Dave, the weatherman for KVIA, talk about.
     I don't understand the wind chill factor either.
     Roberto Coronado, an economist who oversees the El Paso branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas (Dallas. You know... the town with the football team that no longer makes it to the Super Bowl.), says that's near El Paso's historical average of 1.4%, and he expects El Paso to add even more jobs in 2013 than it added in 2012. Maybe even as many as 7,000.
     But if adding jobs makes our unemployment rate go up instead of down, I don't think El Paso can afford to add any more jobs.
     Hey! This just in! Vic Kolenc has just reported on the front page of the Wednesday (2-6-13) edition of the El Paso Times that Hoover is going to lay off 151 local workers by the end of March!
     "But I wouldn't over-react," Coronado said, reaching for a jar of Grey Poupon, "because El Paso has actually outperformed the national economy by far."
     "Hello? Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I am sitting down."
American Chimpanzee

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