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Who you know and what you know: As the economy remains unpredictable, companies grow more by peer networking and recruiting top talent.
The size of the job loss in September was surprising to the experts, but they also said that September is often befuddling because they cannot get accurate information quickly on the situation with teachers. Most of the government jobs lost in the month were in state and local education and could be the result of teacher cutbacks being reported as school begins.
The more worrisome figure was the decline of 7,600 positions in private sector employment, especially in construction and the “leisure and hospitality” sector. The latter, with a sharp reduction of nearly 4,000 jobs, could indicate that more people are in financial stress and are cutting back on spending for such things as restaurant meals.
The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book, a look at the economy in the 12 districts that make up the central bank, reported this week that the overall national economy was growing slower than earlier in the year, but there was no sign of an outright recession yet. Three regions — Philadelphia, Richmond and Chicago — said things were so uncertain that retailers were reluctant to stock up for holiday sales. Yet the 12th District, which includes Washington state, was fairly upbeat. Here’s what it said:
Economic activity in the Twelfth District grew at a moderate pace during the reporting period of September through early October. Upward price pressures were mixed but remained modest overall, and upward wage pressures were limited to a narrow set of skilled occupations. Sales of retail items rose, as did demand for business and consumer services. District manufacturing activity improved modestly. Agricultural producers reported further sales gains, and demand rose a bit for providers of energy resources. Home sales and construction remained lackluster, and demand for commercial real estate stayed weak in most markets. District banking contacts indicated that overall loan demand was largely unchanged.
Alison Peters, of Alison Peters Consulting, who did the business and economic survey for the Chamber, said this about the small business sector, which much of any real job growth is expected to come from:
High taxes and local and federal regulatory mandates remain a key challenge for small businesses to survive and grow. What’s more, employers in this category have voiced frustration that the trend is getting worse (pending the implementation of paid sick leave in Seattle). These challenges can reduce profitability and drain the time of top executives who must manage growing amounts of paperwork tied to these regulations.
What’s ahead? More of the same, it seems. The economy seems stuck in place except for a few key areas such as aerospace, on-line retail, health care, and international trade. Luckily the region is strong in those areas. But the overall economy continues to struggle.
Last month, the national labor report showed an increase of about 100,000 jobs. Better than previous months, but keep in mind this statistic: Nationally, the economy needs to produce 400,000 jobs a month for two years to get us back to where we were when the recession hit.
I was in New York last week and stopped by the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park. It was a warm day, several men were playing bongo drums, and a few people were dancing to the beat. There were literally hundreds of signs in the park, many on the basic theme of income disparity and the free ride financial institutions seem to be getting.
But one sign stuck out as being both accurate and perhaps prescient: “We’re here We’re unemployed Get used to it.”
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