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Jobs, Unfrozen

As Minnesota thaws out from a “polar vortex” that froze us colder than the North Pole (and the current location of the rover on Mars), there was some interesting news on jobs from all over the nation. Three stories of thawing and a little heat coming down give us all reason to be a little happy.

Spring is still months away, but let’s bask in the small improvements for a while. It beats huddling inside.

Big companies have been slow to hire, slow to increase hours

Big companies have been slow to hire, slow to increase hours

The first big story is that December closed out with a bang, according to the ADP Employment Report. 238k jobs were added, bringing the total for 2013 up close to 2.2M jobs gained. It’s not a lot, but the acceleration at the end was impressive. Large corporations contributed 71k of those jobs, a decent 30% of the total gain. In fact, the net improvement in December came largely because big companies are finally starting to hire in reliably big numbers.

The big gain in corporate profits in 2013 is finally being re-invested in employees. That can only mean that people at the top see room for growth in 2014. The psychological aspect of the “depression” is starting to lift, and hope is replacing fear. Or is it greed over fear? In business they are often the same, as we’ll get into later.

With this final number it’ll soon be time to make some predictions for 2014. With decent growth of around 3% generally agreed on for the economy as a whole there may be a decent turnaround. It’s not a big thaw, but after numbing cold it’s not bad.

That’s not to say that everyone is doing well, as Macy’s announced a post-Christmas layoff of 2,500 people, sending their stock up. Happy New Year, Bob Cratchit. Obviously a decent retail season wasn’t good enough for them and Macy’s doesn’t see a lot of potential for growth in the future. Yes, the economy is still restructuring and there doesn’t seem to be as much potential for big retail department stores – which is actually pretty obvious if you’ve been to one lately.

You were expecting a holiday season in Whoville?

You were expecting a holiday season in Whoville?

Yet away from Macy’s December saw the lowest announcement of planned layoffs since 2000 – the year the Managed Depression started. That is turning the corner on employment, just as we’ve been hoping. But to read the CNN article linked to above you have to see another big turnaround, this one in the media. Wall Street cheering layoffs is not simply news, it’s becoming a matter of deep shame. The populist fervor against big companies doing this is starting to boil over. Will the heat stay up on big companies? That could be another big story for 2014.

But there is one more job that made the news, and this one isn’t employment. It’s more of a con job, or something you can file under “nice work if you can get it.” JP Morgan, always one for good news, has to pony up $2.6B in fines and settlements for its role as the banker to Bernie Madoff. The heat came down on them hard and they will be coughing it up like a bad case of bronchitis.

It was revealed this week that as Madoff’s ponzi scam unwound the frontline workers at Morgan dutiful raised red flags as the accounts showed signs of churning, check kiting, and other irregularities. Morgan’s response? They floated new securities tied to Madoff and sold them to their other customers, effectively shorting the high-flying “investor” as they learned the scheme was going south (unlike Madoff, who strangely never had an escape plan to the Caribbean or another sunny place). When it finally did collapse, Morgan made sure that they were paid first, effectively seizing the accounts before the Feds could.

The problem with JP Morgan, the investment bank, is that they utterly fail to live up to the moral and ethical standards of Captain Morgan, the pirate.

Charles Ponzi writing a check

Charles Ponzi writing a check

With all the money flowing out of Morgan there are still no signs that anyone is going to go to the cooler over this. Yes, the media is willing to report this story with even more open-mouthed incredulity than the layoff story, so there is some traction. But it’s still just about the fines that have to be paid, not real hard time. Let’s see if the press keeps up the heat now that the genuine disregard for decency has been laid bare. The largest investment bank aided and abetted the largest ponzi scam ever perpetrated right up until the moment it became obvious they could make more betting against it. Think about it.

So what can we say about jobs? There is a decent thaw in the works, and the heat is turning up on companies to start to produce more, or at least not cut more. That, and the heat is coming down on the companies that do nothing but skim and scam off of the system.

It was a good week all around, at least if you don’t work for Macy’s. Here’s hoping those 2,500 people can find work with a company that has a future, and here’s hoping for a decent thaw ahead of Spring.

7 thoughts on “Jobs, Unfrozen

  1. JPMorgan is so evil. People do need to start going to jail over this kind of stuff. It’s like every day there is a new one. They pay the fine and then go back to being evil again and no one ever really has to pay for what they do.There has to be some laws that were broken by aiding and abetting a con man.

    • There is still a chance that personal liability is being investigated. But for now, no one except Madoff has gone to jail over the scams run out of Morgan. It’s sick.
      I rarely use the term “evil”, but it does seem to fin JPM pretty well.

    • I agree but I would add that if they got fined real money based on what they stole that may keep them from proceeding doing it again and again and again. This fine sounds like a lot to “regular” people but to JPMorgan, pocket change!

    • This came from ADP, a private payroll processing firm. Their number has always been more accurate in the past, which is to say less noisy from one month to the next.

      I do not understand this HUGE discrepancy and I’m looking into possibilities.

  2. I don’t understand why a company has big announced layoffs in the first place. What purpose does it serve? Employees are frazzled as they wait for the final announcement of who goes and moral is totally shot. Is this done just for Wall Street? If so its the stupidest thing ever and serves NO PURPOSE at all. It just wrecks companies. That happened to me once and while I survived the waiting just killed all my enthusiasm for work. I left as soon as I could after that, it just wasn’t the same place to work anymore.

  3. I come from down in the valley
    Where mister when you’re young
    They bring you up to do like your daddy done
    Me and Mary we met in high school
    When she was just seventeen
    We’d drive out of this valley down to where the fields were green

    We’d go down to the river
    And into the river we’d dive
    Oh down to the river we’d ride

    Then I got Mary pregnant
    And man that was all she wrote
    And for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat
    We went down to the courthouse
    And the judge put it all to rest
    No wedding day smiles no walk down the aisle
    No flowers no wedding dress

    That night we went down to the river
    And into the river we’d dive
    Oh down to the river we did ride

    I got a job working construction for the Johnstown Company
    But lately there ain’t been much work on account of the economy
    Now all them things that seemed so important
    Well mister they vanished right into the air
    Now I just act like I don’t remember
    Mary acts like she don’t care

    But I remember us riding in my brother’s car
    Her body tan and wet down at the reservoir
    At night on them banks I’d lie awake
    And pull her close just to feel each breath she’d take
    Now those memories come back to haunt me
    They haunt me like a curse
    Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
    Or is it something worse
    That sends me down to the river
    Though I know the river is dry
    That sends me down to the river tonight
    Down to the river
    My baby and I
    Oh down to the river we ride

    lyrics by Bruce Springsteen

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