Friday, April 13, 2018

Scattered Views, Reactions, Observations, and Discontents


Here is my file of odds and ends, for your consideration, agreement, disagreement, or just plain thought provocation.

One problem with reading too much into the extremely broad statistic that women earn, on overall average, less than what men do is that those who are fully willing to sacrifice their comfort, child-raising and family time, and general work-life balance are unaware of how many of their sex are not.  Simple arithmetic will tell you that if 40% of women are choosing careers which pay half as much as comparably educated mens’, the others averaging the full 100% gets us to our current 80%, with no room at all needed for the effects of real or imagined discrimination.

Economic protectionism is idiocy.  It benefits a few at the expense of everyone else.

Businesses should stop carping about not finding enough good workers and pay more, train more, and remove some of their disqualifying factors, such as off-hours recreational drug use and certain criminal records.  Then, with over 16 million Americans wanting to work but not doing that, they’ll find them.

Drug testing for welfare and food stamp recipients is not only a mean-spirited idea but a stupid one.  The cost of such tests could more than offset any so-called savings, and would we really want to stop our countrypeople from eating or surviving?  Not to mention that marijuana is 10 years, 20 tops, from full national legalization.

Both conservatives and liberals use straw-man arguments, in which they tell us about the most extreme proposals from the other side and imply that all of their political opponents think that way.  The advantage, though, is that we now have good sources for learning about such ideas:  for liberal ones, on Fox News; for conservative ones, on The New York Times and The Washington Post.

There is gun control, there has always been gun control, and some gun control has never had opposition.  If you doubt that, try installing a howitzer on your front yard.  After that, where do you draw the line and why?

True conservatives now have no political party.  Donald Trump is not truly conservative, and Republican encouragement of deficit spending means their legislators aren’t either.  Do they need one?  Will they create one?

The problem with paying teachers more is not the work they do or the value they have – it is simple supply and demand.  Most states have far more certified teachers than jobs for them, and our country has millions more who would be effective without that credential.  Doubling their pay would, at least, quadruple the number of applicants, a disproportionate share of whom would be men – so much for helping women in that way.

There is nothing wrong with Fox News’s material.  There is everything wrong with what they select to report.  Broadcast news, which caters to the tastes of viewers and listeners, remains entertainment first.

I still don’t understand why the great bulk of Americans have slates of opinions, instead of choosing them individually.  For example, I see no objective reason why most people wanting gun rights, which perforce include accepting more violence, are against abortion rights, which do the same.  Is it that people don’t want to make the hard choices of what to stand for, or have they thought little about what they think?

Symbolism is a powerful force in politics today, which may not be anything new.  Say “Jane Fonda” to conservatives, or the erroneous phrase “mass incarceration” to liberals, and you get quick unstudied reactions.  As with slates of opinions, it’s just too easy not to think.

Over the past two years, political hypocrisy has become so common I just ignore it.  I hope I, and we, don’t soon do the same thing with politicians’ lying. 

One reason I left the United States, nine years ago, was that people here too rarely want to learn.  I think that’s still true.  Maybe there’s something about having access to more information on our desktops than the Library of Congress had two generations ago that stops us from wanting to understand.  For that reason, it’s long been a cliché that people don’t want to be confused by the facts, and that’s looking like a permanent situation.

There’s one thing to be grateful about, though.  Our president does not seem competent enough to be an effective dictator.  Otherwise, we as a nation have plenty of problems, so, in all, let’s hope that our decade doesn’t turn out like the last 10’s, about which Bill James said “Lord, it was an awful time, and then the war started.” 

There you go.  I feel better now.


Friday, April 6, 2018

Another Decent Employment Month, and AJSN Reports Half-Million Drop in Latent Work Demand to 16.3 Million

This time, we didn’t make the projections.  Observers closer than I predicted over 180,000 net new nonfarm American positions for March, and it turned out to be 103,000, below the 135,000 we need to cover population increase.  So how good a month, overall, did it end up?

The seasonally adjusted number of unemployed Americans fell 100,000 to 6.6 million, with the actual count just more than that, at 6,671,000, befitting the move from generally poor-employment February to averageish March.  Adjusted joblessness stayed yet again at 4.1%, with the unadjusted rate falling from 4.4% to that same figure.  The number of long-term unemployed, out for 27 weeks or longer and still officially jobless, fell 100,000 to 1.3 million, and the tally of those working part-time for economic reasons, or seeking a full-time opportunity unsuccessfully thus far, dropped 200,000 to reach 5.0 million.  The two best measures of how common it is for Americans to have jobs, the employment-population ratio and the labor force participation rate, held and almost held last time’s 0.3% improvements, ending at the same 60.4% and down 0.1% to 62.9% respectively.  Average nonfarm payroll earnings were up 7 cents per hour, a tad more than inflation, to $26.82.

The American Job Shortage Number or AJSN, which tells in one number how many more positions could be easily filled if it were common knowledge that they were available, improved substantially but mostly seasonally to 16.3 million, as follows:



Noteworthy AJSN component changes were unemployment, unadjusted as are all the metric’s inputs, down over 400,000 for a 378,000 net effect, an almost 200,000 fall in the count of those who did not look for 12 months or longer which cut the AJSN by 156,000, and a 77,000 rise in those reporting as discouraged adding a net total of 69,000.  The number claiming no interest in working gained almost 500,000, but, at only 5% of them presumed to work if opportunities were truly plentiful, nudged the AJSN up less than 24,000.

Compared with a year before, the statistic showed that we are still improving beyond simple low unemployment.  It is now 933,000 lower than March 2017, with only 551,000 from reduced official joblessness but almost 400,000 from the half-million improvement in those wanting work but not looking for it over the past year.  That is impressive. 

So how, overall, did we do?  The net new jobs number, though the 90th consecutive nominal gain, was disappointing, but the other figures were generally good.  There easily could have been more fallback after February’s stellar performance.  As a result, it wasn’t large, but I did see the turtle step forward once again.