May BLS unemployment numbers and the Stanley Cup finals

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Posted by Joel Capperella

June 4, 2010

I need to make a little confession -- I am not a fan of pouring over the monthly BLS unemployment reports. Not only is it a small time frame of lagging, rear-view-mirror data, but there hasn't been a single month in over a year that has had genuinely good news.

This month is no different. I'm sorry, but I can't get too excited about a government sector that has grown by over 390,000 jobs, nor a spike in federal temporary workers (410,000 in fact) that will handle the burden of the 2010 Census. The result of all this? An unemployment number that fell (gasp) by two-tenths of a percent (from 9.9 percent to 9.7 percent).

Forget for a minute that the number might be more reflective of those that have taken themselves out of the job hunt for the summer. I don't believe that in the entire time I have been in the workforce, I have seen a sustained unemployment number flirting at 10 percent for so long.

I'm no economist (I think those that read my posts can attest to that). I'm more of an everyman. So, consider this. Tonight is game four of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup finals. I can get into the building for $600, if my wife was approving of such a frivolous expense. Well, frivolous to her that is. We're talking Stanley Cup finals here, people!

A steep investment for sure, but reflective of the state we're in. Philadelphia hasn't seen a Stanley Cup final series since 1997, hasn't won a Stanley Cup Final game since 1987 (I was there, by the way. JJ Daigneault's go-ahead goal was perhaps one of the most riveting sporting experiences I've been privileged to witness.), and hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 1975.

Moreover, the city has a very loyal hockey fan-base. Their average attendance since 2001 has been over 19,500. The expectation would be that a ticket to a ridiculously pivotal game in this series would fetch nearly twice as much as they're currently going for.

The point? There is still a general concern about employment happening out there. And, if I'm concerned for my job, or at least mindful that there are no employment guarantees, I'm slower to increase my discretionary spending.

The numbers in the BLS seem to reinforce this "employment mindfulness" that exists across the United States. Moreover, the federal jobs that are certainly good to have seem to indicate that there is still trepidation on adding to headcount when revenue is growing at a continuously slow rate for many firms. The temporary jobs that continue to be added also tell an interesting story.

We all know temporary jobs are a leading indicator. But the temporary workforce has steadily grown in nearly record numbers over nine straight months. Yet, permanent hiring isn't coming along for the ride yet. While this is good for business for the likes of my employer, Yoh, it is telling us something about the state of employment, more importantly, the willingness of firms to begin to make investments in headcount.

As we've discussed before, there is a continuing transformation of the workforce going on. These temporary workforce levels might never go back to pre-crash levels. We see more and more frequently the desire for firms to place bigger bets on the non-employees.

Whether it is learning how to better engage temporaries, creating floating project teams that are continuously cycled to the most needed areas of attention, or aggressively seeking to mitigate the risks of co-employment and 1099 compliance so the use of contractors is well executed, diligence is of the essence.

So, really, this month's BLS Unemployment Report recap is not much different than our past few. Here are some quick refreshers and best practices to keep in mind:

Oh, and don't forget to reserve your spot on Broad Street for a celebratory Stanley Cup parade. (Go Flyers!)

Topics: Staff Management, HR Strategies

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