“Skittish employers slashed 533,000 jobs in November, the most in 34 years, catapulting the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent, dramatic proof the country is careening deeper into recession.”
“The unemployment rate would have moved even higher if not for the exodus of 422,000 people from the work force. Economists said many of those people probably abandoned their job searches out of sheer frustration. In November 2007, the jobless rate was at 4.7 percent.”
Employers cut 533K jobs in Nov., most in 34 years [SFGate]

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by DataDude

    This is the start of wage deflation. As companies hire, they have more labor to choose from, and can therefore offer lower wages. Eventually, they’ll tell their employees, “If you want to keep your job, fine, but only at 75% of last year’s salary.” And if you say “no,” there’s plenty of other unemployed workers eager to take your place.
    The 4.5% 30-year loans the gov might offer new home owners won’t help much when people are unemployed or earning less than last year.
    Does anybody know how the gov measures wage deflation?
    I imagine lower labor costs will eventually help the stock market, but it could take a while.

  2. Posted by dub dub

    When tech follows this in 09, it’s going to be very interesting.
    Of course, it’s setting Obama up for a nice bounce (dead-cat or otherwise) when he takes over.

  3. Posted by Mole Man

    This is going to be bad for workers now, but in a few years when the boom generation starts to leave the work force in a big way the situation is likely to reverse itself. The economy will eventually heal, but by that time the pool of available workers will have shrunk considerably. Companies that spent the lean years being harsh with their employees will have written their epitaphs.

  4. Posted by tony

    Please remember folks that the “unemployment report” only counts people who are actively looking for work. When times get tough, many get disheartend, and simply give up. When those people are factored in, the truth of the overall situation becomes more evident. In this case, that truth is exceptionally bleak, as presented in this NYT article:

  5. Posted by ChinaNobDweller

    tony is correct. The official unemployment rate is actually known as “U-3”, one of seven measures of unemployment. The measure known as U-6, which includes workers who have taken part time employment for economic reasons is now at 12.5%, up 4% from Nov 2007’s seasonally adjusted figure of 8.4%. See:
    Perhaps the trend that DataDude mentioned is already happening and workings are moving down the salary ladder to maintain some level of income?

  6. Posted by tipster

    “Companies that spent the lean years being harsh with their employees will have written their epitaphs.”
    Harsh is a relative term. You just have to be no more harsh than anyone else. And that isn’t going to be a very high standard, I’m afraid!

  7. Posted by Laughing Millionaire Renter in Marin

    One of the most important things in a recession is for wages to adjust downwards. The faster, the better. Impediments to the downward adjustment – whether through union rules, artificially high government salaries, unemployment insurance that incents people to “wait” for a better-paying jobs, etc. – are the sorts of things that prolong recessions and threaten depression.
    One of the lessons that was never learned about the Great Depression is that at the beginning Hoover used all the tools at his command (fewer then than today, certainly) to maintain wages, and even boasted in those years (1930-31) that workers’ “real” incomes had increased dramatically as generalized price levels had fallen faster than wages. Henry Ford famously boasted that he had given his employees a raise at the beginning of 1930 (at the exhortation of Hoover).
    I expect the Obama administration to make the same mistakes as Hoover/FDR, and that (coupled with the dramatic debt liquidation that needs to occur) is why I think this downturn will prove to be the worst since the GD. (The Bush administration has been no better.)
    Wages need to fall for two reasons. First, it’s better for 3 workers to be employed at $12/hr, than 1 union worker at $36/hr. That 1 worker will be taxed to death to support the other 2 out of work folks, and government will throw away half the tax on waste and foolish boondoggles. Guaranteed.
    Second, the fall in wages reduces a factor input cost for business (the other major one being capital – the effective rate of which goes up in recessions/credit deflations, etc.), which sows the seeds for productive business creation.
    All jobs are not alike, and so stimulus programs don’t work, except on a short-term and localized basis. The USG could just pay a bunch of people to dig holes and another bunch to fill them in, and clearly net wealth would have not increased (it actually would have decreased due to the administration costs of such a foolish program). That’s a little bit of a caricature, of course, of what government actually does. But just a little 🙂 The government has no idea what programs would make sense.

  8. Posted by Mike

    533k huge? YES!!!
    But in % terms – not so much. With almost the number of employed in the US at almost 2x the figure in 1974, you would need a figure closer to 1MM monthly losses for a comparable figure.

  9. Posted by Jimmy (Bitter Renter)

    LMRiM (Satchel), I think you’re completely wrong when you characterize government all spending as wasteful and misguided. Government spending (through the DoD primarily) has brought us the internet, cellphones, computers (for code-breaking) and countless other technological innovations (Oracle, anyone? 1st contract was an FBI database), NIH has funded countless life-changing medical innvations and the DOE will usher in a new era of clean tech and that will be mandated by Obama/Al Gore/Kleiner. The government (and the population) obtain a huge, quantifiable ROI on basic research spending. In fact it was the engine driving America’s economy far ahead of the rest of the world (and keeping us there) for many decades. It was squandered by the MBAs and financial wizards. They should be sent to China to work on an assembly line in the brave new world they created.
    That, and our phenomenal industrial infrastructure (lately somewhat diminished but still going strong in many sectors e.g aircraft) would not exist without government (especially military) spending to create it.
    If the libertarians had their way, none of these innovations would ever have happened– we would be stuck back in the 18th/19th century quasi-agrarian economy with stark social divisions and far greater poverty and misery.

  10. Posted by amused

    And, once again, Socketsite starts most of its sentences with “And” (and includes a parenthetical thought for good measure).
    And it’s all about blinding insights about things like unemployment being bad (and getting worse). And that it’s all just starting (and it’s going to continue). And it’s just the most terrible thing ever (and SF real estate will never recover). And to “think mix” (and that’s an apple ripe of picking).
    Who writes this shit?

  11. Posted by fluj

    Like you do. Please. Prognosticating Obama’s future mistakes now, are we? Shameless, and painful to read.

  12. Posted by Laughing Millionaire Renter in Marin

    “Government spending (through the DoD primarily)”
    OK, Jimmy, I support defense spending and the ancillary programs! 🙂
    Seriously, though, by accident once in a while government funds something sensible. No one would dispute that. But the idea that technological innovation would have stopped had the USG not been funding it has a huge historical burden to overcome. In the 19th century, tech innovation was astounding. From the steam engine to the internal combustion engines, the discovery of entire fields of energy production, from horseback to telegraphic wires (instantaneous communication), it was all done without government constituting 40% of GDP.
    I actually think the pace of progress in the 19th century was significantly greater than in the 20th.
    Take a read of the first few paragraphs of this piece and see if it makes sense to you. I know you’re close to technology so it seems all encompassing and “changing” to you, but take a step back and look at the broad sweep and I think you’ll agree that the last 50-75 years or so (the era of big US government) is really only so remarkable in that we have been able to maintain the trend of technological innovation that had been going on for the prior 150 years or so (since the industrial revolution):
    It’s an open question of course whether increased government involvement has helped or hindered this continued pace of innovation. We really can’t know. But I lean towards the idea that living standards, tech progress, and social divisions would all appear better had the process evolved with less governmental involvement and more individual liberty. That’s just my philosophical bent!

  13. Posted by anon

    One of the most important things in a recession is for wages to adjust downwards. The faster, the better. Impediments to the downward adjustment – whether through union rules, artificially high government salaries, unemployment insurance that incents people to “wait” for a better-paying jobs, etc. – are the sorts of things that prolong recessions and threaten depression.
    I really don’t think there ARE that many impediments to lower wages. There aren’t that many union people anymore. The minimum was is already low. Employers don’t pay more than they have to in most cases. And, even now, it’s hard to find to good people.
    Of course, I’m talking about skilled workers/professionals. Unfortunately, for those at the bottom of the wage pyramid, their living standard is going to be crushed, but as a percentage of total US HHI, they probably aren’t that significant.

  14. Posted by San FronziScheme

    Sure progress was huge in the 19th century without all the government funding.
    But would we be able to live without tarred roads, an organized and accountable police force, an army that can reach out overseas, an educational system theoretically open to all, a space program, a fully transparent election system and so on and so on.
    Of course this pig could shed some fat and not many would notice the difference. Of course upper crust administration are often paid way too much with too little accountability (for fear they won’t go to the private sector, I guess “public service” has lost its true meaning). Of course we could do with less of some social programs that have “frozen” a huge segment of the population into a better-than-nothing status-quo.
    But going back to the 19th century and have our lives directed by a few robber barons? Non merci.

  15. Posted by amused

    Hasn’t Satchel’s reflexively libertarian, “all government is bad” crap been shown to be a complete and utter failure? Now he’s forecasting Obama’s big mistakes, all the while being yet another boring Ron Paul rehash.
    The guy’s clearly pure bluster. It’s exceptionally easy to appear wealthy, insightful and intelligent online. It’s another matter to actually, you know, be wealthy, insightful and intelligent.
    However, if he’d like to continue to blather on about how the cotton gin is more progressive than the Internet, let him have at it.

  16. Posted by Laughing Millionaire Renter in Marin

    LOL, amused. You sound a little grouchy these days!
    BTW, how are your friends feeling who bought in Esprit Park last year – you know, the ones you thought “made a great call”. They should have listened to Satchel….

  17. Posted by amused

    Not grouchy at all, Satchel.
    These are certainly difficult times, and I’ve elected to not engage in schadenfreude… unlike some “laughing millionaire renters”. I can go five years without a paycheck, but I know a lot of people can’t. Your bragging about gaming the system is a really nice move, though. You should be proud.
    My friends moved into Esprit two weeks ago. They’ve received concessions from the developers, and are quite happy. They’re not planning to sell anytime soon, and are delighted with their decision.
    And: Using the third person now, are we? Gross.

  18. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    Of course upper crust administration are often paid way too much with too little accountability
    The top of the government bureaucracy is hardly well-paid. Check out the Executive Service and Senior Executive Service pay scale:
    Private sector jobs with similar responsibility pay much better. The real money comes after your service, when you get a job as a lobbyist.

  19. Posted by poor owner living in potrero

    NVJ – you disappoint me!
    ‘Private sector jobs with similar responsibility pay much better. The real money comes after your service, when you get a job as a lobbyist.’
    Correct. But why didn’t you make the necessary connection. You know, regulatory capture. Perhaps because in your world view, government is good, and the more the better?
    I admire your willingness to stand and fight. Even if I feel that it is a losing battle.
    Government is and has been captured long ago, whether the financial rewards before after or during is just temporal sleight of hand.

  20. Posted by tipster

    How silly people who think the government invented the Internet are.
    The government had a network in place that was woefully unsuited for any real work, but the pipes from the Arpanet ran to major research universities and were hooked into mainframes via proprietary hardware that was seriously expensive, and not useful for anything.
    Digital Equipment corporation decided that the Ethernet, developed by Xerox, was going to be the network of choice and so the major research universities, who all had discounted DEC mainframes, developed the Ethernet interfaces and software to the mainframes. Stanford was basically doing most of that work, and came up with SUNet as its own Ethernet network. Out from that effort popped Sun Microsystems to sell the interfaces. Other companies made them cheaper and cheaper until the public could afford them in the late 90s.
    Other research universities wanted in on the development, and so Len Bosack at Stanford developed the Multiprotocol router to hook the Ethernet into the Arpanet. He and his wife saw the $$ in potential and so they started Cisco Systems in their living room. Until then, Arpanet just ran its own proprietary protocol, and yes, the Internet decided to standardize on that protocol just for expedience – everyone knew how to use it, but there was not much to it.
    Without the multiprotocol router and the Ethernet interface, the Arpanet would never have been turned into the Internet. Arpa just had free pipes in place, so we used them as a cheap way to exchange e-mail and bulletin boards with other universities. But lots of businesses had pipes in place that were better than the Arpanet pipes. We just hooked into the Arpanet to get free access to the connections to the research institutions. If Arpanet hadn’t been already installed for free, the Universities would have just used the commercial stuff. It was every bit as good, but very proprietary. Ethernet was based on open source type stuff, and you had to program everything yourself, so it was just easier to use it than anything else.
    It is true the Ethernet borrowed from Arpanet research, but to say that the Government had much of a hand in the Internet would be a complete joke. And the Arpanet took 30 years to morph into the Internet. During that time, the government funded literally millions of ideas that went nowhere. Remember food sticks?
    Government research is really inefficient. True some good things have come out of it, but it’s practically like good literature coming out of a million monkeys typing away. Good stuff comes out of it, but wow is it ever inefficient.
    The Arpanet had about as much to do with the Internet as the highway system had to do with the development of electric cars. Yes, people developing electric cars used the highways because they were free, but to state that one had to do with the other is silly. And wow is government research inefficient, just as LMRiM says. A few ideas do pop out of it. But at a HUGE cost.

  21. Posted by view lover

    Govt spending is not a bad thing in itself. However, having an 11 trillion dollar budget when the national GDP is around 13 trillion is pretty messed up.

  22. Posted by Laughing Millionaire Renter in Marin

    About government being “captured” – the eponymous head of the hedge fund I used to work for (one of the most recognized in the 1990s and even today) attended a dinner with Greenspan in 2006 with other masters of the universe and their lieutenants. He paid upwards of $200,000 for the evening. The story came to me from someone else at the fund (at the Board of Directors level – so I believe it, and I’ve known him for 15 years), so I don’t know if that was just for his spot at the table or for the two spots that the firm had reserved.
    Unless you’ve actually been in that environment, I don’t think one can truly understand how interconnected Wall Street and the “regulators” are. I think it must be worse than it was in the 19th century. Government has just so many more resources and control to be appropriated.
    BTW, I checked Bernanke’s salary. It’s lower than I ever made in an investment management position except for my very first (partial) year. His entire net worth (from his Congressional disclosure in 2007) is less than the firm I worked at spent on its Christmas party in 1998 (there were a large number of $25,000+ prizes given away). That was a firm of about 250 people then.
    I just don’t see any chance that government can regulate these markets on a sustainable basis. Sure, after a wipeout a la the 1930s or what we are now facing, it seems like the regulators have a handle on it for a while, but they really don’t.

  23. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    Correct. But why didn’t you make the necessary connection. You know, regulatory capture.
    It is not necessary to state the obvious.
    Perhaps because in your world view, government is good, and the more the better?
    Or perhaps I am a pragmatist that believes in using the right tool for the right job, not an anti-government ideologue who tries to cram everything into their philosophy.
    Government research is really inefficient.
    More or less efficient than private sector research? What is your evidence for your point of view?

  24. Posted by poor owner living in potrero

    Or perhaps I am a pragmatist that believes in using the right tool for the right job, not an anti-government ideologue who tries to cram everything into their philosophy.
    I wish I knew the fancy italics trick!
    but if regulatory capture is obvious, how then do I/you become a pragmatist who believes that government can ever be the ‘right tool?’
    in the absence of regulatory capture, I do believe government might have a role (I’m not a diehard libertarian – I have those tendencies but voted for lots of tax and spend props too!).
    but, I am a realist, and I realize how the game really works. One step forward, two steps back.

  25. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    I have to get back to work, but I will continue this discussion tonight. If you want to see how government can do its job effectively, with minimal corruption, look to those countries where that is the case. You don’t see these same problems with a rotating door of lobbyists in most Northern European democracies.
    describes how some HTML formatting tags work. I don’t know which of them Socketsite supports, but they do support bold and italics.

  26. Posted by poor owner living in potrero

    thank you

  27. Posted by Mole Man

    Don’t see any way these markets can be regulated? That is because your model is unworkable and unreasonable. Thinking that smart, highly paid managers are going to bend things the right way is the same thinking that got us an army of worthless zombie CEOs paid eight figures. Much of that will be ablated during our reentry. Supermen turn out to be worthless in real terms. Glass-Steagall worked until it was finally dismantled, and there is every reason to believe that something along the lines of Return of Glass-Steagall is possible and could hold for at least as long. (Everything is sequels nowadays, and it has to be “return” because Glass-Steagall needs no revenge.)

  28. Posted by Pumpkin Patch

    Tipster, I promised you, neither Len Bosack nor his wife were the brains behind the work.
    With that said and, I know people who were involved at the university level, there was a tremendous amount of money invested by the military into the projects that eventually became the Internet.
    So sorry you are being short-sighted. The government was not the brains. They were the wallet.

  29. Posted by dub dub

    Pumpkin Patch — Bosack/Lerner did contribute the First Rule Of Ousted Founders (FROOF, for short): don’t sell your shares out of spite 🙂
    But how could they have known the tech bubble (now over) was just starting?

  30. Posted by Jake

    LOL, right on Amused! The stating of the obvious titles (and uber-snarky-daddy-told-you-so-tone-conveyed-in-parens.) are so beyond old at this point. This stuff is nothing to be snarky about, schadenfreude isn’t funny (or shouldn’t be), and the goal of such posts should be to elicit the intelligent discussion and revealing debate that make this site occasionally great, not the “nyah, nyah, nyah, I told you so” dribble. Much better to simply restate the factual headline “533,000 jobs lost in November.” Believe me, LMRIM, Satchel, Fluj, Paco, Tipster, ex-SFer and the rest can take it from there.

  31. Posted by Brutus

    On any major advance that has not had an immediate profit motive, government has been the wallet. The minute that the private sector starts financing basic research with no specific end goal other than the, you know, “gaining of knowledge”, I’ll speak out against government-funded labs, public and private (private universities still get loads of federal research money) research universities, and the like.
    As one example, if it were completely left up to the private sector, we’d never have another vaccine made, because drugs to treat diseases are much more profitable than something that prevents them in the first place. Keep ’em coming back for more!

  32. Posted by tipster

    Oh, I understand that Len and Sandy weren’t 100% of the brains. Ralph Gorin was probably the guy who had the idea. Bill Yeager (who worked at the med school I think) thought through a lot of the software, and then Kirk Lougheed supersized it to make it robust.
    But the government really had very little to do with it, other than they supplied a good portion of University budgets at the time. They did NOT think of, commission or influence the development of the router. It was mostly the guys I mentioned, and a few I have forgotten.
    My point is that, yes, the Arpanet was a precursor, but it didn’t serve any useful purpose and was too expensive. Gorin ran the very inexpensively run LOTS time sharing system and so his ideas were the ones that became the springboards to commercially successful products because they were cheap.
    And for every Arpanet, there were 1000 ideas that died completely. The government is a terrible product innovator. They really had very little to do with the Internet at all.
    I DO understand that some great things have come out of the government efforts. But it isn’t a particularly efficient system.

  33. Posted by Pumpkin Patch

    Here’s to you getting your info correct. It is dangerous posting third-hand information about the Valley’s history when you live smack outside the Valley (there are lots of local people who are in the real know):
    Like I said before, the Government gave out dough to pay for the brains to hang out at these universities…

  34. Posted by Jimmy (Bitter Renter)

    tipster — you obviously know nothing about how basic research works. The professors, entrepreneurs and others submit funding proposals under broad topic headings (DoD BAAs and SBIRs are quite a bit more specific however) and those proposals are reviewed by panels of scientists and engineers with expertise in each area (or in the case of DoD, the program managers with the specific acquisition or technology need). The funding is incredibly competitive (maybe 10%-30% swuccess rate depending on the program) and the money isn’t usually very large, think under $5M except for some big NIH grants.
    To say that the success rate of producing world-changing inventions is small is kind of stating the obvious. Of course its small. But there are thousands upon thousands of much smaller innovations that are nonetheless profitable and advance the state of the art — which would not exist with private money. And the best part, from the perspective of the government, is that thanks to the IRS, they are guaranteed to get a cut of the profits no matter what!

  35. Posted by Jimmy (Bitter Renter)

    And actually, I can give you a concrete example of a company that was started with government funding, did everything ‘wrong’ per the VC business model and now grosses several hundred millions per year: Synaptics. They make touch pads.
    And another one: Immersion. The folks who brought you that annoying iDrive in your BMW. That force-feedback joystick idea was developed for NASA using SBIR money. There’s probably hundreds of other companies out there which would not even have gotten off the ground were it not for those wasted government research dollars (e.g. the company I own which is now selling substantial amounts of product based totally on government-funded research).
    Augh, no-knowthings are so infuriating!!! Now I almost have sympathy for fluj and Snatchel …

  36. Posted by TechDefender

    “How silly people who think the government invented the Internet are.
    The government had a network in place that was woefully unsuited for any real work, but the pipes from the Arpanet ran to major research universities and were hooked into mainframes via proprietary hardware that was seriously expensive, and not useful for anything.”
    That’s a lot like saying that the Wright Brothers invented a vehicle that could fly but was not really useful for anything. The rest of the post is based technologies that harnessed the breakthrough of packet switching technology. Sometimes, it just takes a spark.

  37. Posted by FSBO

    Thanks NVJ for the HTML trick – or maybe I should thank govt-sponsored research too. With these various govt grants, do the taxpayers get royalties from the patents that are produced? I try to view the value of any govt program by asking whether the program would likely be funded if every taxpayer had a personal line item veto. Imagine if you didn’t like a particular program, you didn’t have to fund it and you could get a corresponding reduction on your taxes. I think Jimmy BR’s force-feedback joystick research would go begging – but maybe a lot of medical research wouldn’t (as long as we share in the patents). I might even cough up to fund a couple good regulators. (How about Jim Cramer’s push for SEC chairman?) But the way I see it now for every marginally good thing that has ever resulted from govt spending, there are tens of billions of dollars wasted.
    Check out the story in the Chronicle about Carol Migden’s new position. $132K per year to sit on the CA Waste Board and attend one meeting a month (where she’ll join other experts on waste like Shiela Kuehl). The state has a budget crisis, right? So termed-out corrupt politicians get an extra $132K per year to do squat. But this is what goes on at every level of govt. Pick any program or department in DC, Sacramento, San Francisco or anywhere – it’s 90% waste. Less govt spending = GOOD. More govt spending = BAD.

  38. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    Okay FSBO, so we know that you have an ideological opposition to any government spending. There is no doubt that some government spending is wasteful, but does it tend to be more or less wasteful than private sector spending? After the dot-com bubble and the housing bubble, don’t be so quick with your answer. I am sure there are plenty of members of corporate boards with a lighter duty schedule than Ms. Migden, who get paid even more.
    Not that this excuses her position. I am just saying that corruption and waste is endemic to the human condition, not particularly a function of government.
    This is not a rhetorical question, btw. I know it is unlikely that we will ever see anything but anecdotal evidence on either side, but it seems to me that “good government” tends to spend money efficiently and “bad government” does not. The real trick is getting to “good government.” I am interested to see if anyone has a pointer to studies on this topic.
    To me it seems like we need both public and private sector investment in research. The trip to the moon kickstarted research in microminaturization, which lead to the computer revolution. This particular research led to benefits society-wide, which more than paid for itself. I am sure these inventions would have been made in any case, but it probably would have taken much longer. It is impossible to rerun history and see.

  39. Posted by Brutus

    I saw a quote awhile back that went something like:
    “Americans mistrust government and trust corporations. Europeans mistrust corporations and trust government.”
    I’ve certainly seen this first hand, and I believe that it plays into perceptions AND what actually happens. If the overwhelming belief is that government wastes money, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – especially because of how much of our “government” spending is allocated to private contractors. Private contractors know that they CAN be wasteful and no one will be surprised. Probably part of the reason why two miles of subway in the US costs as much as ten in Europe.

  40. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    “Americans mistrust government and trust corporations. Europeans mistrust corporations and trust government.”
    Ironic, isn’t it? After the pogroms, the gas chambers, the forced collectivizations, the conscription of millions to be marched off to their death again and again, the Europeans, of all people, trust their government.

  41. Posted by LMRiM

    That’s a great observation, NVJ. I never understand why people look to Europe for any sort of guidance in the modern era. In particular, I think Americans should feel nothing but a prideful condescension when Europeans try to disdain Americans. When I lived in Europe in the mid-90s for a few years, I was pretty quick to remind Europeans of their legacy, 1913-1945, whenever they got haughty, as well as the security the Western countries enjoyed under the umbrella of their superiors across the pond. (In truth, the British were not so bad – at least back then – and the Eastern Europeans I met were terrific, but those “Continentals”…..)
    (hehehe, that should make some new enemies :))

Comments are closed.

Recent Articles