Monday, May 7, 2012

The Jobs Front

Old news by now:
The nation’s employers are creating jobs at less than half the pace they were when this year began, according to a government report released Friday.

The addition of just 115,000 jobs in April was disappointing, but economists urged no panic just yet. Maybe the unusually warm winter had encouraged companies to do their spring hiring a little early, they offered in one of several theories. Maybe high gas prices, now falling, temporarily discouraged job growth. Better yet, maybe this latest report understates how many jobs were added, since the initial estimates for earlier months have been revised upward.

But no matter which hopeful explanation you choose, America’s 13.7 million jobless workers still look pretty discouraged.

Many economists had been predicting that strong job growth early this year would persuade many people sitting on the sidelines to re-enter the job market.

Instead, for reasons that are unclear, workers continue to peel off the labor force. An estimated 342,000 Americans dropped out of the job market altogether in April. That is why the unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.2 percent — not because more workers found jobs, but because so many people left the work force.

The share of working-age Americans who are either working or actively looking for a job is now at its lowest level since 1981, when far fewer women chose to do paid work. The share of men taking part in the labor force fell in April to 70 percent, the lowest figure since the Labor Department began collecting these data in 1948.

The decline in labor force participation is partly because baby boomers are hitting retirement age. But economists had expected the wave of retirements to be at least partly offset by the number of workers rejoining the labor force as the economy improved.

There were a lot of younger people who had gone back to school to get more education and training, and we thought we’d see more of them joining the work force now,” said Andrew Tilton, a senior economist at Goldman Sachs. Instead, the number of young people in the labor force also fell.

“May, June and July — the months when people are typically coming out of schooling — will be the big test,” he said.

College enrollment, particularly among young women, has indeed been growing quickly, which bodes well for the economy in the years ahead. But of course not everyone dropping out of the labor force is doing so to collect more credentials.
Reasons Abound for Ebb in Job Growth

How many credentials do we need to beg for a job now? I forgot. It might explain why student loan debt is now over a trillion dollars.
The unemployment rate slipped a notch to 8.1 percent in April, but not because employers went on a hiring spree.

Instead, the jobless rate appeared to improve because fewer people were applying for positions. Last month, the civilian labor force shrank by 342,000 people.

Economists say many of those workforce dropouts were "discouraged" workers who moved to the sidelines after months, even years, of trying to nail down jobs.

Traci Polacco has just joined the ranks of the discouraged. She had been working as an intake coordinator at a Denver hospital when she got laid off in November. For months, she tried hard to find a job.

"I've come close to having second and even third interviews, but haven't come close to grabbing that brass ring," she said in a phone interview.

This week, she made up her mind to stop looking. "I've been feeling very dejected and depressed," she said.

So she has moved in with her mother in Michigan, and is halting her job hunt until she can regroup. Her plan is to get accepted into a nurse's training program and find some sort of job this fall to help pay for her educational retooling.

For now, "I just needed to take some time off" from the disheartening job search, she said. "The frustration comes when you apply to places like Subway, and you're told you're overqualified."
'Dejected': Some Unemployed Give Up The Hunt

The Scariest Jobs Chart — By Far (And You Haven’t Seen It Before)

Here's a great Jed Graham chart illustrating how the age dynamics of the recession have played out. Among older workers, job losses seem to have been counterbalanced by a trend toward much reduced rates of voluntary retirement since people have lost so much of their household wealth. Among prime age workers, there's a big hit followed eventually by a meaningful recovery. But in the youngest cohort, things have really gone way down. Lots of people trying to hide out in school and a lot of diminished attachment to the labor market.

Youth Unemployment Is Sky High (Slate)

And from the Economic Collapse Blog, some startling facts:

95 Percent Of The Jobs Lost During The Recession Were Middle Class Jobs

There Are 100 Million Working Age Americans That Do Not Have Jobs

The fact, as they say, speak for themselves. So the question is, when are we finally going to admit that our economic system does not, can not, and will not provide the means for people to sell their labor power to make a living no matter which puppet is in the White House? It seems this is driving our collapse, and that of the global civilization, even faster than oil depletion (you could argue the two are related, but I'm skeptical). It's important to note how worldwide this problem is, and how worldwide the solutions need to be. I'm wondering whether any country will have the nerve to tackle it.

Think a fancy education will save you? think again:

The Southern District of New York recently became the nation's first federal court to explicitly approve the use of predictive coding, a computer-assisted document review that turns much of the legal grunt work currently done by underemployed attorneys over to the machines. Last month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck endorsed a plan by the parties in Da Silva Moore v. Publicis Groupe — a sex discrimination case filed against the global communications agency by five former employees — to use predictive coding to review more than 3 million electronic documents in order to determine whether they should be produced in discovery, the process through which parties exchange relevant information before trial.

Law schools continue to churn out graduates - more than 15,000 people have sat for the New York bar exam each year since 2009 - in an already depressed job market. As reported in New York earlier this month, attorneys David Anziska,  Frank ­Raimond, and Jesse Strauss have filed a series of class action suits that allege that law schools have been distorting their job placement rates to prospective law students. Computer-assisted technology will likely make legal semi-employment even harder to come by.

Using the technology, a senior attorney familiar with the intricacies of a specific case reviews and codes a "seed set" of documents. An algorithm then identifies properties among the manually reviewed documents to code and sort everything else. Each document is assigned a score to indicate the likelihood it's correctly coded.

Proponents say predictive coding is not only more accurate than using human reviewers, but also more efficient.

There's no escaping the fact that as predictive coding is used more widely, the technology will reduce the overall number of documents to be reviewed and the attorneys needed to review them. Judge Peck noted the technology will require human review of less than 2 percent of all documents in an average case. His stamp of approval means that the document reviewer ranks may be culled sooner rather than later.

"In the years before the Netscape browser in 1996,* there were only approximately 200 websites in the world," Baron notes. "After the Netscape browser, there were 100,000. We are at a similar inflection point in terms of lawyers' use of predictive coding."
 Rise of the Machines: New Technology May Spell the End for NYC’s Bottom-Rung Lawyers (New York Magazine)

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