Friday, November 9, 2012

Lansner: Job market faces global pressures | employment, eco ...

With election politics in the rear-view mirror, is it finally time for a serious discussion about the economy?

Look, the U.S. economy is slowly moving forward. That trend certainly helped President Barack Obama's successful re-election bid. An Associated Press exit poll found that 4 in 10 thought the economy was improving and Obama carried 88 percent of that optimistic flock.

This combination of Associated Press file photos shows some of the key economic sectors that could be impacted by America's decision to re-elect President Barack Obama over Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. From health care law to the overhaul of financial rules,Obama has laid out some key themes for rejuvenating the economy. Upper-income Americans may face a tax increase, auto fuel economy standards might be raised, and stocks of construction and engineering companies could benefit.



But what will it take to make the recovery more impactful and enduring? Our long-term economic vitality has little to do with Greece's financial debacle. Worse, I'm betting that our likely next fiscal/political debate ? over the fiscal cliff facing the federal budget ? will ignore the ever-expanding challenges largely outside of the government realm.

Too much is made of a president's impact on the economy. Still, Obama would be well-served to note that since his inauguration in 2009, the U.S. economy produced only 190,000 new jobs. My trusty spreadsheet parsing Bureau of Labors Statistics data shows that Obama's minuscule 0.04 percent annualized job growth rate is the second-worst employment performance for a presidential term since World War II.

Sadly, it's part of an ugly trend. The worst employment presidential period was the first term of George W. Bush, the only term of employment drop since World War II. And the term only slightly better than Obama? The younger Bush's second term, with a scant 0.3 percent annualized job growth.

Yes, the three worst terms for employment in seven decades were the past 12 years.

Look at it this way: American bosses created jobs at pace averaging 1.7 million new workers a year from 1945 through 2000. Since then: Employers added just 1.8 million jobs in total in 12 years! Through 2000, job growth averages 2.2 percent a year. We haven't had even a single year at that expansion rate since.

What's scarier is that during the past 12 years, we've seen numerous policy tactics that, various economic theories suggest, should have boosted employment: large tax cuts; big government deficits; cheap and easy money ? and two wars. In this period, both parties had times of significant political power.

Maybe, we were spoiled. The previous two decades had been economic gems.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research ? the official arbiter of when the nation is in recession ? in the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. economy was in recession for only 30 months. That's 13 percent of that period. Since 1854 ? yes, over a century and a half of research ? official downturns happened 30 percent of the time

Please don't shout Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton ? depending on your political stripe ? as the cause for this previous string of prosperity. You can't ignore the transformative events of this business boom era that made American corporations and their workers more productive as well as eventually more vulnerable to new competitors.

Cheap and robust semiconductors created a computing revolution that spurred better data collection and analysis. Yet advancements in automation today hit both white-collar and blue-collar employment.

Computing power furthered the globalization of both commerce and manufacturing, opening new markets for some American businesses. It also created significant cost savings and harsh competition for others.

These trends were amplified by the Internet and the Information Age, as real-time electronic services allowed American employers to further globalize their businesses ? even ones that are domestically focused.

Can you think of an industry not touched by these new realities of business life? Nothing will turn back these global and societal changes.

Sadly, the economic discourse during the presidential campaign highlighted relatively inconsequential issues. Who heard much talk about how to deal with ever-growing automation and globalization? Or how government might help flip such trends into U.S. economic advantages?

Basically, every American worker ? from the corner office to the factory line ? now competes against the world. Will upcoming political battles even ponder this important fight?

Contact the writer: 949-777-6727 or

  • VIDEO: The economy Obama faces the next four years


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