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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A "real-world" Indicator Of The American Economy - My Observations

We have heard quite a bit lately about how college kids are graduating with mountains of student loan debt and can't find jobs. Case in point: Three days ago I was at a local retail store picking up a "lay-away" purchase. The lady at the lay-away counter was well spoken, middle aged, well-mannered, intelligent, and well educated as it turned out. She explained that she had earned her Bachelor's degree in Geology about a year and a half ago - and hadn't yet found a job in her field. "Welcome to the recession", she said with a grim laugh.

IT Work:
We have all heard about how great a source of employment the IT industry is, and what a huge and growing demand there is for IT workers. In fact, there is supposedly such a high demand for IT workers that, according to industry sources, we must outsource our IT work to India. If so, then how is it that a friend of a friend with a Master's degree in Computer Science can only wrangle a $10/hour (yes, you read correctly) job in his field? He is an intelligent, hard-working, educated, experienced guy with a good work ethic. This does NOT bode well for guys like me who are working on their graduate degrees in related fields.

Granted, these are only two data points. However, they DO conflate with what I have personally observed in my daily interactions and read about online.

Looking around I find MANY examples of industry outsourcing jobs (and 'justifying' it with half-truths and questionable statistics) while millions of qualified Americans who WANT the work go without.

Why, as a society, as we putting up with this? Where is the outrage?

Declining Quality On All Levels:
Generally, during a recession, employees are fearful for their jobs and therefore tend to be on their best behavior. Under such conditions they will tolerate all sorts of things at work they never would in normal times. But this time there is yet another unprecedented change I and others close to me have noticed: MANY people in businesses of all types with whom I come in contact are rude, surly, and don't want to even minimally do the work they are paid to do. And/or they are often just plain incompetent. I've noticed a general coarsening of the business culture in America during the last three years in particular.

We always hear, especially from the 'conservative' side of the political aisle, that recessions "weed out the dead wood", allow the best to rise to the top, provide businesses with the opportunity to make improvements in efficiency, ... If anything, I think the opposite has happened during this latest downturn. Even the IT guy I mentioned earlier has noticed the same thing. We ask ourselves "with all the GOOD employees out there who WANT to work and cannot get jobs, WHY does business continue to keep ones that mistreat paying customers or who don't really want to work?" We hear about how businesses which cater to the middle and lower classes are being hurt by the recession, yet these same businesses keep employees that could be driving away valuable clientele.

I don't get it. It flies in the face of what we are taught in business degree programs and in normal, real-world commerce.

Readers - have you noticed the same thing?? If so, why do you think it is? What is behind it?

I'd love to hear from anyone who can shed light on this!

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