Another Month, Another Mediocre Jobs Report

Sadly, I’ve written on this topic many times over the last 10 years. This time it’s the June employment report. I’ll let Bill McBride summarize it for you:

The good news: This was the best first half for private employment gains since 1999.  Also hourly and weekly wages increased 0.4% in June, and hourly wages are now up 2.2% over the last year (weekly wages are up 2.5% year-over-year).

Some bad news: the employment-population ratio for the 25 to 54 year old group (prime working age) declined, the number of part time workers (for economic reasons) increased and U-6 (an alternative measure of labor underutilization) increased to 14.3%.

Be sure to scroll down for The Scary Chart showing that there are still 2% fewer jobs than there were at the beginning of the Great Recession. At least — theoretically — there may have been enough jobs created to absorb the new people in the workplace. Or rather, there would have been if it hadn’t been June, a month when both high school and college graduations occur.

So let’s dig into the bad news. A lot of people are working part time because that’s the best they can do right now. Some employers think they are getting around benefits such as health care costs doing this, but the fact is that if the economy ever really recovers, workers will demand little things like full time work at decent wages with benefits.

Many of those workers are also in low wage jobs — or worse yet, temporary jobs that might vanish next month. It’s dishonest to say a job was “created” if it’s not worth actually hiring someone to do it. These are the kind of jobs where they can get away with giving workers a debit card instead of a paycheck, because they know the worker has no choice but to suck it up.

Now, I’m hesitant to bring up this story, but it seems that some “Doctors” licensed in other countries are having a hard time getting licensed here. I’m finding it difficult to swallow the idea that our standards are just too high for typical FMGs (Foreign Medical Grads). If Depak Desai could get licensed in the states, it can’t be that hard. However, these “doctors” are taking jobs that could be done by someone with a fraction of the education. Maybe we could find them jobs as medical or nursing assistants pending their actually passing the exams, and free up those menial jobs for others? At least this story is another stake in the heart of the idea that we need H1B guest workers.

The good news today masks another sad truth: the percentage of us “in the workforce” has declined. That means that more of us are staying home with the kids, more of us have gone back to school, more of us have tried to get disability benefits, and more of us have just plain given up on the idea of finding gainful employment.

I will wrap up with two related stories. First, unemployment benefits don’t increase unemployment, no matter what some conservatives want you to think. Second, some advice for the kids: employers don’t want to hear from or about your parents. Be a grown-up.

In Closing: All the NSA and Snowden you can stand; follow up on the 4th.

I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time

USA Today tells us that thanks to patient surveys, hospitals are kissing our butts:

Special air-blowing vests keep patients warm pre-surgery. Private rooms are the norm. Staffers regularly check in with patients to anticipate their toilet and showering needs to cut down on call-light usage. Patients are given clear discharge instructions. Cleaning is no longer done at night. Patients are taught the difference between “pain-free” and “pain-controlled.”


Amenities such as free lattes and valet parking are not new to hospitals. They began offering them years ago in a high-stakes fight to lure patients. However, what hospitals are doing now is, for the most part, tailored to the survey questions they know patients will be asked.


“The problem is America is a free-market economy,” [Rajesh Balkrishnan of the University of Michigan] said. “We need to give patients a way to speak on what they think about health care, what works for them, how health care professionals work for them, because those factors go into determining whether treatments are successful.”

I don’t think any of us have a problem with the idea that they are trying to make a hospital stay a more pleasant experience. It’s hard to recover from whatever when there is too much noise to rest, for example. It’s great that staff is making a better effort at explaining what’s going to happen. Anticipating needs? Well that is mighty fine customer service. However, I think now we are starting to go too far.

For one thing, who the heck is paying for these valets, lattes, and pre-surgery warming vests? In the end, you and I are through higher premiums and taxes. Could we perhaps make do with a clean blankie and a coffee maker?

Second, all this nonsense loses sight of Reality. In Reality, people choose a hospital based on two factors and only two factors: What hospital will my insurance company pay for? or What hospital is closest to the site of the accident? The overwhelming majority of people don’t have the luxury of saying “General Hospital has a better record of surgical outcomes” or “St. Elsewhere has free espresso drinks!” Let’s stop pretending that any of this is considered by Joe and Jane Average when Joe’s having chest pain.

Speaking of Reality, I understand that Obamacare means more insured patients means more demand for physician services. But where exactly does Stacy think she’s going to find doctors for that medical office space she’s trying to rent out?

In Closing: it would be nice if reporters would actually read scientific studies before telling us what they say; light up crosswalks; they had to get water from somewhere; college readiness may be more than academic skills; some taxes are going up regardless of what gets decided about the fiscal cliff (at this point I’m mighty tempted to say let’s just go there and watch the backpedaling); OBEY; and the ultimate helicopter parents.

What did I tell you?

Back in July, I talked about turkey sandwiches being dressed up in Thanksgiving condiments. I figured the trend would percolate around the high end dining scene for a while before hitting casual dining. Well, I was a little off. It is returning to the carry out restaurant world from which it came first.

Einstein Bros is now offering a seasonal menu that includes a “roasted turkey breast sandwich… spiced with cranberry ginger chutney and offered on an artisan wheat bread.” Sure, it’s seasonal. But I bet if they sell well they could jump to the regular menu. Regrettably, it’s hard to get nutrition info on the seasonal items.

So, where do we see the “Thanksgiving sandwich” pop up next? A quick web search suggests that it’s the item to have on seasonal menus everywhere. I miss La Madeleine more now.

In Closing: this is what parental consent laws do; I see what you did there; killing Big Bird will cut 0.01% from the national budget; not only dumbed down, but deliberately made unreadably dull; stamps; debunking; let them be responsible but remember that we’re checking up on your oversight; and a new mom.

Music Monday: Inspiration, Part 2

Last week I said I had two inspiring videos. This is the other one.


It took guts to make this video. But no, don’t go off the antibiotics until the whole run is done, ever, ok?

In Closing: gee I wonder why; some negatives??; this could be bad; “How dare researchers publish research that isn’t about what we think it should be about!”; War on Drugs is still a fail; and unemployment.


Have you seen this crazy thing yet?

Ok, here’s an explanation of that thing you just watched. It’s nice to see someone with a sense of humor about himself.

Ok, and here’s a Music Monday Bonus: 10 Songs that you’re more likely to have heard the cover than the original! Complete with videos.

In Closing: hiding in plain sight; seriously?; AOL paying shareholders $500,000,000 (didn’t know they still had that kind of money); pseudoscience; Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison defends the Republican stance on women without ever mentioning birth control or abortion (she does at least mention rape) (“People in red cars don’t necessarily drive fast. I used to own a red Ford Escort!”); and listen, if you are applying for a job with me, I don’t want to hear from your mommy. I hear from mom, and your resume goes straight in the NO pile.