Why You Should Care About the Jobs Report

Another day, another jobs report.  That’s what it may feel like.  In talent acquisition, we spend so much time thinking about  jobs to fill and plans for our own organizations, that we don’t often pay much attention to the larger picture. Sure, we listen to the jobs reports, we grimace when the numbers aren’t what we think they should be, and we move on.  What can you do? For starters, you can care.Here at ERE Expo this week, Linda Brenner,  moderated a session with Morningstar analysts Robert Johnson and Vishnu Lekraj. It was just as much an economics lesson as it was a wake-up call. We need to care. We need to pay attention. And we need to understand what’s going on beyond the basic 8.1% August unemployment rate (today’s BLS data).

First, a few key data points and lessons from Robert:

You’ve probably heard that we’ve lost eight million jobs in the recession. But dig deeper. The reality is that 50% of that is housing related. Two million jobs were lost in construction and two million in mortgage/real estate related roles. Think about that—specific industry sectors responsible for half of the loss.

Further, we tend to assume that global markets have an exponential impact on our economy. Greece, France, Spain, China…argh! Their struggles become ours.  Not necessarily true. Consumer spending actually accounts  for 70% of the U.S. economy–the most important factor in our growth. And that’s because consumer spending acceleration grows industrial production which expands employment and results in increased capital spending.

Bored yet? Don’t be. This stuff matters. Take note of the point made by audience member and industry thought leader Eric Winegardner during this session: Sure, unemployment stands at over 8% but for those with Bachelors degrees, that drops to a surprising 4.1% (as of this morning).  The unemployment rate for veterans is down to 6.6%.

Interested yet? You should be.  You should be beyond interested–and actually care.  Here’s what to do next with the numbers that are out this morning.

1) Watch the numbers and do something with them.

We typically read an article or two about the jobs report, grimace and move on.  This time around, do something more. Don’t just move on. Pay attention to the news stories and let them pique your interest.

2) Read the report

The best way to pay attention? Read the actual report. Really dig in. Ask questions. Share it with your team, or divide it up to read and review. Then have a conversation about it. What does it mean for you and your business? What data points matter more based on your employee population and hiring forecast.

3) Dig for additional data to help you shape your plans

The jobs report should get you fired up to look for more data–other trends that will help shape your 2013 plans. One particular one I like is the report from the National Chamber Federation that looks at the specific priorities, policies and programs of the 50 states and Puerto Rico.”   As reported in its June Jobs Summit, 2012, the top-10 performing talent pipeline states in 2012 are FL, MA, SD, VA, NY, MD, CO, ND and CT.  The top talent pipeline states are determined using six measures:

  • Higher education degree production
  • State spending per degree awarded
  • Total student cost at a four-year research institution as a share of state disposable income
  • Share of residents age 25 to 44 with at least a two-year degree
  • Share of high school seniors taking Advanced Placement Courses
  • Attainment of goals for placing adults in open jobs by the state workforce development system

The BLS also offers geographic data breakdowns too. This is powerful data that can help you convince your leaders to hire more virtual workers or rethink geographic distribution.

 4) Look at other economic trends

Consumer spending is an important one.  Consumer income growth was stagnant after an increase in July. So what do we look for moving forward? First, take note of the BEA’s consumer spending data reported quarterly. Then look for sector growth.  Retail sales, both back-to-school and the holiday season are great indicators of growth, as are auto sales and housing starts.  Sales of autos have rebounded which according to Morningstar’s Johnson, was one of the reasons we had a recovery at all.

5) Try not to get political

Regardless of your political preferences, this isn’t a time to grab your soapbox. It’s time to be an HR professional.  And that means it’s your unbiased job to read, understand and care about the data. And as hard as it is, separate that from your political views for a moment.

Now what? Go beyond this morning’s news. Don’t just rely on a broad number, dig in and see what it means to you.  Start with reading the news release paying attention to the numbers related to your industry. Then take a look at the charts starting with age and gender. You’ll be surprised at how much you might begin to care.

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