Friday, June 04, 2004

Disconnected from Reality

The May unemployment numbers came out today, and I'm not quite sure what kind of story they tell.

Basically, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that we're treading water. For the first time in three months, new job creation is down - perhaps a delayed reflection of the downturn in housing construction noted as early as two months ago. The unemployment rate itself remains basically the same (5.6%) as it's been since December, 2003.

What the report doesn't say is what I'm hearing on the street. Every day, I talk to people about the jobs situation. To a person, they're still saying "what job creation?". Yes, perhaps if you want to wash dishes in a restaurant, or change sheets at a local hotel during the summer travel season, there's a job out there. That's not employment, though, IMHO.

Even the hiring managers I talk to, and I spoke with one as recently as yesterday, say that it's still very much a "buyer's market" out there. In other words, for every open job they post, they get fistfulls of applications. The summer youth employment training in the metro area where I live had over 1000 applications for 45 summer jobs for teens. A recent job fair at a local hotel had thousands of job seekers turn out for what amounted to a resume troll by HR managers.

A few posts down, I talked about lies, damn lies, and statistics. The real statistic is the number of folks I get in a week that walk into the facility where I'm a manager and ask me, "Are you hiring?". They're looking for anything resembling permanent work.

I've had to hang a "not hiring" sign at the entrance to our building just to winnow down the number of people knocking on the door. Even so, some are still knocking out of desperation.