November 5, 2009

Good News, Bad News? Productivity is up! Wages aren't. Unemployment figures are coming next.

This is today's snapshot: The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released the 2009 third quarter results showing that worker output increased 4 percent, while the hours worked decreased by 5 percent. That adds up to a 9 percent productivity increase: workers are doing more in less time.

Are workers earning more for doing more?  No.

Andrew Leonard summarizes the findings at Salon: How to squeeze workers to the last drop

Ordinarily,  productivity increases are great news.  But in today's economy,  it raises a question:  Does that mean that employers don't have to hire new workers because they are pushing those on the job so hard?  Or does it mean that they are going to have to start hiring real soon because they've already trimmed so much fat from the bone?

Commenting on this,  Andrew Leonard noted that a new set of employment figures will be coming out soon,  and there is a chance that overall unemployment could hit 10 percent.  New unemployment claims (the weekly figures) have been going down all through 2009,  but there are still a lot of people out of work.

Bottom line:  There are a lot of positive economic indicators that have been floating the stock market up over the past six months.  The concern about a "jobless recovery" remains.  It remains a time to keep your eyes open if you are one of those who are working harder,  and a time to get serious if you are currently seeking a job.

That's today's snapshot.