Thursday, October 1, 2009

I can do the math.

My friend, Perry, had his hours halved yesterday. He went from 40 to 20 hours per week. He is grateful for that because some people on his team were let go. At least he has a job, even part-time. Still, he's lost his benefits and that feeling that things were picking up.

"New Jobless Claims Rose Less Than Expected" shouts the headline off the news feed. Everyone touts this as evidence the recession is ending. Jobless claims were up only 250,000 (or whatever it was) this past month. I can't help wondering, however, if you're one of those 250,000 who lost your job, you can't see this news as evidence the recession is over. Your recession is continuing or just starting, depending upon your family's state when your job was lost. I think a more accurate description of the recession ending is "The Economy Added 125 New Jobs This Month". Adding, not subtracting, to me is the sign we look for. But then, I've never been good with this theoretical stuff. What I understand is the actual stuff.

One of the biggest complaints about the road works bill shoved through Congress shortly after Obama took office was the huge expansion of the country's debt in order to pay for it. From my perch, which is, admittedly small, what I see are people out of work who will directly benefit from this.
Redoing a bridge involves a large number of people. The bridge has to be redesigned. Any impact statements, pollution or flood control reports, restoration of adjacent areas proposals filed. Then the traffic flow patterns have to be solved. You prepare a time-table for completion and secure the necessary permits. After that, you contact your suppliers and dive into demo the old bridge. Clear away the rubble, build one half and, when that's done, move traffic over, rinse, repeat on the other side. When that's done, fix the approaches, clean up the area and you're done. That's simplisitic but sort of how it's done.

My friend, Tonia, has been out of work in the construction industry since April. She's incredibly bright and hugely knowledgeable about construction. I am very surprised she can't find a job. She's been the project manager on multi-million dollar projects all over the Chicago area. If this government money means a construction company needs to hire a manager, Tonia can get a job. It means stone is going to be needed for the base of the bridge and to make the concrete that goes into the bridge's construction. That means quarries, many of whom are starting to shut down for the year which directly impacts my job, can start up again, putting laid off workers back to work. This means that "Joe", who hasn't been working for 3 months, gets called back. "Joe" can buy that new dishwasher for his wife. That means "Fred" who works at the store selling dishwashers, gets a commission. That means "Paul", who makes dishwashers, has his job for another couple of months as all the "Joes" buy dishwashers. Each of those, in turn, put money back into the economy in their own way. It's not a quick fix, by any, means and it may only last as long as the government money holds out. But putting people to work, even in a narrow sector of the economy has ripples throughout the rest.

I am grateful I have a job and I grieve and worry about my friends who don't. If you're in construction and need a dynamite project manager in the Chicago area, I know one. If you're in computer data base management and need a dynamite project manager, data base creator in the eastern Ohio area, I know one. I want my friends working because, in the end, the more people working, the better off we all are.

Beverage: English Teatime


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