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Pink Slip Outbreak


Almost 600,000 jobs lost in January.


So there was this Youtube video making the rounds the other day, and, at first blush, it was pretty funny. In it, Nancy Pelosi says that, for every month passage of the stimulus plan is delayed, we lose 500 million jobs.

Of course, that would mean we'd all be out of work in a month - but maybe the congresswoman from California wasn't too far off, despite that thousandfold flub.

I'm kidding, of course, but did you see the job numbers out today? Yeesh. We lost 598,000 jobs in January - the worst such loss in 34 years. Meanwhile, the jobless rate spiked to 7.6%. Well north of the 525,000 and 7.5% that had been expected.

I think it's a shame that most of us look at this as simply numbers on a page. After all, those are real people, just like you and me, and my heart goes to them.

What is 598,000 equivalent to?

  • It's enough to fill the Giants football stadium more than 7 times.

  • It's almost 17 times the 2007 population of Liechtenstein.

  • It's about 56% of the population of Rhode Island as of 2006 - imagine 6 out of every 10 Rhode Islanders out of work ,and you're beginning to get the picture.

Again, I'm not providing these statistics for you to get a snicker, but rather to put this tragedy, -- which is what it is -- in perspective.

I think this also begs the question: "Where do we go from here?"

Unfortunately, I think things are going to get worse before they get better. Employers are rightfully scared. They aren't getting any big tax relief, and they're having trouble trimming expenses to keep up with waning sales. Therefore, they have and will look to cut the biggest variable expense line item they have: jobs.

But even beyond that, think about what happens after a job gets cut:

The employee that lost his or her job usually makes sure they ratchet down their household spending. And when that happens, it impacts everyone from retailers to car dealers to homebuilders. Economics 101, yes - but I think it deserves a mention.

By the way, just look around your neighborhood. How many new cars or construction projects are you seeing these days? Not too many, right? Next, look at the long line of companies and one-time stalwarts that have filed Chapter 11, ranging from Circuit City to Lehman Brothers.

It truly is sad.

The bottom line: It looks like a stimulus program in some form may pass. I also like to think that many of our well-heeled Congressional representatives have finally woken up to our woes. But at the end of the day, I think these job numbers aren't likely to turn on a dime. We may still be in for a long slog.

Hey - I better stop here, I don't want to put a damper on your mood heading into the weekend.

Have a good one, and I'll see you on Monday. I hope.

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