Focusing on The Unemployment Numbers is Wrong

Before you read on I will admit that I am NOT an economist and this is NOT a political posting. I am not trying to be negative – I am a realist. For some time now we have been flooded with unemployment numbers that fluctuate by fractional differences. I may be a small voice in the wilderness on this one – but the government statisticians have us focused in the wrong direction. Don’t get me wrong, we need to see an improving economy but getting people back to work under 19th and 20th century plans will not work!

I believe that the unemployment numbers are understated. Some estimates indicate that there are over 6.5 million Americans unaccounted for in the unemployment numbers based solely on historical averages. There are some that believe that the unemployment rate is as high as 25% or more. Here is where it gets sticky… a Gallup Poll in October 2011 indicated that less than 45% of the industrialized world is in full-time positions. That means that 55% of the world is unemployed, underemployed, or work for themselves. Somewhere in that number we also have to include those too young to work and those who are unable to work due to age, retirement or health reasons.

I will firmly assert that we cannot place all the blame on the world economy, government interaction, etc! Many appear to have forgotten that back in the 1990s, corporations were going through what we called rightsizing and downsizing. While many organizations were shipping jobs overseas, many continued to think like a 19th and 20th century employee. You see, we have been told for years to get a good job, work hard and retire from that same company over 30 years later with the gold watch and a hefty retirement plan. We missed the fact that things were already starting to change. Of course hindsight is always 20/20 but in 1990 there were already predictions that less than 50% of the world’s population would be in full time employment. This prediction must have gone largely ignored because I didn’t even hear about this prediction by Charles Handy until 2011!

What does this all really mean? It means that the world was moving to a leaner business model long before the economy collapsed. It means that while the employment market was changing, individuals kept doing things the same old way. The problem is that we have not retooled our populations to deal with a 21st century cerebral economy. Individuals are becoming disenfranchised from opportunities because of lack of education, job skills, and in many cases experience. On the other end of the spectrum, many organizations shy away from powerhouse individuals because they fear the costs involved with someone a high level of education and experience.

So what is a person to do? In my humble opinion for many it will be a matter of taking on two or more jobs just to make ends meet. For others it will require them to start a business that meets the needs of those around them. It will require individuals understanding that they are now a brand. For more than a few it might mean training, re-training, going back to school, reading a lot of books and hiring a business coach. Competing in this economy will require us all to change the way we do things. There is still no such thing as a get rich quick plan. Competing will require hard work and in many cases a whole lot of uncomfortable but needed change.

Obviously this is a complex issue that cannot be fixed in a few short paragraphs. The time is now to start changing. Accept that the way we did things is gone. We are in a new era – we are the New Century workforce and need to start acting as such.


Philip A Foster, MA is Founder/CEO of Maximum Change Inc. Elevating leaders and their organizations to the next level since 2005. Master Certified Coach, Philip A Foster, MA and his associates facilitate effective positive change by helping organizations, leaders and individuals in high demand — design and implement strategies that maximize focus and deliver results. Specializing in Organization and Strategic Leadership.

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2 thoughts on “Focusing on The Unemployment Numbers is Wrong

  1. I’m probably both of the things you said you were not, I am an economist and I write lots of political postings. The best thing we can do to lower unemplyment is lower the minimum wage. People work for less than it all the times, its callled an internship, but people who need the help the most to improve their productivity are hurt the most by the minimum wage law because they are denied on the job training that would increase their value to a business owner.
    I firmly agree with your statement, “For more than a few it might mean training, re-training, going back to school, reading a lot of books and hiring a business coach.”
    People should focus on increasing their skills and then businesses will pay for them.

    1. I agree with you Gabriel. The essence of what I am seeing in the research is that we are trending toward organizations doing more with less human capital. Individuals may be forced to work for self or to “retool” themselves to even have a shot at one of the few jobs left in corporate America. I think long gone are the days of large organizations being the norm. I think they will be the exception to the rule. Regardless – you are so spot on – “People should focus on increasing their skills” no matter who is paying for it.

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