Friday, April 2, 2010

Labor Department claims a gain of 162,000 jobs. It looks like 88,000 were temp jobs for an actual loss of about 76,000 jobs.

It looks like the estimate based on the ADP report for March was wrong and that, according to the Labor Department (as reported at CNN Money), the U.S. packed on 162,000 new jobs in March.  Of course, relative to population growth, it's only a gain of 12,000 jobs, which is certainly much better than the large losses we have suffered recently.  However, 48,000 of those jobs were temporary Census Bureau jobs.  So, the real number is closer to 114,000 (or a loss of 38,000 relative to population growth).  Still, it does seem like good news.  I had previously predicted another month of losses and apparently I was wrong (for the first time in, oh, about two years).

Another blog, Seeking Alpha, is claiming that 40,000 other jobs were temp jobs and that 37,000 jobs were health care jobs.  I haven't come across a better source for this, but if so, that means that 88,000 of the jobs were illusory, reducing the number to 74,000 jobs for a loss of  about 76,000 jobs relative to population growth.  That blogger goes on to say:

Despite all the negative aspects to the employment report, including average hourly earnings falling 0.1%, the mainstream media trumpeted it as more evidence that 'happy days are here again' (the title of a song from the Great Depression). Coverage was filled with statements such as, "The increase is the latest sign that the economic recovery is sustainable and healing in the job market is beginning." Government hiring of census workers and more health care jobs (many of which are also government related) does not indicate a sustainable economic recovery. Instead, it indicates sustainable government spending to try to make a recovery look like it is taking place.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Is Having a Sense of Entitlement Necessarily Unfounded?

I have been contributing comments to a debate at the Wall Street Journal's blog, and I might turn some of  them into blog posts.  Here is the first one.

I disagree that it is wrong that “Many law students and new lawyers feel entitled to a high paying, high quality job because they went to law school.”  If you spent 7 years in college, busted your ass, paid a large opportunity cost, and accumulated $120,000+ worth of non-dischargeable student loan debt, shouldn’t you feel entitled to a reasonable return on your investment if you did a good job of training and preparing yourself to work as a lawyer?  I encourage disenchanted law school graduates who graduated with 3.0’s and above to feel angry, cheated, and entitled. It is perfectly understandable and proper to feel that way.

If you are a law student or an unemployed or underemployed lawyer, please stop flagellating yourself and feeling guilty for having been misled after you had been indoctrinated with propaganda selling the value of higher education since childhood. The state of our nation’s economy and our nation’s Education Arms Race are not your fault. You made an effort to train to earn a living by going to college and graduating from law school. Grow a backbone and a sense of righteous, moral outrage.  We are never going to be able to make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy nor close excess law schools until we seize the moral high ground.

ADP data suggests loss of 23,000 jobs (more like 173,000 jobs) in March

One of the nation's largest payroll companies, ADP, has just reported data suggesting a loss of 23,000 jobs for the month of March.  Of course, since our nation needs about 150,000 new jobs every month to keep pace with population growth, it's really closer to a loss of 173,000 jobs.

Digging deeper into the stats, a loss of 51,000 jobs in good-producing industries was reported while 28,000 (presumably low-wage) service jobs were added.  So, our nation lost 51,000 jobs in industries that produce physical wealth and gained 28,000 jobs in low-wage industries, consistent with our transformation into a third world country.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Science Grad School Scambloggers?

Lawyers aren't the only people having trouble dealing with Education Overproduction. Even PhD. scientists (gasp!) of all people are having difficulty on the job market.  I have a Masters degree in one of the physical sciences, so I have been aware of this problem for over a decade, and last night I stumbled across the remains of a blog dedicated to science graduate school scambusting.  I haven't spent much time looking it over yet, but it's not hard to get the gist of it.  So, I thought I would post a link to it here:

Science Ph.D. Job Issues Blog

Also, check out this NPR Science Friday discussion about the problem:

Young Scientists Issues (1996)--At least listen to the ten minutes to hear a funny skit and a list of 5 things unemployed PhD.'s (and JD.'s) do not need to hear..

Granted, science PhD.'s don't have the kinds of student loan problems that lawyers and liberal arts PhD.'s suffer under, but they have still invested years of their lives to train for a glutted field and they may have undergraduate student loans that compounded interest while they were in graduate school.  Since it takes 5-7 years to earn a PhD., they have higher opportunity costs than law students.  That number increases if you add on time served in postdocs or include half of the years (2) spent majoring in science as undergraduates.  Normally, science graduate students do not pay any tuition and receive small stipends (think $15,000/year, often without any insurance).  The rationale behind the stipends is that they work as teaching assistants and research assistants, often for 65+ hours/week.  It really isn't a bad way to earn a PhD., and these degrees are not as useless as Art History or Philosophy PhD.'s, but these are bright people who might have been better served if they had gone into other fields where they could have found work with their Bachelors degrees (engineering, computer science, accounting, or business) or just headed Med.

After they finish their PhD.'s most end up working low-paid 2-3 year gypsy scientist positions called postdoctorates in the hopes of being able to eventually land an assistant professor position (good luck with that).  After two or three postdocs, most wash out of science, the best years of their lives having been wasted.

Science research at the universities is essentially structured as a pyramid scheme, with deans and professors needing a horde of graduate students to teach the undergraduates (laboratory TAs, review classes, etc.) and most importantly, to do the repetitive grunt work that is science research.  The institutions have no concern for whether or not our nation needs more PhD. scientists nor whether they will find real, solid middle class employment in their fields.  Also, since they cannot feed enough Americans to the machine, they import thousands of foreign graduate students who later compete for postdocs and academic and industry jobs with the Americans.  (The foreign grad students are good, hard-working, often very bright, rather likable people, and I have nothing against them personally, but this discussion and this blog is about what is in the economic interests of Americans, not whether or not people in other countries are good people or worthy of our jobs.) 

The end result is that we are producing a large oversupply of frustrated and disenchanted science PhD.'s.  But how will science research get done without the grad students?  Some people have proposed that we train fewer people and create permanent research positions for PhD.'s at $50-60,000/year.  They would probably be just as cost-effective if not more so than the graduate students because they are already trained and productive, just as postdocs are more efficient and productive than grad students.  

Before you conclude that science professors are necessarily in on this and that they are doing well, unlike law professors, they suffer from the risk of losing their research grants and their jobs, and tenure is being eroded.  (You might say that the "scientists career half-life is low.)  I don't think they are paid nearly as well as law professors either.  If you are an assistant professor you will have to work your ass off to make sure that your lab's research is productive and you will always be writing grant proposals, seeking extremely competitive grants.

Unsurprisingly, many of these unemployed, underemployed, angry, and disenchanted scientists have fled the science field to come to law school in the hopes of becoming well-to-do intellectual property lawyers.  So now we have an oversupply of people with a combination of advanced science degrees and law degrees!  That something like that is possible, that people who are so well-trained, well-educated, and skilled could have difficulty finding a job commensurate with their credentials is unfathomable to most Americans.

To an extent, I am also a science career scambuster, too.  Of course, I am interested in the problem of our nation's Education Arms Race in general as well as other economic and societal issues.

A Facelift for Fluster Cucked

After spending a number of hours messing around with a generic blog template and Blogger's new and improved WYSIWYG template editor, I am pleased to unveil a new look for my blog. I hope that it is more aesthetic and reader friendly.

It all started about a week ago when someone sent me an email alerting me to the fact that people could no longer post comments. So, I had to scrap my previous template, which I had designed using the Trix generator, and replaced it with one of Blogger's new templates. However, I thought it looked crappy.

So I found a generic blog template to mess around with and I learned some very basic CSS-HTML. (I further modified that template to make it even more customizable in the new Blogger template editor.) However, for some reason I still cannot get embedded commenting to work. Fortunately the popup window and separate window options work, so I'm going with the separate window option since some people might have popups disabled.

So, here it is. Please let me know what you think.

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