IT Workplace Economy

Growth is happening, but noticeable improvement is a longer process than expected

In January 2009, President Barack Obama's economic team released a report regarding the anticipated projections of his $775 billion stimulus plan, which, at the time, was expected to reduce the nation's unemployment rate and create thousands of new jobs amidst a global economic recession. Forecasts of future unemployment rates were included among the stimulus plan predictions. Back then, the depth of the recession was not known yet and economic advisors believed the national unemployment rate would be approximately 6.5 percent in October 2011 and roughly six percent by the end of 2011.

Unfortunately, such forecasts have proven
to be far too optimistic. So what are the actual figures — and will there be any noticeable improvement soon? According to the BLS's "The Employment Situation — October 2011," the national unemployment rate did drop from September to October, but only minutely so, from 9.1 percent to nine percent, respectively. Additionally, revisions for both August and September 2011 showed larger growth than previously reported.

Although unemployment has lowered, many economists do not project a positive employment forecast anytime soon. The Federal Reserve recently predicted the unemployment rate will be at least 8.5 percent towards the end of 2012 proving that while growth is happening, it will certainly be a longer process than expected.

While unemployment did decline and the nation added 80,000 new jobs in October, the reality of the country's current economic situation can easily be recognized. Throughout October, 13.9 million Americans were still unemployed and 42 percent of these individuals had been searching for work on a long-term basis, for at least 27 weeks.

As President Obama implements new methods for job creation, an array of questions remains. How will the United States economy react
to crises that continue to transpire around the world, including Greece's bankruptcy and Thailand's devastating floods? Will retail stores hire enough employees during the holiday shopping season to lower the nation's unemployment rate? When will companies begin to hire at a regular pace again? Although the country's economic forecast remains unclear, hopefully such questions will be answered in a positive manner, sooner rather than later.

For the second consecutive month, employment increased within various industries throughout the United States, including healthcare, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services.

According to the BLS's "The Employment Situation — October 2011," the following employment figures were documented —

  • Construction: Following September's positive jobs report, in which 27,000 jobs were added within the industry, construction employment decreased by approximately 20,000 in October.
  • Government: For yet another month, governmental employment declined quite significantly in October — by nearly 24,000 positions.
  • Healthcare: Hiring increased again within the healthcare industry with 12,000 jobs added throughout October. Since October 2010, the industry has created 313,000 new positions.
  • Leisure and hospitality: 22,000 new leisure and hospitality jobs were added during the month. Employment within the industry has increased by 344,000 since January 2010.
  • Manufacturing: Employment decreased within the industry by approximately 13,000 positions.
  • Professional and technical services: Employment increased by 32,000 in October, as temporary help services and management and technical consulting services noticed extensive job growth.
  • Retail trade: Job growth in the sector increased 17,800 jobs.

Other articles of interest

Tech to super committee: seize the opportunity to spur innovation!

Forbes, October 28, 2011

Six of America's leading technology trade organizations (TechNet, Business Software Alliance, Consumer Electronics Association, Information Technology Industry Council, Silicon Valley Leadership Group and TechAmerica) and their members recently sent a letter to the bipartisan Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction. In this letter, they urged the Joint Committee to embrace a series of proposals that would help America's economy and debt stabilization by supporting innovation. The letter included recommendations on tax reform, research and development, spectrum sales, smart deployment of information technology to reduce waste, high-skilled immigration reform, deployment, among others.

The letter was signed by 50 prominent members of the tech community and includes the following three main ideas for the Joint Committee to consider:

1. Create Jobs and Ensure U.S. Competitiveness — Tax Reform

The sponsors of this letter believe that America's corporate tax system is globally uncompetitive and is painfully out of step with the world we currently live in. The code was last revised in 1986, which was before many of the companies who signed this letter and their innovations that drive their business were in existence. In the short-term, they suggest immediate steps be taken to encourage U.S. businesses to repatriate the approximate $1 trillion in accumulated foreign earnings that are locked outside of our country because of an outdated tax code. In the long-term, they suggest we reduce the tax rate, simplify the code and strengthen incentives for job-creating activities such as R&D and transition to a competitive territorial tax system.

2. Stimulate Growth — Targeted Investments

In order to stimulate growth, the authors recommend reducing or eliminating low-impact spending in order to create the fiscal space to focus on pro-growth investments. The tech sponsors emphasize that they continue to invest in research and development even in tough times because that investment provides a rate of return that is a multiple of the expenditure. Based on these results, they believe that the government should do the same thing; therefore, they recommend greater investments in those activities with clear economic benefits because of their trans- formative potential. Programs that support basic scientific research, improve our infra- structure, protect our intellectual property and create a 21st century workforce are smart investments, according to the authors of this letter.

3. Stabilize Debt

Finally, the sponsors believe that government spending is unsustainable. They believe that there are steps that the select committee can take that will contribute significantly to deficit reduction and provide long-term growth opportunities for our economy. These steps include spurring innovation and job creation through spectrum sales, strengthening the U.S. workforce to raise direct revenue and reducing spending through information technology.

Technology titans, 2.0: women lead IBM, HP

Information Week, October 26, 2011

During the last full-week of October, IBM quietly announced Virginia Rometty as their new CEO. In a technology industry where men greatly outnumber women across the board, women suddenly control two U.S. technology titans, IBM and HP, the two biggest technology companies as measured by revenue.

We are hopeful that we are beyond being startled in an era where women have been within shouting distance of the presidency.

There are plenty of women CEOs running Fortune 500 companies, from Pepsi to Sunoco to Kraft Foods to Wellpoint to Avon, whose CEO also sits on Apple's board of directors. Yet it is still an anomaly within the technology sector, where the number of men outnumber women dramatically, especially in IT.

Information Week measured their readership over the years and found the imbalance extreme with as many as 80 percent of their readers being male and attendance at conferences and trade shows continues to reinforce this notion. To further support this conclusion, Information Week conducted an audit of their Twitter followers and found that two-thirds of their followers were men.

Even outside of Information Week, the results are very similar in the technology industry. A quick glance at the executive teams of some of the top technology companies in America shows just how few women are represented. IBM has 20 executive officers and three of them are women (one of those three being Rometty). HP has 14 members of its executive board and three of them are women (one is Whitman, another is CFO Cathie Lesjak). Dell's executive leadership team has 12 members, one of them a woman. Microsoft counts a monstrous 125 executives, 13 of whom are women. Oracle executives number 26, with five women. Apple counts 10 among its executive team, none are women.

With the recent move of Rometty, perhaps all this will change. Meg Whitman isn't HP's first woman CEO and this isn't her first stint as CEO. Oracle's Safra Catz has run the business end of Oracle for years and seems a capable heir apparent should Larry Ellison decide to end his tenure. Rometty's name has surfaced before, both amid speculation around who would succeed IBM's former CEO, but also when HP was seeking a replacement for Mark Hurd.

Rometty most recently ran sales, marketing and strategy for IBM, but her background was in computer science and she joined IBM as an engineer in 1981. In typical fashion, IBM seems to have picked just the right person, at just the right time, without drama and with little fanfare, despite the historic significance.