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H1N1 The Economic Impact

Remember H1N1 (Swine Flu) in 2009? Yes, I was writing back then (and I was unemployed), so I present this as a historical piece for your enjoyment. Did we learn a lot to help COVID? Well, maybe not.

I am talking about the microeconomics view of the H1N1 Pandemic. What will future superbug and flu outbreaks do to our economy? I am not sure.

I have already noticed some exciting things that are occurring in the name of the Pandemic of ’09:

  • The Upper Canada School board has closed their school’s gyms off hours (for non school events) to slow the Flu’s progress. This is an interesting one, are they then going to lock students up next? This means community groups’ meetings and events are being cancelled or postponed.
  • More folks are taking sick leave than before. Are that many folks sick now, or is it that folks who normally would have come into work are feeling the pressure to stay home because of the Pandemic? Not sure what the answer to that question is but I view this as a positive thing, less sick people at work or at school is a very good thing.
  • People are coughing into their elbows, which is very interesting to watch, but I am not sure it is very safe when you are driving. What about those folks who are doing elbow bumps instead of handshakes? Are they inadvertently passing the Virus on?
  • No one is talking about how bad the economy is, because they like to argue about whether or not to get vaccinated, which is good as well. Fewer people talking about the economy is a good thing (now), hopefully it won’t cause anybody to buy Canada Savings bonds (yikes).
  • People are missing work and school to get vaccinated, even though they are not in a High Risk group. I have a problem with that, if there are folks who SHOULD be getting the vaccine and they aren’t that is wrong (my opinion).

Will this somehow stall the recovery (of 2009)? Not sure, but there will be ramifications at the micro-level with more and more folks taking sick leave.

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Job Hunting Update

Part of the log I kept during my year of unemployment after being laid off from Nortel, in 2008.

For those following on with my saga of looking for a new job, this week is my last pay cheque from my former employer. As of September 30th I will receive my severance and officially be unemployed, which is starting to cause a little bit of apprehension on my part, the entire looking for a new career thing is frustratingly slow at times, and it is very easy to get into a “funk” thinking things are just not going to happen, but I have learned a few important things.

Networking is Key

Very few people find and land new jobs simply by applying to jobs on job boards, or in newspapers. Unless you have a killer resume, which somehow slides through every screening program, you are going to find your next job through contacts, friends, former co-workers or people you meet through those contacts.  No, you should not be walking up and down your street with a sandwich sign saying, “Looking for work!”, however, you should be talking to people in your Network about jobs and where they think there might be jobs, and who they know.

From my network, I have already got an interview at one of the companies I have targeted as a good place to work, and others are going to follow. I have also been given other contacts from these friends, so my network is expanding with new people that are going to help me find that new job.

Don’t Panic

That is good advice for many reasons right now. The whole economic condition seems to be going into the toilet these days, with stocks and such, but just like in the stock market, in job hunting, you can’t panic either. It’s good to appear interested and a little nervous at an interview, but if you show up and can’t string two sentences together without sounding like a blithering idiot, that is not going to help much.

Fear is a good motivator, but it cannot take over your thinking processes. Selling all your stock right now may not be the best thing to do (unless you are holding some very dubious stocks), suddenly making a career change, simply because you haven’t had any interviews, is also maybe not the best thing in the job hunting world.

Big decisions like changing your career need to be thought out and not simply jumped at because you think your old skill set is unusable or is not going to get you a job.

Relax, take it easy and keep a positive attitude, is all I can advise, for both your finances and for job hunters.

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Employment the Same but Unemployment Up?

Yes, Stats Canada asks the interesting question, “Is it possible to have the rate of folks employed stay the same, but the rate of unemployed folks increase?”, the answer this month is “Yes”. How? Read the article to get that explained to you.

For me there was some good news:

Employment continued to grow in professional, scientific and technical services in June (+37,000). From a year ago, employment in the industry has grown by 7.5%, an increase of 86,000 workers. The biggest contributors to this year-over-year increase have been computer design services and legal services.

Which makes an old hacker like me feel a little better these days. Unemployment now sits at 6.2% up 0.1 over last month’s figures.

 

The one really interesting point made was the following:

Since June 2007, average hourly wages have risen by 4.4% to $21.15. This rate of growth is double that of the most recent increase in the Consumer Price Index (+2.2%).

Wages are out stripping CPI? So how are the employers going to deal with this? Increasing prices? This is how things started in the 70’s if I remember correctly. Stay tuned, but it should be interesting to see what big Union contracts come up and what settlements come of that as well.

Have a great weekend folks.

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Snow and Aging Workforces

More snow in Ottawa, seems like a broken record, but I think I have got my per use costs on my snowblower down to around $6.00 per use, but I also may have to buy another 10 litres of gas because I am running out. My guess is there is going to be much more snow coming and I am astounded we have anywhere to put the darn stuff.

Financially for the city of Ottawa it means more likely an overrun in their snow clearance budget (that they have been able to use as a “slush fund” (sorry for the pun) the past few years). This will most likely mean higher taxation coming (along with ludicrously higher water rates too).

The Aging Workforce

Stats Canada published Canada’s Changing Labor Force 2006 report and it is an interesting read.


Census data also showed that the aging of Canada’s labour force continued between
2001 and 2006. In 2006, workers aged 55 and older accounted for 15.3% of the total
labour force, up from 11.7% in 2001.

Why do I care? I am heading into that area very soon, and I keep wondering what is really going to happen when all of these folks “retire”? My suspicion is they really won’t retire, they will just change careers and become part time employees or something like that. There will be a shortage of trained folks in a lot of areas, but my opinion is it won’t be as bad initially, because a lot of those folks are just going to “scale back” work, and not actually stop working.

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Update

Updated, from the 2016 Census, even more aging workers. Results from the 2016 Census: Occupations with older workers , and an interesting graphic.

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How do we measure happiness as part of the economy?

The French President Nicolas Sarkozy is asking that very question. How can the economic measures done include the relative happiness of the populous in the economic growth ?

Interesting question but who cares? If there is economic growth the relative happiness of any single worker has very little to do with any of this, that is the nature of the free market system. I am not saying that employers and governments should not care about happiness of workers in their companies or their countries, what I am saying, is: They don’t. The only time the relative happiness of employees or workers ever comes into play is when there is a scarcity of those employees and then the Employers must then make sure their employees are happy (to retain them).

Case in Point

Over my thirty years working various jobs my best examples of what makes people happy is simply whether they get good pay raises,whether their direct boss or the people they work with are good to work with, and whether they enjoy their direct job. I have been lucky in that most of my bosses have been reasonable folk and the folk I work with the same, so my only “happiness” monitor was and is money.

How do I make more money? I really don’t know. Years when I think I have been effective, I have had little or no pay raise, years where I feel I have failed I have been rewarded highly (and vice versa). If someone could train me in how to increase my Happiness by increasing my income, I’d be even happier. If anyone cares to comment on getting a raise, I am interested in hearing your Happiness and Pay Raise stories.

Anecdote

Two years in a row I went into my “pay adjustment” discussions with my boss expecting raises and both times I got not much:

  • The first year my company had not done very well and the stock had dropped a fair amount and the statement I got from my boss at the time was, “How can you expect a raise look at the stock price?
  • The next year, the same boss and I went into our adjust meeting, the stock had rebounded the company was doing much better and when I asked about why my raise was about the same as the previous lean year, given the stock price had rebounded, I got the statement, “The Stock Price, has nothing to do with your relative pay raise“.

Bosses say the darndest things don’t they?

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