Monday, August 8, 2011

Hawaii 5-0

Thursday was a special day.  No, Kim K did not get married.  It was President Obama’s 50th birthday. This is a big number, considering 50 years is half a century.  What did you do to celebrate the momentous occasion?  The media acknowledged the big day by making his gray hair transformation a news story (with a lovely accompanying photo montage).  Certainly this was a very nice way to mark the occasion.  Hi, you're old and gray.  Welcome to "over the hill".  Heartwarming.

50 seems to be a good age to assess how you're doing in life.  Are you on the path you thought you would be?  Did you accomplish all you wanted and dreamed for?  It is around this age people either seem to become wholly satisfied with their contribution to society or have a mid-life crisis (this is a boon for dealerships selling small luxury convertibles with seats designed to just fit middle-age men, although certainly the auto industry appreciates any boost in demand).  In the grand scheme of things, we might guess President Obama fits in the former over the latter category.

Besides possibly the most famous job in the world, President Obama has quite a resume.  He's worn several career hats in his 50 years, most notably "lawyer" and "community activist" (if he got paid for it, it is a job).  In fact, he is not alone.  Most people wear multiple career hats throughout their working years (and contrary to popular belief, there is no average number on how many).  Our career movements adjust with our preferences and the supply/demand dynamics of the labor market.

Of late, the labor market in the U.S. has not been overly cooperative.  Jobs have been hard to come by.  But on Friday one economic indicator gave President Obama a nice birthday gift: some thawing in recent months of labor market freeze.  On Friday, data shows payroll jobs increased by 117,000 in July, with private jobs increasing by 154,000.  Revised figures for June and May also show gains were higher than originally reported, with the economy actually adding 100,000 more jobs over those months.  The thawing comes from the fact that job gains were seen across manufacturing and services (even construction added a few jobs).  Government was the only major job loser in July.

The lack of a full out Hawaii heat wave, however, stems from the fact that there is still not enough job gains to help the unemployment rate.   One still chilly spot in the jobs report was the increase in "discouraged" workers (up by 137,000 people, or 14%) who were no longer counted in the labor force (they gave up on looking for work).  Hopefully they were just on beach week and will bring some heat back with them in the coming months.

We can only hope that by the time we're 50 years old we fall in same "life satisfaction" category as President Obama.  We also hope we get better birthday presents. 

(Bureau of Labor Statistics)

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