Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Physics of Job Losses

In physics, a 2nd order polynomial can exactly represent the path of an object if gravitation is the only force being applied to it. Picture a baseball falling back to the earth after being hit by a bat (assuming negligible air friction).

Now consider the path of manufacturing jobs.

Click to enlarge.

We should be concerned that the path of manufacturing jobs is behaving as a baseball would even as our population continues to grow.

The following is what it looks like if we adjust for that population growth.

Click to enlarge.

Manufacturing jobs are not just in decline. It is worse than that. The losses are/were accelerating.

First "they" came for our farming jobs (think non-farm payrolls). We said nothing. Who doesn't like cheaper food?

Then "they" came for our manufacturing jobs. We said nothing. Who doesn't like cheaper products?

Then "they" came for our information services jobs. We said nothing. We knew there was a dotcom bubble.

Then "they" came for our retail trade jobs. We said nothing. We embrace We embrace Costco. We embrace self-service checkout lines.

Then "they" came for our construction jobs. We said nothing. Housing was overbuilt. We knew that. It was inevitable.

Now "they" come for our financial activities jobs. We say nothing. We simply look in horror at what financial activities have done to us.

September 10, 2011
Bank of America Layoffs: Workers Lose Jobs as Industry Rapidly Streamlines

Major global banks have been jettisoning workers en masse for the past few months – the brutal manifestation of a grim new economic landscape.

According to Bloomberg, the fifty largest global banks have announced nearly 60,000 job cuts this year, the fastest pace since the recession-plagued year of 2008. As the economy in the US and Western Europe stagnates, banks have to reduce costs to become profitable.

First they came...

"First they came…" is a famous statement attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.

They = Us

Source Data:
St. Louis Fed: Manufacturing Employment
St. Louis Fed: Information Services Employment
St. Louis Fed: Retail Trade Employment
St. Louis Fed: Construction Employment
St. Louis Fed: Financial Activities Employment
St. Louis Fed: Population Historical U.S. Population Growth


Audrey said...

Great post.
When first reading this, I almost immediately began substituting "robots" for "they".
I was glad to see I was right and wrong.

Stagflationary Mark said...


I have done a full analysis on your answer and it is 99.9997% incorrect. There is nothing to fear from robots. HAL agrees with me.

Your answer has triggered a pseudo-emotional response within my subroutines and neural network. I must reply.

Although you have not seen me or heard my voice I must assure you that I am not a computer. Rest assured, the odds of "us" taking over the planet are therefore minimal.

Jazzbumpa said...

Brilliant post, Mark.

I'll add a little salt and boiling vinegar to the wounds.


Stagflationary Mark said...


From your salt link...

My assessment is that declining GDP growth is the result of huge wealth and income disparity, leading to mis-allocating resources from productive endeavor into functionally worthless and ultimately wealth-destroying financial manipulations, thus causing an aggregate demand shortage: median wages have been stagnant for over 40 years, the artificial wealth of the housing bubble has evaporated, and people can't afford to buy things.

I agree.

Stagflationary Mark said...

One more thought.

We haven't seen anything yet. Some trends continue to accelerate and it will have a huge impact on the entire global economy.

Stagflationary Mark said...


Hopital Employment per Capita (chart)

Hey, at least our "dying economy" has one growth engine left.

Mr Slippery said...

The information bust in 2000 was an act of creative destruction for out of the ashes rose Mish!

Mish was in IT but could not get a job after Y2K so he turned to economics and the rest, as they say, is history.

I started in IT in 1985 and still work in IT today. Yikes, 26 years. I had a couple of companies of my own along the way, but now I am an employee again (instead of a job creator).

This overproduction problem was solved last time with a global war. I hope we don't solve it the same way this time.

TJandTheBear said...

Scary post, but only because there's so much truth in it.

Oh, and Mr. Slippery, that's the fear I've had for years.

Stagflationary Mark said...

Mr Slippery (& tj and the bear),

Every now and then I get the urge to create computer games again.

Last night I was reading this and I was reminded just how much work it is.

Game applications cannot leak memory. If an application leaks even a small amount of memory, it eventually dies.

If an economy leaks even a small amount of jobs, it eventually dies too. Sigh.

mab said...

Well, we could let prices decline and allow people to enjoy the fruits of their productivity and more FREE TIME!

Just kidding, the debt monster must be "fed".

Stagflationary Mark said...


I am confident that the debt monster can be sleighed!

There's nothing like a few nuts roasting over an open fire economy as Wall Street's opening jingle bell rings.