Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Job Market Fundamentals

Last Friday, the latest job report showed that the US economy created only 54000 jobs in May 2011. This report obviously sent shock waves throughout the media. It is worth noting that 62000 of those jobs were created by McDonalds.

Combine the data with the trend of rising jobless claims (which bottomed in late April 2011 at 393000, 4 week moving average), falling consumer confidence, and the latest poll showing that 57% think the recovery hasn't started yet, and we see a strong indication that the bear market rally in the job market is getting exhausted. With the May 2011 numbers, the economy has created around 1.8 million jobs starting in January 2010 -- close to a 23.6% fibonacci retracement of the 8.4 million jobs that were lost from 2007 - 2009.

Before I go into forecasting the future of the job market, I'll bring up a historical perspective of the job market starting from the lows of the Great Depression in 1932. The easiest way to look at the strength of job market fundamentals is to look at it from the perspective of how easy or hard it is for people to support a family. It turns out that the difficulty level of raising a family is related to where we are in the Elliott Wave sequence. This all comes back to the fact that the job market follows the stock market.

1932 - 1937, Cycle wave I

"First waves in bull markets are seen as a recognition of survival and a new beginning."

During this time, the New Deal was unfolding as the FDR Administration launched a number of large scale initiatives aimed at putting people back to work. The FDR Administration passed the Fair Labor Standard Act (which sets a minimum wage at the federal level), the Glass-Steagall Act (increased regulation on banks), raised taxes on the rich and upper class, and implemented Social Security.

Job market fundamentals increased during this period. The chasm between the rich and middle class steadily narrowed over time due to tax hikes on the wealthy and the creation of unions that gave people increased bargaining power. The middle class grew stronger during this period. Living wage and family wage jobs increased in abundance during this period.

1942 - 1966, Cycle wave III

"Third waves in bull markets are characterized by breadth and strong momentum."

During this period, unions were strong and the middle class prospered. During this time, there was a strong productive capacity and many participated in the benefits of economic growth. Family wage jobs were abundant during that time and it was relatively easy to support a family. The chasm between the rich and the middle class remained constant with CEO's making around 40 times the wage of the typical worker. During this period, tax rates on the upper class and the rich went as high as 91%, which created a strong incentive for corporations and businesses to reinvest most of their profits into infrastructure.

The middle class peaked in 1966. The poverty rate in the United States reached its lowest point during the end of this period.

1974 - 2000, Cycle wave V

"Fifth waves in bull markets are less dynamic than third waves and are characterized by decreasing breadth and momentum over time. Optimism reaches lofty levels."

The early phase of this period is easily associated with the advent of "trickle down economics" and "voodoo economics" during the Reagan Administration Period. The first tax cuts for the rich and upper class were passed during the Reagan Administration Period in 1981. In the years that followed, more tax cuts were implemented in 2000 and 2001 during the Bush 43 Administration Period. Unions were steadily weakened and the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed in 1999. The implementation of NAFTA in 1994 opened the door for corporations to outsource jobs to low wage nations on the globe.

During the early part of the period (1974 - 1987), it was still easy to support a family. As the period progressed, job market fundamentals weakened as creation of family wage jobs slowed. The chasm between the middle class and the rich steadily widened, with CEO's making 300 times the wage of the typical worker by 2000. By 1994, it became much harder to support a family and it became necessary for both parents to work to make ends meet. Living wage jobs continued to be abundant during this period.

This was a time where people focused on finance to get rich, with a much smaller number of people benefiting from economic growth.

In 2000, we ended a Grand Supercycle degree advance, ushering in a major depression in the economy.

The first phase of the major depression is "The Great Deflation", which is mostly characterized as a severe deflationary collapse in the economy. "The Great Deflation" is associated with Supercycle wave (a) and spans from 2000 to 2021.

2000 - 2002, Cycle wave a

The economy stopped creating family wage jobs in 2000. This represents the first leg down in the massive bear market. This period heralds the start of a 300 year event (by comparison, the Great Depression is a 75 year event), a Grand Supercycle degree bear market and its associated economic decline, classified as a major depression.

The dot-com bubble imploded during this period, which helped stop the creation of family wage jobs.

2002 - 2007, Cycle wave b

"B waves are even weaker than fifth waves in both breadth and momentum and are characterized by complacency, aggressive euphoria, and denial."

This period is where the chasm between the rich and the working class reached unimaginable levels, with the CEO to worker wage ratio reaching 1600 to 1 by the end of the period. The economy is no longer creating family wage jobs. A moderate amount of living wage jobs (up to $50,000 a year in 2010 dollars) were created during this time interval. It became difficult to support a family during this period even with both parents working. Many families tapped into their home equity to keep their heads above water and many families racked up a lot of credit card debt. Outsourcing of jobs to China and India accelerated during this time.

2007 - 2021, Cycle wave c

"C waves in bear markets are devastating in their destruction."

Oct 2007 - Mar 2009, Primary wave [1]

The so-called "Great Recession" is identified as Primary wave [1] of a much larger corrective period. This is a moderate strength downward impulse and the second leg down overall. The economy lost 8.4 million jobs during this time interval. Job losses started out slow and then accelerated, reaching 800,000 a month in the closing months of 2008 and the opening months of 2009. The unemployment rate reached 17% (U6) by the end of this period with job seekers outnumbering job openings by 6 to 1.

Mar 2009 to May 2011 (?), Primary wave [2]

Job market fundamentals are even weaker than during 2002 - 2007. Economic fundamentals are so weak that the creation of living wage jobs has stopped. Over 90% of jobs that were created during this time interval are low-wage service and retail jobs. The one event that exemplifies this period more than anything else is one million people applying for 62000 job openings at McDonalds in May 2011. In the later part of the period, we saw the advent of businesses and corporations paying newly hired workers only 25% to 40% of the previous starting wage even as worker productivity reached unprecedented levels.

A total of 1.9 million jobs would be created during this period, close to a 23.6% fibonacci retracement of the previous losses. No living wage or family wage jobs were created during this period, with the highest paying jobs at $30000 a year in 2010 dollars. Unions were substantially weakened during this period. It became very hard to support a family during this period.

Additionally, we saw the advent of the long-term unemployed, which will be greatly amplified during Primary wave [3] down.

With the historical perspective on the job market and its underlying fundamentals, we are now in a position to forecast how the job market will shape up in the coming years and decades.

2011 - 2016, Primary wave [3]

After the completion of the bear market rally, the larger downtrend resumes. This is a very strong downward impulse with massive damage inflicted on the economy and job market. Even professions that were previously unaffected by the so-called "Great Recession" are hit with substantial job losses.

Businesses, corporations, governments at all levels, and even individuals are leveraged to the hilt with credit and debt. When debt defaults start unfolding on a massive scale, the result is a deflationary collapse unfolding with full force. The last time there was a major depression, over 90% of corporations folded due to a massive cascade of debt defaults. This will result in the loss of 36 million jobs, pushing the unemployment rate to 40% (U6) by the end of the period.

It will be almost impossible to support a family during this period. The last of the family wage jobs will be purged by 2015. It will be almost impossible for the unemployed to land a job as there will likely be over 30 job seekers for every job opening.

2017 - 2021, Primary wave [5]

After a short respite period, the larger downtrend resumes. By the end of this period, the unemployment rate reaches 60% (U6) with the last of the living wage jobs purged by 2020. The economy will have lost 70 million plus jobs by the end of "The Great Deflation".

Social Security, Medicare, unemployment benefits, and the minimum wage law will certainly be repealed by the Palin Administration in 2017. By the end of "The Great Deflation", only states that are solidly blue (such as Massachusetts and Vermont) will still have a minimum wage statute, along with unemployment benefits and a functional health care system.

Economic and living conditions will rapidly decline to the level of the 1930s by the end of "The Great Deflation" as tax revenue almost completely dry up at all levels of government. The ranks of the long-term unemployed (in the United States) will be larger than Germany in terms of population by 2021.

After "The Great Deflation" ends, a very long reprieve period commences. The period, the "Green Technology Age", is identified as Supercycle wave (b).

2021 - 2042, the "Green Technology Age"

This period is likely to be a larger version of 2002 - 2007. No family wage jobs are created during this period. Living wage jobs are created during the periods where fundamentals are strongest, namely in 2024 - 2027 and 2037 - 2040, which correspond to the Primary degree third waves of Cycle waves a (2021 - 2029) and c (2034 - 2042). It will be very hard, if not impossible, to support a family during this period, except for those in the top 2%.

A total of 45 million jobs will be created during this period, reducing the unemployment rate (U6) from 60% to 35%. The United States will have a full fledged Plutocracy during this period. Plutocracies are generally associated with large degree B waves within bear markets of Supercycle or larger degree. This is because the upper class and the rich generally peak during B waves.

Prosperity during this period will heavily depend on being able to go through "The Great Deflation" without getting financially wiped out.

The final phase of the major depression, Supercycle wave (c), is identified as "The Great Tribulation". The job market implodes again under the weight of massive debt defaults, which will eventually push the unemployment rate (U6) up to 75% by the end of the bear market. In addition to debt defaults, there will also be chronic resource shortages and global warming to contend with.

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