Getting Jobbed: They Still are Not Listening to Us

Jobs! Jobs! JOBS!

How loudly does the public have to scream this to policy makers before they begin to listen?

We've spent the last six months focused more on health care reform than job creation; at minimum, the latter should have had equal time.

Now, as more job losses are reported, the federal government once again appears focused on job killing measures. Whether the goal is to reduce ozone or carbon, we can expect more burdens on the job creators at a time when they are crying: Enough!

The shame of it is that a strong economy might be there for the taking. Witness the profound disconnect between how businesses and consumers view the economy. In the first week of January, there was very good news on the all-important metric of consumer confidence, yet the December jobs report, also released last week, was unexpectedly disappointing.

First, the encouraging news: The Conference Board and the Pew Research Center report that most people (59 percent) think the forthcoming decade — which starts in 2011, by the way — will be better than the "Oh-Ohs." Near term, The Conference Board Consumer Confidence index rose in both November and December, and now stands at 52.9, and the short-term Expectations Index increased to 75.6 from 70.3 last month. That's the highest level since December of 2007, when the Index stood at 75.8.

In a humming economy, the Index reads at least 90, so we're creeping back up to righteous levels.

In addition, the percentage of consumers expecting more jobs to become available in forthcoming months increased from 15.8% to 16.2%. Those expecting fewer jobs decreased to 23.1% (from 20.7%).

Unfortunately, U.S. employers (aka the real job creators) don't share that view, at least not yet. Following a November in which revised numbers showed that 4,000 jobs were actually created, many expected another net job increase in December. Instead, the economy shed a higher-than-expected 85,000 jobs. Worse yet, the government reported that a stunning 661,000 discouraged people left the labor force last month because they could not find work. As a result, the underemployment rate now stands at 17.3%, even though the official unemployment rate remained at 10%.

What to make of this?

Very simple. American consumers, likely encouraged by now revised third quarter economic growth of 2.2%, have a glimmer of hope that is not shared by the people who run businesses — people who pay close attention to what government is doing to them. Instead of placing additional burdens on business, government at all levels should partner with them. Failure to do that will not only bring continued woe on the job front, but it eventually will erode consumer confidence as well.

Since optimistic consumer expectations generally have a positive ripple effect on the economy, it's an ideal time to emphatically steer the economy around the recovery corner with more business-friendly government policies that can validate this optimism. Instead private sector incentives, we keep hearing about more government-imposed costs for everything from ozone to carbon.

This isn't rocket science, folks. From economic history, we know what works and what doesn't. Unless the people who hold elected office abandon these job-killing measures, or find a more affordable and realistic ways to meet environmental goals, look for the voters to find new dance partners this fall.

Sign up for the free IB Update — your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices and the names you need to know. Click here.