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Record Corporate Profits Are Not Lowering Unemployment Rate

In Uncategorized on November 14, 2011 at 6:00 am

U.S. corporations are making record profits quarter after quarter, yet unemployment seems to be stuck at a devastatingly high rate. Why aren’t these financially flush big businesses hiring?

I’ve been writing a string of blogs about how tax debts are dealt with in bankruptcy, and I’ll get back to that after today. But this is the time of year when the nation’s major corporations report their 3rd quarter profits, and so I found myself scratching my head about the disconnect between their huge profits and their lack of hiring. So I read a number of news stories and editorials, and this is what I got out of them:

1.  Big businesses have gotten to be more “productive,” in the sense of producing more goods and services with less labor. That has happened partly through investments in labor-saving technology and partly by requiring employees to work harder and faster for the same pay. With the cut-throat labor market, companies don’t need to increase salaries to retain or replace their employees.

2.  Profits have increased because a larger percentage of sales for large U.S. corporations have been overseas. Around 40 per cent of their profits are from foreign sales. For many companies, sales are growing modestly in the U.S. while growing much faster elsewhere, especially in the “emerging markets” of China, India, and South America.

3.  Relatively strong overseas sales come with job growth overseas instead of here. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, in the past decade, U.S.-based multi-national corporations added 2.4 million jobs outside the country while cutting 2.4 million jobs here. Jobs naturally grow where sales are growing–someone has to take customer orders at the 3,000+ KFCs in China! But of course there’s also increased foreign outsourcing of work that used to be done here, from manufacturing to computer programming.

4. Normally when businesses are more productive, resulting in more profits, they tend to expand, thus creating more employment opportunities. But this has not been happening for three reasons.

a. With the double-whammy of very high unemployment and loss of home values, U.S. consumers either don’t have the means or the attitude to spend money, so companies are leery about expanding to increase production.

b. The international business environment—particularly the European sovereign debt crises in Greece, Italy and elsewhere—is making big business cautious.

c. Political gridlock in Washington, D.C. makes business planning very difficult. With the Congressional deficit-reduction “super committee” scheduled to issue its report very shortly, big businesses have been sitting tight to see if this “super committee” will come up with its momentous compromise, and what it’ll consist of.

The bottom line: big businesses don’t need to hire to produce the goods and services they are producing, at least within the U.S., and they don’t want to expand and hire here because of lackluster consumer demand and high uncertainty in the world economy and in domestic politics.

– Patrick J. Conway, attorney. http://www.patrickconwaylaw.com

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  1. On an annual basis, the available job pool in the corporate world is shrinking by 3-5% every year. At the same time we are continuing in the US to train people to work in this system creating a declining job pool, with more people being trained to fill jobs that are disappearing creating huge unemployment. So why are we continuing to train people for jobs that won’t exist? Today the unemployment rate is running around 7.8%, but if we calculate that number in a real sense the number is closer to 15%. How you ask? We don’t count someone as unemployed if they haven’t looked for a job during the last 30 days. Tell that to those who can’t find a job in their field who are unemployed by the true definition…

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