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Monday, 9 June 2008

Nice summer days and the economy

My posts are getting fewer and further between on these nice summer days. Sadly the problems in the financial markets show no sign of abating. Although short term money seems to have stabalised and the banks are slowly getting through the initial problems of the credit crunch, market instability remains.

It is quite amazing to see oil prices shoot up by $10 in one day, all on the back of a statement by the ECB that it might have to raise interest rates. Longer-term borrowing rates have also been rising rapidly over the past month following the release of the Bank of England's inflation report, which has highlighted that inflation will remain well above target for some time.

In the next few months the slowdown in the economy will become increasingly apparent. Unemployment, as measured by the claimant count, actually rose in the first quarter, despite what the intial stats were telling us. This will continue to rise over the next two quarters, at least. Higher oil, food and mortgage costs will prevent households from spending, harming the retail industry. Business in general will be hit by higher borrowing costs and the slowdown in the general economy.

All in all things are looking fairly bleak for most of 2008. Until market fundamental return things will not get back to normal. Currently those working in the financial markets don't really know what's going on and therefore react aggresively to every new piece of data. Trichet at the ECB must have known this before his announcement last week - it seems strange that he would have mentioned his worries about the impact of higher inflation (significantly caused by high oil prices) and therefore pushing oil up even further in the process. I believe he should have waited and allowed a period of calm in the oil market, allowing for some sort of normality to return.

Finally I suggest that perhap it is time for the trading floors to calm down for the summer months and enjoy these nice hazy days. Perhaps taking a couple of months off to come back refreshed, rested and with hopefully a greater sense of calm and reality. Sadly this isn't likely, the only people in the City who are going to be enjoying the sun this summer are those that lose their jobs...there may well be quite a few of these people!

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Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Jobs and the economy in 2008 - an update

It may seem like the slowdown in the world economy is not having an impact upon the jobs market in the UK. This is probably true for now, but this doesn't mean it won't.

The first people who are likely to lose their jobs in the current slowdown are those working for the big banks. Another big bank, UBS, announced 5,500 worldwide job cuts this morning. These jobs cuts will be made over the next year through a process of redundancies, fewer job created and natural wastage. All in all it is estimated that banking jobs and those jobs supporting the banking sector will fall by between 20,000 and 40,000 in central London alone.

Wider job losses are likely to follow soon after. The next groups to suffer will be those working in the housing market. With fewer housing transactions there will be less work for estate agents and house builders.

Next as the housing market slows and as the price of day to day living increases, people are likely to be spending less at the shops. Retailers have already started to see sales falling in March and probably in April. Some retailers will go bust and jobs will be lost.

Jobs will gradually be lost from the wider economy. As activity slows there will be less business to do and less need for additional staff. Tighter margins will mean that cost saving measures will be necessary for many businesses, including cutting headcounts.

One upside is that manufacturing may fair slightly better than it has done in the recent past. The weak pound should help to make British manufacturing more competitive, helping to support manufactured exports. However, with the world economy slowing and Britains export partners suffering this is not guarenteed.

Although the labour market has remained resilient in the first few months of 2008, expect to see unemployment start to rise in the next few months. We are not going to see unemployment levels at a level comparative to the early 90s, but it is going to be quite unpleasant for many.

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Thursday, 18 October 2007

Try, try and try again

I am pleased to announce that a good friend of mine has recently got the job he's been looking for. This hasn't been an easy ride for him, it has taken him over six months to get to this point. However it has been worth it as he now has a job which he'll be happy to go to in the morning and should help him to progress in his career.

Although this method isn't for everyone, as certainly isn't an option if you aren't already working, it shows that there is merit in not panicing and taking the first job that comes your way when things aren't going your way. With hardwork, a little luck and percerverance you are very likely to get something that will make you happy.

Even in these days of growing economic uncertainty there remains a wide range of jobs out there for you to go and get. So read this site, get prepared and make sure when the job you really want comes around you're in the best place to go and get it.

If you do, then please help the rest of us out by sharing your interview experiences and questions on this site.

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Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Election time – unnecessary and bad for the jobs market.

Although we don’t know yet whether Gordon Brown will call an election to take place next month, it is becoming increasingly likely given the Labour Parties extensive leads in the polls. Gordon Brown doesn’t need to call an election until 2010 but it seems that he believes by calling it now he will be able to increase his majority and gain a mandate to rule.

Given the outlook for the economy this is probably the best time for Gordon to call an election. Although early signs of the economic slow down is starting to show in the crisis at Northern Rock, slowing house price growth and the loss of jobs in the City of London this has not yet had a significant impact upon the wider economy. As such, Gordon Brown, whose legacy is intrinsically entwined with the economy, is likely to face heavy criticism should the economic environment turn sour.

So what is the likely impact of an election on the labour market?

In the short term the election is unlikely to be good for the jobs market. Political uncertainty is never good for business investment and planning and as a result businesses will tend to slow their expenditure and put back decisions until after the election. Although this has a bigger effect in countries where the political divide is greater, such as France, it will have an impact, especially given the current economic environment of financial uncertainty.

In the longer term the outcome of the election will help to decide the impact on employment market. One risk is that the election will result in a hung parliament. If this is the case then the result could be political paralysis. The Liberal Democrats will eventually provide the support so a government can be formed, however, the decision making process will be significantly slower. Therefore if problems such as the current credit crunch start to have a much wider and deeper impact on the economy, the government of the day would be less able to act decisively to stem the decline. Again this situation adds to risk and uncertainty, making business less willing to invest in the United Kingdom, keeping their money in the bank or sending it elsewhere.

If either the Conservative Party or the Labour Party is elected with a majority then the outlook for the jobs market will be much better. (In my opinion this is a good case for the first past the post system, but that’s beside the point). Having a party that can act decisively reduces economic risk.

Both of the parties have relatively similar policies when it comes to the jobs market. Neither is proposing a massive hike in taxes, as the Liberal Democrats are, which would harm the economy as the highly skilled and the high net worth, which support and create jobs leave the country or become tax exiles.

The Conservative Party in the long term is likely to reduce the number of people that work in the public sector. Therefore as a result if you currently or looking to work in this sector, then your employment prospects might be diminished. Nevertheless this is not entirely a bad thing. If the reduction in public sector employment leads to lower taxation then this should stimulate economic growth as people have more money in their pockets to spend on other sectors in the economy.

Public sector employment also acts as a barrier to private sector employment. The public sector usurps markets and skilled employees from the private sector, and as a result hinders the growth of this sector. Without the hindrance of profit requirements and short-term cash flow needs the public sector can continue to operate despite its lower productivity compared to the private sector. Therefore, a slowing of public sector employment growth should help the private sector to flourish as it replaces the public sector. This private sector employment is likely to be of higher productivity with greater returns, which in turn will help to boost employment in the wider economy.

The outcome of the election is not a done deal, but nor is the outcome for the jobs market. There currently exists plenty of risk in the economy and the uncertainty of an election in both the short and the long-terms may act to unsettle to economy further. This election is a purely political act, as in many ways is not in the national interest, and could further weaken employment prospects.

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Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Sub-prime woes to hurt more than just the City Boys

To those who haven’t been around for the past couple of weeks the stock markets have been going through absolute turmoil. The fall out from the sub-prime lending market in the United States has had ramifications not only in the United States but across the global financial system. How long this crisis will last is yet to be seen and the wider outcome is yet to be known. However don’t be fooled into thinking this is not going to have an impact upon those outside the financial markets, it will.

To those who don’t know the current market turmoil has been created by a problem in the United States sub-prime mortgage market. The sub-prime mortgage market is where banks lend to people with a poor credit rating at a higher interest rate – in the hope of higher returns. However, the market became too loose and too overstretched. As base interest rates rose in the United States and the economy slowed, borrowers saw mortgage payments rise at a point when jobs were being cut and wage growth slowing. As a result defaults on mortgages increased rapidly.

So why didn’t the problem stop with the mortgage lenders? The problem has had wider consequences because those banks that lent in the sub-prime market packaged up some of this debt as a financial product and sold it to willing buyers in the international financial market. This was done as an insurance measure against widespread defaults. However, the selling of sub-prime mortgages went too far and rather than acting as an insurance against the risk, international financial markets have been pulled into the crisis.

The result is that financial markets have seen billions of dollars wiped off them in August. Several hedge funds have been closed and many of the major banks have suffered huge losses. This crisis has also led to a steep drop in confidence. Banks are no-longer willing to take the risk and lend to one another. As a result this has created a credit crunch where investors have not been able to borrow credit and as a result of a falling credit supply the cost of borrowing has risen rapidly. The Fed, the European Central Bank and other major banks have reacted strongly by cutting interest rates and by pumping credit into the markets. This has helped to temporarily stabilise markets but volatility remains high and no-one is yet saying things are in the clear.

Looking forward to the rest of the year and into 2008 it seems likely that the impact of the sub-prime market will run on and on in a number of different forms. Businesses are likely to find it increasingly difficult to find credit, especially the cheap credit they’ve been used to in recent years. This will reduce the ability of businesses to expand and capitalise on opportunities as and when they arise. Consequently business activity will be reduced, which will hit GDP growth.

The reduction in business activity will also hit employees. The first people hit are likely to be the City Boys who are not going to see the same bonus payments they have become used to. It has already been estimated that city bonuses may be reduced by up to 20 per cent in 2007. Jobs in financial services are also likely to suffer, with slowing headcount additions and even with a net loss of jobs.

However, with slowing business activity and reduced consumer demand from those working in financial services, the impact will be felt by every sector of the economy. There are few that will not be affected by the current financial crisis; jobs will be lost in all sectors. Those businesses which are not able to grow will not be able to increase the amount they spend on suppliers.

Those thinking that the sub-prime mortgage crisis is something that only those working in finance need worry about should think twice. Get ready for higher unemployment, slower wage growth and ultimately a difficult couple of years.

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