Thursday, May 26, 2011
Their families begged and borrowed, often digging deep into retirement savings, to get their sons and daughters through college, unable to tap that once traditional source of paying for college – home equity. The students themselves also have mortgaged themselves up to their eyeballs with student loans (the median debt is $20,000 for under grads), worming their way through cutbacks, larger classrooms and insufficient course offerings. Now, with degrees in hand, those that did not press on for more advanced degrees, have had almost a year to generate that golden result: a job. The spring of 2011 is a good time to see how they fared.
In the pre-recession days of 2006-2008, the average annual starting salary for a new college grad was still a modest $30,000. For the scions of 2010, it was 10% less, $27,000… for those who found a job. The May 18th New York Times reports that while the pre-recession job placement put 90% of the relevant graduating classes into jobs, 2010 fared a lot worse: 56%. What’s sad even about those who found employment, the jobs they got only really required a college degree about half the time; college grads were taking work away from those who simply graduated high school, even though there was no differentiation in skill required. The unemployment rates and levels of compensation for new high school grads entering the job market are even worse, according to the Times.
Not all educational paths produced the same results: “Young graduates who majored in education and teaching or engineering were most likely to find a job requiring a college degree, while area studies majors — those who majored in Latin American studies, for example — and humanities majors were least likely to do so. Among all recent education graduates, 71.1 percent were in jobs that required a college degree; of all area studies majors, the share was 44.7 percent.
“An analysis by The New York Times of Labor Department data about college graduates aged 25 to 34 found that the number of these workers employed in food service, restaurants and bars had risen 17 percent in 2009 from 2008, though thesample size was small. There were similar or bigger employment increases at gas stations and fuel dealers, food and alcohol stores, and taxi and limousine services.” NY Times.
Students are struggling more than ever to service their student loans, while others are coming to the realization that without further specialized advanced (and expensive) degrees, a college education doesn’t mean much these days. Other young people are simply dropping out and moving back home to spend their time in depressed self-examination, giving up the job search in hopes of better times ahead. This wasn’t the life they were promised as they grew up.
The long term impact of an unskilled job or a particularly low pay level is unfortunately significant: “Those who do not go back to school may be on a lower-paying trajectory for years. They start at a lower salary, and they may begin their careers with employers that pay less on average or have less room for growth… ‘Their salary history follows them wherever they go,’ said Carl Van Horn, a labor economist at Rutgers. ‘It’s like a parrot on your shoulder, traveling with you everywhere, constantly telling you ‘No, you can’t make that much money.’” ”
“And while young people who have weathered a tough job market may shy from risks during their careers, the best way to nullify an unlucky graduation date is to change jobs when you can, says Till von Wachter, an economist at Columbia [University].” NY Times. Is the class of 2010 destined to become part of a bitter and lost generation? Is this the hidden explanation about why even the gradual improvement in the Dept. of Labor’s unemployment rates isn’t really showing too much in the way of significant recovery at the consumer level?
I’m Peter Dekom, just keeping it real.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
People are dying, lives are being crushed, homes and businesses demolished and entire communities are wiped off the map in seconds. Twisters are nothing new to the United States, particularly the vast plains states. What is new the ferocity and sheer numbers of powerful tornadoes slamming into American communities, even beyond their traditional target areas. It helps to understand historically how they have impacted the United States, how they are formed and what seems to have changed.
To start, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) National Weather Service (part of the U.S. Department of Commerce) provides this basic information: “Although tornadoes occur in many parts of the world, these destructive forces of nature are found most frequently in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains during the spring and summer months. In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide, resulting in 80 deaths and over 1,500 injuries. A tornado is defined as a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Once a tornado in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, carried a motel sign 30 miles and dropped it in Arkansas !
“Thunderstorms develop in warm, moist air in advance of eastward-moving cold fronts. These thunderstorms often produce large hail, strong winds, and tornadoes. Tornadoes in the winter and early spring are often associated with strong, frontal systems that form in the Central States and move east. Occasionally, large outbreaks of tornadoes occur with this type of weather pattern. Several states may be affected by numerous severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
“During the spring in the Central Plains, thunderstorms frequently develop along a ‘dryline,’ which separates very warm, moist air to the east from hot, dry air to the west. Tornado-producing thunderstorms may form as the dryline moves east during the afternoon hours.” But on Sunday, May 22nd, one single tornado in Joplin, Missouri inflicted more deaths – 122 to be precise – than the average annual fatalities for the entire United States. In NOAA parlance, the Joplin storm was an EF-5 generating winds as fast as 200+ miles per hour. And the twisters just kept coming, with 13 more fatalities days later in tornado attacks in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Tornado warnings have been issued for east coast regions and parts of the south where such weather patterns are hardly typical. What’s happening here?
The May 25th Los Angeles Times put the question to some very credible meteorologists: “Warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico moved north until it encountered cold air brought south by the jet stream. When the warm and cold air from different altitudes come together, it creates wind shear and circular air motions that lead to a tornado… The air from the south was unusually warm and moist for this time of year, according to Stu Ostro, a senior meteorologist at the Weather Channel. Some experts say this is because waters in the gulf are about 2 degrees warmer than normal for this time of year.” Warmer water in the Gulf is also a precursor to stronger, more virulent hurricanes, not a particularly welcome sign for the coming season.
The Jet Stream, which generally carries cooler air, has move southward just as Gulf water temperatures have risen significantly. This has proven to be a deadly combination. It’s too soon to declare that this confluence of twisters is the result of global climate change heating up the Gulf, but we should keep our eye on this region to see if a longer-term pattern is evolving. If so, that would be strong evidence of such global warming: “It is impossible to link specific storms and weather events toclimate change. But one of the predictions of the climate change models is that we'll be in for more intense storms as average global temperatures climb. That is what appears to be happening, both in summer and in winter.” LA Times.
I’m Peter Dekom, and human beings live on this planet as a guest of Mother Nature, and sometimes she can be a brutal hostess.