business news in context, analysis with attitude

The US Department of Labor said Friday that non-farm payrolls were down 247,000 in July – which was below the 275,000 decline that was expected. At the same time, the unemployment rate was down in July 0.1 percent to 9.4 percent – still a lot higher than the less than six percent reported just a year ago.

There remain concerns in some quarters that the unemployment rate could soon go above 10 percent, and that unemployment is likely to lag behind other indicators that the recession may be coming to an end.

My comment: The recession may end, but recession-minded consumers are not going to change their stripes anytime soon. The key for effective retailers is to maintain a short-term focus on value, but not to lose tough with the enduring values that make them different in the eyes of the consumer.

MNB user Tim Heyman responded:

My view is much simpler than this, the recession end when those 6.7 million are back working and not underemployed.

Agreed. No matter what the definition of a recession, that should be the mantra of every elected official in America.

Got an interesting email from Down Under:

I live in Australia, and have been unemployed for 10 weeks. Just as I was wondering if I was ever going to find something, I've been offered four great jobs (one after an interview, three on recommendation alone). These jobs would have been the types of jobs you'd fight for when times were good - so to have been offered them in the current environment I was truly blessed.

Even better, I've now been able to help out 2 others in my position - both ideal candidates that under normal economic conditions would not have been available.

I argue that now is the time for businesses to find the quantities of gold that have been cast aside for no good reason, other than cutbacks.

Excellent point. There are a lot of companies where there are labor cutbacks being enforced not because they are necessary for survival, but because a recession is a good excuse for cutting employees. For those companies that choose this moment to invest in people, I believe the long-term payoffs will be significant.

MNB user Andrew M. Casey wrote:

I have always been a glass half full kind of guy and the optimist in me wants to believe, but I just don't get these news reports lately about things getting better soon.

The reality is that almost 250,000 people lost their jobs last month (OK, a little better than expected but c'mon) and many of those will likely remain unemployed for some time because the pool of jobs keeps shrinking every month. Yes, unemployment took a small dip (good news) but primarily because many who lost their job months ago have exhausted their benefits and are no longer counted. And while I have no quarrel with the "cash for clunkers" program, any effect from it can only be short-lived because it is just too expensive to sustain (even for Congress).

I fervently hope and pray I am wrong but my gut tells me we may not even have seen the worst yet.

MNB took note on Friday of a Marketing Daily report that Bumble Bee Tuna is launching a new radio and in-store advertising campaign designed to hype the product’s value and meal versatility. MNB user Rick O’Hara responded:

I guess I’m getting old, but your blurb today about Bumblebee tuna launching an ad campaign brought to mind the Schooner Tuna campaign launched by Teri Garr in Mr. Mom (wayyyy back in 1983!). Life imitates art, you think?

“My fellow Americans. I am Howard Humphrey, President of Schooner Tuna. All of us here at Schooner Tuna sympathize will all of you hit so hard by these trying economic times. In order to help you we are reducing the price of Schooner Tuna by 50 cents a can. When this crisis is over, we will go back to our regular prices. Until then, remember, we’re all in this together. Schooner Tuna. The tuna with a heart.”

Rather bittersweet, because it also reminded me of the loss of John Hughes (who wrote “Mr. Mom”) this week.

Another MNB user chimed in on the loss of John Hughes:

Looking back, John Hughes was gifted, using his characters fully to create absolute hilarity. But an even bigger gift is a legacy of many films that truly reflected life in the Chicago area, a place he believed had reality other places like LA did not. He made visible the issues that were relevant with teens in the 80’s, getting along, awkwardness, social status and parents. He had his finger on the culture. Certainly those movies could have reflected life in many places around the country, but ask any Midwesterner about John Hughes and you’ll hear of subtleties and nuances in each movie they feel are truly theirs.

I said nice things about TV host Craig Ferguson in last Friday’s “OffBeat,” leading MNB user Christian Erzinger to write:

At the end of a long week, I read Friday's column. Your mention of the Late Show bit got me to check out Craig Ferguson. You are correct; I had forgotten how spot-on he can be. Of course I somehow traveled from the "I Figured It Out" spot to George Carlin (the magic of hyper-links). That is when the chuckles turned to tears from laughing so hard. Thanks for a good start to the weekend.

My pleasure.
KC's View: