Sunday, December 13, 2009

All Aboard...

When I decided to go into business for myself 35 years ago, I had more than a few concerns about whether or not I was making the right decision. Two of those concerns were what I was going to do about health insurance and retirement. As soon as I figured out that for all practical intents and purposes I was never going to have what most would consider acceptable health insurance, and that I was probably never going to retire, it took a lot of the pressure off.

Regardless of the wisdom of that decision, we have managed to survive so far, through a few wide spread economic recessions, and more than a few personal economic depressions, owing greatly, I realize, to the fact that my wife works three jobs. I have friends that I went to school with over forty years ago that are retired. I also have friends that I went to school with over forty years ago that are looking for a job.

I have noticed over the years that some jobs seem to weather a recession better than others. Bars seem to do alright. Uncle Fred used to say that people drink to celebrate good times and forget hard times. Maybe that's why.

Government jobs seem to hold their own pretty well, too. Sometimes they even get better. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (I don't know how many people work there), while the private sector was losing almost 4 million jobs last year, the government gained 150,000. While opinions vary on how private sector jobs will fare in the next couple of years, there seems to be a widespread consensus that new federal programs will require about 450,000 new public sector jobs by 2013.

Along with adding employees, the government is also increasing wages. According to an article by Dennis Cauchon in USA TODAY :

"The number of federal workers earning six-figure salaries has exploded during the recession, according to a USA TODAY analysis of federal salary data.

Federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession's first 18 months — and that's before overtime pay and bonuses are counted.

Federal workers are enjoying an extraordinary boom time — in pay and hiring — during a recession that has cost 7.3 million jobs in the private sector.

The highest-paid federal employees are doing best of all on salary increases. Defense Department civilian employees earning $150,000 or more increased from 1,868 in December 2007 to 10,100 in June 2009, the most recent figure available.

When the recession started, the Transportation Department had only one person earning a salary of $170,000 or more. Eighteen months later, 1,690 employees had salaries above $170,000."


He goes on to add that "The growth in six-figure salaries has pushed the average federal workers pay to $71,206, compared with $40,331 in the private sector." That doesn't include the annual federal benefits of more than $41,000.

On the other hand, the number of private sector jobs is now at or below the 1999 level, and falling. And with the added burden of all the money the private sector is going to have to kick in to pay for the new government jobs and spending, it doesn't appear many new jobs will be created in the private sector anytime soon.

I guess that leaves those people looking for a job with fewer options. You could get on the wagon and go to work for the government. You could start a business and create your own job, or you could hang around the private sector until someone retires and get a job so you can help pull the wagon.

Or you could buy a bar. You'll still have to pull the wagon, but at least there will always be someone there to help.

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