Posts Tagged ‘economists’

David Brooks: Human Interconnection is Vital to Our Well-Being

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

David Brooks:  Human Interconnection is Vital to Our Well-BeingHow crucial is human interconnection to our health and well-being?  Connections are of vital importance, if  human beings do not want to feel alienated from their fellow man, writes New York Times columnist David Brooks in The New Yorker.  “We are living in the middle of a revolution in consciousness.  Over the past few decades, geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, and others have made great strides in understanding the inner workings of the human mind.  Far from being dryly materialistic, their work illuminates the rich underwater world where character is formed and wisdom grows.  They are giving us a better grasp of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, predispositions, character traits, and social bonding, precisely those things about which our culture has the least to say.  Brain science helps fill the hole left by the atrophy of theology and philosophy.”

According to Brooks, the conscious mind helps us make sense of our environment.  “The cognitive revolution of the past 30 years provides a different perspective on our lives, one that emphasizes the relative importance of emotion over pure reason, social connections over individual choice, moral intuition over abstract knowledge, perceptiveness over I.Q.  It allows us to tell a different sort of success story, an inner story to go along with the conventional surface one.”

Brooks describes what he terms members of the “Composure Class.”  He writes that they “generally have a vague sense that their lives have been distorted by a giant cultural bias.  “They live in a society that prizes the development of career skills but is inarticulate when it comes to the things that matter most.  The young achievers are tutored in every soccer technique and calculus problem, but when it comes to their most important decisions — whom to marry and whom to befriend, what to love and what to despise — they are on their own.  Nor, for all their striving, do they understand the qualities that lead to the highest achievement.  Intelligence, academic performance, and prestigious schools don’t correlate well with fulfillment, or even with outstanding accomplishment.  The traits that do make a difference are poorly understood, and can’t be taught in a classroom, no matter what the tuition: the ability to understand and inspire people; to read situations and discern the underlying patterns; to build trusting relationships; to recognize and correct one’s shortcomings; to imagine alternate futures. In short, these achievers have a sense that they are shallower than they need to be.”

To listen to our recent podcast on why human connections matter, click here.

Threats To the Economy Averted

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Good news for the economy!  Deflation is unlikely and jobless claims are shrinking.  Two significant threats to the economy are receding, although the recovery still has a long way to go. One of the threats was the specter of deflation – which has not occurred since the 1930s – now belied by the 0.3 percent inflation rate reported for August, and driven primarily by rising food and energy prices, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The second is that another round of mass layoffs looks unlikely now, given the third drop in jobless claims in four weeks.

First-time applications for unemployment benefits fell by 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 450,000 recently, the lowest level in two months, according to the Department of Labor.  In Illinois, for example, the unemployment rate fell to 10.1 percent in August, the eighth straight month that the rate was steady or declined.

Chris Rupkey, an economist with Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, described August’s spike in unemployment claims a “false alarm.  The labor markets are stable and companies are not increasing layoffs.”  David Resler, chief U.S. economist at Nomura Securities agrees, noting that the August spike likely resulted from temporary census jobs that came to an end.

Employees Are Saying “I Quit” Again

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Workers say “I quit”; a sign that the economy is improving.  Two short words are being heard in offices that have been absent for some time.  The words are:  “I quit.”   In the last three months, more Americans have quit their jobs than were laid off, a sharp contrast with the last few years that points to a gradually thawing jobs market. Although some of the quitters have accepted new jobs when they resign, others have no firm offers except for a new-found confidence that they will be able to find employment quickly.  “There is a century’s worth of evidence that bears out this view that quits rise and layoffs fall as the job market improves,” said Steven Davis, a University of Chicago economist.

Long-term trends point to a job market that can only improve.  Already this year, the economy has created a net 982,000 jobs following a recession that wiped out more than eight million jobs.  According to the federal government, the number of people who quit their jobs in April rose to nearly two million, the most in more than a year and a 12 percent increase over January.  Workers were afraid to quit during the darkest months of the recession, and with good reason.  Jobs were in short supply; others feared facing layoff because of the “last hired, first fired” principle.

Fear kept many people in their jobs, according to David Adams, vice president of training at Adecco, a national staffing firm, who says that his firm had trouble recruiting people for open jobs during the recession.  Now, Adams is seeing more people who have jobs looking to interview versus laid-off workers searching for employment.  “The hangover is over.  It’s really starting to move toward a market where the employee can have a lot more confidence making a move.”