Friday, May 1, 2009
Signs of Hope?
I’ve been avidly reading and watching all the economic news I can get my hands on. I’m sure you have been, too. I’m no economist but I have watched the unemployment figures with a wary eye this last year. The unemployment rate has climbed and climbed. I kept hearing that unemployment is a lagging indicator. A lagging indicator is an economic indicator that changes after the overall economy has changed. So, in other words, the economy goes south first. Then, after a period of time, unemployment numbers surge higher.
Perhaps these small indications are truly lighting the way to better days. Let’s just hope it isn’t another train.
The opposite is true as well, according to experts. Even when the economy is showing signs of improvement, unemployment numbers will still be scaring folks. Maybe that’s where we are now. "[Unemployment] is about the last thing that will start to turn positive even though it is about the most important indication of how people are suffering from the economic downturn," according to Patrick Emerson of the Oregon Economic Blog. There are several reasons this indicator lags. One is that new hiring will be delayed until employers can’t squeeze more productivity out of their current workforce, says Emerson. He adds that employers can also ramp up current part-timers, if necessary, before having to hire new folks, contributing to the lag.
But some small signs of light at the end of the tunnel may be glimmering. According to a story in the Detroit News, Delta will be bringing back "hundreds of ‘below wing’ ramp and mechanical workers." The company said that one of the reasons for the need to hire was working through their staffing needs due to the merger with Northwest Airlines.
The insourcing process is still in its early stages, but Delta said hundreds of once-furloughed workers with recall rights have expressed interest in returning to the company, according to the Detroit News story.
Additionally, the Triad area of North Carolina (Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point) is thinking optimistically as well, according to a story in the Winston-Salem Journal. Local economic-development leaders see aviation as a growth industry. The story says that a survey by the Greensboro Economic Development Alliance projects that more than 1,700 jobs will be needed in the Triad’s aviation industry from January 2008 through January 2013. Aviation maintenance and related companies in the Triad area include B/E Aerospace, Piedmont Aviation, Atlantic Aero, Cessna Aircraft and TIMCO Aviation Services.
I asked several staffing solutions companies if they were seeing any positive signs in regards to hiring. "On the commercial side, most of the opportunities we’re currently seeing are project-related around aircraft integration and modification. We’re supplying integration and mod teams for some airline programs underway right now," according to Douglas Anweiler, vice president of corporate marketing and communications for Reliance Aerotech, a Nashville, Tenn.-based staffing solutions company specializing in aerospace & aviation.
"Outside of that, there is also a bit more activity in the maintenance facilities following spring break flying. That said, there does appear to be some optimism among mechanics. In our monthly aviation maintenance poll, the overwhelming majority of participants see aircraft maintenance as the MRO segment that will be strongest in 2009," said Anweiler.
Another sourcing firm says the market seems to be staying steady. "If there is an increase, it is small. We did anticipate companies laying off too many employees, thus creating an additional need in the near future. We are hoping this will happen toward the end of the year but will be dependant upon our economy," said Tonya Salatino of JSfirm.
But to add another candle to that dim light out at the end of this tunnel we are in, the unemployment numbers announced in mid-April gave reason to hope. The U.S. Department of Labor reported on Friday, Apr. 10, 2009, that the number of people filing for unemployment benefits dropped for the first time after 11 consecutive reported increases.
Smart companies are always conscious of the pipeline of talent and what they will need for their workforce in the future. I’m not saying to go crazy hiring. But perhaps these small indications are truly lighting the way to better days. Let’s just hope it isn’t another train.